REVIEW: ‘Man-Bat,’ Issue #5

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Man-Bat #5 - But Why ThoMan-Bat #5 is published by DC Comics. Written by Dave Wielgosz with art by Sumit Kumar.  The colour artist is Romula Fajardo Jr and the letters are by Tom Napolitano. This is the last issue of the series.

Kirk Langstrom has been at odds with himself for his whole life. His obsession with the serum that turns him into Man-Bat has forced his wife Francine away from him. Chasing after a group of robbers with a sonic cannon resulted in him breaking the device and causing massive damage to innocent people around him. On the run, he has been chased down by Batman and the Suicide Squad whilst trying to find a cure for his own affliction. Kirk and Francine were taken hostage by Scarecrow, forcing them to fix his sonic cannon. As Batman arrived, he was hit by Crane’s weapon, removing his self-control. To stop him, Langstrom injects himself with his last resort; a vial of Venom.

Within Man-Bat #5 a Batman without limits and a Man-Bat filled with Venom launch themselves at each other. Scarecrow’s new device no longer controls fear, but it uses subliminal messaging to control those it affects. As for Man-Bat, the two sides of his personality are still battling. With his adversaries distracted, Scarecrow turns his attention to spreading his messages all across Gotham. And Francine is in the middle of the entire conflict.

The climax of the story is structured beautifully. The location is constantly changing as multiple plot threads are coming to an end at the same time. There is a fight between the two bat characters, but Scarecrow has his own machinations at the same time, with Francine trying to hold him off. The fight scene itself is exhilarating, building since the first meeting between the bats in the first issue. The actual conclusion is a satisfying and earned resolution to the story, and goes a long way to placing this whole tale within the current DC continuity. 

Each issue has been terrific in regards to character development, and Man-Bat #5 is the best of the whole series. Within this final chapter, it is clear to see just how separate the two versions of Kirk Langstrom are. Kirk’s scientific logic vs the savagery of the Man-Bat persona is completely at odds with each other, except they are now trapped in the same body. The inner conflict within the mind and body of the main character is brilliantly written by Wielgosz. For the last four issues, the reader has often seen one or another, but never the two arguing with each other. It is fascinating to see this unfold within the issue. The end of the issue feels gratifying after this issue and will lead to a lot of progression for Man-Bat.

The art is glorious within this final part. Kumar’s realisation of these characters reaches its peak. The battle between Batman and Man-Bat shows the two at their best but also shows altered versions of themselves. Batman spends this issue being incredibly cruel towards Langstrom, and the harsh, angular lines that he is drawn with heighten his intensity. And a Man-Bat filled with Venom is even more monstrous than his original form. It isn’t just the size of the characters, but the fact that his fury seems to bristle off of him. The artist uses many pieces of imagery to reveal the gap between Kirk and Man-Bat, and the fact that much of the battle is going on within himself. For example, there is a panel where the two conflicted parts of his mind are drawn into each of his eyes, an intense and striking image, The movement that is suggested between these two is intense, so similar and yet extremely different at points as well.

The colours are stunning. The contrast between the two combatants is interesting as it goes far towards showing their differences. The shiny greys/silvers and black of Batman’s costume are all fabricated, whereas the waves of brown over Man-Bat come from his fur and real rings. Fajardo Jr frequently uses unnatural colours within the panels, such as bright greens, blues, and reds. This livens up the page as it fills it with energy that natural colours may not. When the scene turns to the human and animalistic halves of Man-Bat’s brain, there is a filter on the page that helpfully differentiates between the separate plane of existence.

The lettering is superb by Napolitano. For many issues now there have been two different caption boxes to detail Man-Bat’s thoughts. Now it is clear that they are the alternating personalities within him, made obvious when they start to argue with each other. The colour of Man-Bat’s word balloons has also changed, turning as green as the Venom coursing through his veins. The lines for Batman’s balloons hare shakier, reminding the readers that this is not truly him speaking.

Man-Bat #5 is a perfect finale. It is absolutely filled with action and battles as the lingering tension that has been captivating all series boils over, but there are also beautiful, emotional scenes as a man comes to terms with his own life and how it will change. The art is the perfect suit for this blockbuster of an issue, able to channel the chaos whilst also etching the facial expressions of pain and fury. As one large chapter of Kirk Langstrom’s life comes to an end, a new one is just beginning.

Man-Bat #5 is available where comics are sold.

Man-Bat #5
5

TL;DR

Man-Bat #5 is a perfect finale. It is absolutely filled with action and battles as the lingering tension that has been captivating all series boils over, but there are also beautiful, emotional scenes as a man comes to terms with his own life and how it will change. The art is the perfect suit for this blockbuster of an issue, able to channel the chaos whilst also etching the facial expressions of pain and fury. As one large chapter of Kirk Langstrom’s life comes to an end, a new one is just beginning.