My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Batman and the Mad Monk is Matt Wagner’s follow up to Batman and the Monster Men . This is really a continuation of that story. Set early in Batman’s career, this one pays tribute to Year One and The Long Halloween for much of its ambience. These two books continue to bridge the gap between Batman’s war on organized crime and street thugs to his first contact with things more paranormal in nature. While Monster Men had that Frankenstein vibe, Mad Monk riffs on Dracula. It’s a little more Vlad Tepes and a little less Edward Cullen for you new-school vampire fans.
While I enjoyed Monster Men a bit more, there’s plenty for fans of old-school Bats to enjoy here. Wagner continues to use set pieces that would fit just as well into an old, pulpy Shadow story or noir adventure. Foggy rooftops, sacrilegious ceremonies, dark alleyways, and an old castle provide some of the cooler backdrops for this one. Much like Monster Men, Matt doesn’t shy away from violence in this book either. Lots of bloody action keeps the book humming along at a good pace.
Batman’s relationship with Jim Gordon continues to evolve into what it would ultimately become. Some other fun moments include an early encounter with Catwoman, an appearance by the Roman, a bit of foreshadowing about Harvey Dent’s future, and Batman kicking the hell out of bad cops, dope dealers, and cultists.
I continue to appreciate Matt’s simple art-deco style and how it takes me back to early episodes of Batman the Animated Series. It’s perfect for the tone of the book, is clean, and uncomplicated. He just fuckin rocks.
This book (along with Batman and the Monster Men) compliments both Year One and The Long Halloween nicely and I would certainly recommend both to fans of those works as nice companion pieces.