Written by Steve Orlando and Tom King
Art by Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia
Lettering by Deron Bennett
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The Bat-family’s first post-”Rebirth” crossover starts off with some table-setting and a showdown with a giant horror this week in Batman #7. Working from a plot conceived in conjunction with current main title writer Tom King, Steve Orlando adapts admirably to the voices of the large cast as Batman and his brood face down a looming hurricane and the monstrosities unleashed upon the city by baddie Hugo Strange. But while Orlando plays well in the Gotham sandbox, it is the grotesque and stylish pencils of Riley Rossmo that make “Night of the Monster Men” a creature feature worth buying a ticket to. Backed by the rich colors of Ivan Plascencia, Rossmo’s jagged style elevates Batman #7 from a generic crossover fill-in job to an indie horror-style romp.
In the wake of Tim Drake’s death, Batman, Batwoman, and Nightwing are gearing up for one hell of a night. Torrential rains from a hurricane about to make landfall are threatening to flood the streets of Gotham, and in their wake Batman declares that not one person will be lost during the disaster. Cutting to the heart of the plot, Steve Orlando very early on establishes his emotional base for this story. His Batman, while certainly more wry than King’s, is grieving over his recent losses in Detective Comics #940, and in that grief, he makes a stand, seeking a problem that he and his fellow heroes can throw all their weight at. But, of course, Orlando doesn’t just stop at a mere storm.
The storm is also heralding the start of Hugo Strange’s assault on Batman using a menagerie of creatures that have taken form from the titular Monster Men. Though Orlando front-loads this issue with some accessible exposition for new readers, touching on the high points of this title and Detective Comics, he also delivers some event-worthy spectacle in the team’s first encounter with the Monster Men. Using some gadgets provided by John Henry Irons, Batman faces off against a kaiju-sized cyclops baby while Nightwing, Batwoman, and the rest of the Detective gang work to secure citizens away from the rising flood waters. Pitting the protectors of Gotham against not only a natural disaster but villainous machinations isn’t exactly a new idea, but Steve Orlando makes the most of the familiar thanks to his personable take on Batman and his family and a crossover-worthy centerpiece.
But while Orlando and King provide a suitably big plot for "Rebirth"'s first crossover, Batman #7’s not so secret weapon is Riley Rossmo by a mile. Paired once again with his Constantine: The Hellblazer colorist, Ivan Plascencia, Rossmo brings a decidedly weirder and wilder edge to the title; a welcome change of pace from the stiff, but dynamic by the numbers superhero visuals of David Finch. Rossmo’s background and characters seem to be filtered through the lens of a badly tracked VHS tape, which jibes very well with the overall tone of the crossover itself. This isn’t to say his panels look muddy or unfocused, just hazy with fraying edges that provide a strong visual direction that stands apart from the title’s usual fare.
Batman #7 also allows Rossmo to indulge in one of his most recognizable traits: monster design. The issue’s main monster, a lumbering, stubby-limbed creature with a single crimson bulbous eye on top of its head, is a real scene-stealer, and one that sets the bar very high for the rest of the gross legions that Rossmo, Orlando, and King will be throwing at our heroes before the night is over. And on top of Rossmo’s original creations, he even provides readers a new, unexpected look for the title’s puppet master, Hugo Strange. Gone is the leering, wide-grinned Victor Frankenstein design of old and in its place is a toned, hulking figure pumping iron in a dingy basement, biding his time before striking. It is a bold choice from King and Orlando, and it is given even bolder and creepier life by Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia.
Big and new reader friendly, Batman #7 kicks off the “Night of the Monster Men” with a confident start. Tom King and Steve Orlando, two men who have made their homes in Gotham as of late, play their opening gambit smartly by focusing on character and emotion first and building out the action from there. Orlando and King also effectively use artist Riley Rossmo in order to get the most of his style and deliver a satisfyingly different visual style for this crossover. Strange days are ahead for the Bat-family, and Batman #7 gives us a front-row seat to the unfolding madness.