Continuing the Year One saga, Mad Monk is the sequel to Monster Men. Batman is still a noob, Gordon is still struggling between accepting Batman and giving in to GCPD’s want of arresting him on charges, Julie Madison is still struggling to tame Bruce and discover his secret, and a new villain is introduced. Dala and the Mad Monk. We also get a glimpse and mention of Red Hood too!
While we get a direct connection to Year One with Monster Men, Mad Monk is less so. While Superman and The Flash are mentioned as “the superhero uprising” that’s starting, Batman still isn’t very good at his job. He doesn’t have a Lucius Fox yet, his tech is primitive, and he gets hurt a lot in this one. Julie Madison and Norman Madison are still struggling with their battles. Norman’s mental health declines through the series and Dala is trying to recruit people for the Mad Monk’s ritual. This series is much better than Monster Men. The action is mixed up more, a lot more is happening, and it seems to move at a faster pace. We already know who all of these new characters are so the series is focused on moving forward with them.
I can’t stress enough how well the struggle with Batman’s internal resolve is here. He wants to be Batman, but he still doesn’t know if it’s doing any good or more harm. We get to see his Batmobile, which looks a lot like Tim Burton’s 1989 Batmobile, and some of his tech has been upgraded. We get to see his explosive gel, Batarangs, grappling hook, and his continued reliance on the gas grenades. It’s cool to see Batman in this early form before he had everything ironed out. There still aren’t any plot twists here, but the conclusion is very satisfying and the peace steps on the gas hard during the 4th issue. I felt like we got a great ending to Madison’s timeline and we’re set up with Batman being more bitter and angry than ever before.
While the rest of the Dark Moon Rising story arc doesn’t really continue the Year One story, I am going to go ahead and move on. I do have to say that I don’t particularly care for the art in this series. It feels very 90s mixed with early 2000s comic art. Like it couldn’t pick a lane. Most of the character’s close-ups are pretty bad and outside of stylistic scenes in darkness, the panels just look really plain and boring. I loved the panels where Batman was fighting or trapped, or anything else, but those talking scenes in bars, on the street, and in rooms, are just plain not great. Thankfully there are fewer of those there than in Monster Men, and we even get the iconic Batman face covering shot again from Year One!