Batman and The Mad Monk #1–6 by Matt Wagner
(I’m exhausted after the bank holiday weekend, Iron Man and the site redesign. A short post only today)
Matt Wagner is a fantastic visual stylist; he draws a great Batman in the black and grey, a solid figure yet fluid, and the covers for this series are beautiful (which is a shame that the first interior page of each issue is a close-up of a human face that doesn’t look very good in comparison). He has also written some great stories (Mage, Grendel, Sandman Mystery Theatre). However, this tale feels fleshed out and rather thin – a man who seems to be a vampire (an actual vampire, while a thematically natural choice for Batman, doesn’t feel right in the Batman world, especially written and drawn by Wagner – the early scenes with narrative from Gordon watching Batman in action really captures the power of the idea of the Dark Knight, of a man who has made himself into the ultimate crime fighter). Mix this ‘villain’ with the continuation from the previous storyline to do with Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend and her father getting drawn into this arc, and this suffers from the accusation of ‘writing for the trade’. The action scenes are superb and superbly drawn but it doesn’t really engage. Apart from the technical excellence of Wagner’s craft, it makes you think there should be a moratorium on Year One tales.