Thursday, April 2, 2009

Comic Review Wednesdays - Man-Bat #1

Man-Bat #1 (of 1)
Written by Joe Harris
Art by Jim Calafiore

Gotham is in chaos, and Oracle has requested the help of every member of the Batman family (The Network). Jekyll-and-Hyde scientist Kirk Langstrom wakes to find his wife Francine gone, summoned by Oracle's call for help. The self-conscious Langstrom ventures in the Gotham night to find his wife, and help in whatever way his bestial counter-part can. He manages to find more than he bargained for. A battle for the cowl tie-in. 

Stories are often made or broken based on the desires of the protagonist, and how those desires are portrayed to the audience. A character's want is how a reader, or viewer can relate to them. Most often, a character's desire is the vehicle which drives the story. Astonishingly, this is one of the aspects of storytelling in which Battle for the Cowl: Man-Bat fails horribly. It is not because Harris has failed to give Kirk Langstrom motivation, but because his motivation is scattered and contradictory. Langstrom is dealing with a failing marriage, presumably because of the effects and use of his Man-Bat serum. This would be understandable, but it seems that even Langstom himself doesn't believe in using the serum. At the very least he fears it. His motivations become even more convoluted when he seems hurt that he wasn't asked to aid Gotham. Langstrom obviously understands that he is an untamed force when transformed, and one that could quickly turn into an additional problem. Yet his hurt feelings prod him to drink the serum in order to play hero and "save" his wife (A member of the network explicitly asked to help) when he has no evidence that she is even in danger. Nothing in this issue logically calls for Langstrom to turn into Man-Bat, and therefore this issue is flawed at its core. Certainly, there is something wonderful about characters who make bad decisions because of flawed logic, but that isn't the case here. The motivations are simply contradictory, with great gaps of logic-- certainly not how a scientist of any variety should be portrayed. If Langstrom's marriage was suffering because of the Man-bat serum, why would he charge after his wife after ingesting it? 

Perhaps even worse is the string of extraordinary coincidences that occur in the issue. Characters go places with no reason or explanation, a batman villain just appears out of no-where, and even worse, the major shift in the nature of Man-bat also occurs without any reason whatsoever. The "plot" of this issue is essentially a series of coincidental events, the probability of which would be astronomical. 

Dialog balloons are oddly placed and confuse the reader. There are still several pages within which it is almost impossible to discern who is saying what. There are pages that wasted and could have been used to help connect the plot such as the first four pages. As mentioned above, Langstom's motivations are confusing and while the reader is told that his marriage is in trouble, the possibility of showing his marriage in trouble was a real one and omitted by the writer. It's impossible to care about Langstrom in this issue because of how clumsy the writing is (this also weakens the fight scenes) and the worst part of this issue is that if it had been written with some strength, it really could have been something worth reading. If we had seen Langstrom's marriage trouble, if we had a clear idea of what he really wants, if the villain hadn't been put in for no reason, and if the end had been as cerebral as I had mistakenly thought it was my first read through. It could have been good, and sometimes that's the biggest insult of all. 

RATING: 2 out of 10
The concept had potential, but the issue is trash. Don't bother reading this unless you're really interested in getting the whole scope of Battle for the Cowl. 

I apologise that this is day late, and that the review is a bit sloppy to boot. It'll be better next week! Don't forget to check the docket and let me know what you'd like to see reviewed! 


Kiriska said...

Well, that's a damn shame. I really like the concepts behind Man-bat, but haven't read as much involving the character. Also, I obviously want you to review more Battle of the Cowl. :P

Joe said...

Yeah, I think Man-Bat could have worked really well in a one-shot if the story had been approached differently.

I feel like DC wants to do something with him in the future, and this issue was only really intended to set that up. Possibly something with Gotham City Streets? Dunno.