REVIEW: ‘Man-Bat,’ Issue #4

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Man-Bat #4

Man-Bat #4 is published by DC Comics. Written by Dave Wielgosz with art by Sumit Kumar. The colorist is Romulo Fajardo Jr, and the letters are by Tom Napolitano.

Kirk Langstrom is dying. After his wife Francine leaves him one last time, Man-Bat attacked the Blackout Gang while they were stealing a sonic cannon. He broke the cannon, causing an auditory explosion that led to comas and hearing loss for several. Batman informs Langstrom that the serum he takes to transform is causing cellular degeneration, and the change will soon become permanent. Man-Bat goes on the run, forcing a confrontation with the Suicide Squad. He decides to visit his sister, Lisa, who is why he started on this journey in the first place. But he was attacked and captured by Scarecrow, who places him in captivity with his ex-wife Francine…

The Langstroms are now trapped in a permanent loop, toys for Jonathan Crane. Instead of fear gas, Scarecrow is now using subliminal messaging to influence his victims. He forces the former couple to work together to fix the sonic cannon that Kirk broke. At first, they are lead to believe that they live a happy life, content with each other. But as Crane’s torture worsens to speed them up, cracks are beginning to show. Batman is desperately searching for Kirk and Francine. But there may not be much left of Kirk by the time he gets there.

The pace and structure of the story changes within this comic as Man-Bat’s freedom has been restricted. For much of the comic, he and Francine are forced to relive the same day repeatedly until they fix the sonic cannon. Whilst there are similarities to Groundhog Day, there is a difference, Scarecrow is in control and changes things ever so slightly each time. This is often depicted through single pages to not take up too much time within the comic. Wielgosz’s scripting of this aspect of the comic is fantastic as the nightmarish situation unfolds. 

The plot is still deeply investing. Events that have been threatening to happen throughout the series start to cause trouble within Man-Bat #4. These changes are irreversible and will have lasting consequences for the protagonist and others around him. When the pace does increase through action, it is exhilarating and fun. There are some incredible surprises at the end of the comic and a build-up to one final confrontation. 

Something that becomes clear within this issue is how little of Kirk Langstrom is left. The two forms had vastly contrasting personalities and presences in the first issues of this limited series. But now they are becoming the same person as Man-Bat begins to take control. So much so that he is in his furry form by default for much of this comic, as if it is impossible to revert.  Man-Bat has changed from the bestial and occasionally primitive mindset that he possessed. The intelligence of Kirk has remained, giving him reason and creativity. There is a real sadness within the comic as the character begins to shed parts of his old self, but for the first time, he seems to realize his own failings. 

The other characters involved are fantastic editions to the story. Francine hasn’t been seen much, only referred to as a destination for Kirk to get to. It is clear how much she despises Man-Bat, narrowing her eyes at him when she isn’t under Scarecrow’s control. But with the other Langstrom at the end of his life, it falls to Francine to try and save them both. Wielgosz is careful not to use her as an excuse for Kirk’s decline. Everything that happened to him is of his own volition. 

Batman’s return to the series brings with it his commanding presence. While Bruce is a supporting character, he often feels like a point of relief when things are going wrong. When that swooping cape starts to glide, the reader gets a sense of relief. But what happens when even the Dark Knight can’t come to your rescue?

Two characters that also deserve mention are Scarecrow’s two henchmen. These two members of the Blackout Gang were deafened when the sonic cannon was broken. It would have been effortless for the writer to discard them, but instead, they have become important figures in this comic. Instead of purely being goons, they become integral pieces to Man-Bat’s story.

The art continues to be phenomenal. The horror aspects of Kumar’s art style lend themselves well again as the Langstroms’ entrapment is revealed. The small space is claustrophobic and restrictive, made even worse by the hulking bat that stands in them. Scarecrow’s design will always instill fear in those that see it because that is its one purpose. 

There are some truly haunting facial expressions within Man-Bat #4, ones that make a lasting impression on the reader. A prime example is on one of the henchmen as they see Man-Bat again. Depicted on his face is real despair, which is incredibly unsettling. But Kumar also presents a variety of emotions through the characters. From Man-Bat’s rage to Scarecrow’s grin as he relishes in inflicting misery to Francine’s cold stare towards the beast that ruined her life. The fight scenes are brilliant once again, especially during the Batman and Man-Bat scenes. 

The colors are influential in creating an atmosphere. Scarecrow’s fictional world that he places Kirk and Francine into is bright and positive. But in reality, it is dark and falling into the shadows when the facade fades. The brushstrokes that Fajardo Jr uses to fill the background with color are stunning. They appear to blend around the much more solid shades of the foreground. 

The lettering is exceptional. As Man-Bat’s internal voice grows in dominance, it appears to have grown in size as well. The font that Napolitano implements sometimes makes the words seem even harsher.

Man-Bat #4 continues the superb series. Wielgosz’s crafting of characters is phenomenal, filling every figure within this comic with depth and meaning. Every person that appears in a panel is there for a reason. In previous issues, the criticism was made that Kirk didn’t have the power as a character to compete with Man-Bat. But now it is clear that this was intentional, and Kirk has been fading due to his alter-ego becoming the dominant force within the one body. As the series nears its conclusion, lives hang in the balance.

Man-Bat #4 is available now wherever comics are sold.

 

 

Man-Bat #4
5

TL;DR

Man-Bat #4 continues the superb series. Wielgosz’s crafting of characters is phenomenal, filling every figure within this comic with depth and meaning. Every person that appears in a panel is there for a reason. In previous issues, the criticism was made that Kirk didn’t have the power as a character to compete with Man-Bat. But now it is clear that this was intentional, and Kirk has been fading due to his alter-ego becoming the dominant force within the one body. As the series nears its conclusion, lives hang in the balance.