When you’ve been with a series for a while, getting on into the full swing of things, and then a fill-in issue happens out of the blue, you really ask yourself what on earth happened. For some inexplicable reason, last year’s Zero Year issue for Batgirl wasn’t done by the series regular Gail Simone who has been on the title from the start, but new writer Marguerite Bennett. Like most other Zero Year tie-in issues it was a total filler story, and now Marguerite is back with another one-shot that breaks the overall flow of the story that Gail has had going for some time now.
Whereas before we’ve seen some excellent stories like the Wanted arc and the recent 2-issue arc featuring a vampire hunter in Gotham, this week’s new release sees Batgirl tangling with a Gotham-homegrown boogey monster, something straight out of an urban legend (how many of those does Gotham have again?). It follows a very predictable and set path, without deviation and the story overall is boring. The art, also by fill-in artists, does its best to work with the story, but since the story isn’t all that good, the art suffers from the resultant feedback. Its decent, but nowhere near as good as what we’ve been getting from the regular team.
First the cover. Done by Clay Mann and Paul Mounts, this cover is an extremely busy one, and unlike anything that we’ve seen on the series thus far in the New 52, especially all the recent wallpaper-worthy covers done by Alex Garner. This cover is simply too busy and there are too many colours getting mixed in. In other words, it is a riot of colours and that takes away from the overall feel of the image and it ruins the whole experience, you could say. I’m definitely not a fan of it.
The story itself deals with one of the commonest horror tropes: drunk kids get together at home while their parents are home and decide to play some hocus-pocus involving summoning rituals. They all think that it is a joke, but they end up summoning the Midnight Man, a Gotham urban legend. Batgirl gets drawn into the mix and the rest of the story is all about how the monster is to be banished, and the inevitable cliched epilogue.
From start to finish, this was a tried and true kind of story that cannot go wrong in any way. Or almost can’t go wrong. Personally, summoning demons and monsters aren’t the kind of stories that I want to read about when it comes to the Bat-family characters. I’m always looking for something much more… relevant. The way that Gail handled the vampire hunter story from the last couple issues was a great case in point. It took a trope of Gotham stories and then did a new spin on it. Marguerite Bennett does nothing of the sort and it ends up falling flat actually because the execution is middlingly decent for a cliched-as-hell storyline.
The worst offender of the story was Barbara’s monologue, which was all about horror movies and Dick Grayson, who was outed as the hero Nightwing in the very first issue of Forever Evil last year by the Crime Syndicate and who has an uncertain fate in the DCU following that reveal. With the delay of the final issue until next month, things are even more uncertain and it is overall a frustrating moment. And Marguerite has a tendency to write monologues in parentheses, as if Barbara is having a conversation with someone rather than just talking to herself. It is extremely distracting here.
Robert Gill does the pencils for this issue while Romulo Fajardo Jr. does the colours and Dezi Sienty does the letters. Robert’s depiction of the Midnight Man is pretty good but the monster does end up looking generic in the end. There’s just nothing different about it to set it apart from a hundred other such monsters. But his characterwork in general is fairly good, and I liked his take on Batgirl and her world, although I wish that the story had given him some more familiar characters to work with. Romulo’s colours help the art rise above its weaknesses, but there are a lot of them so the colours too are decent at best.
Overall, this story just didn’t work for me at any level, though it was somewhat nice to see Barbara fight a bona-fide monster. Marguerite Bennett is a decent writer, but she just doesn’t have the same kind of facility with the character that Gail Simone has.