Gotham City Monsters #1 Review: The Gripping Horrors of Gotham

Gotham City Monsters
(Photo: DC Comics)

Many stories set in Gotham City look to explore the bleak, seedy underbelly of the city, sometimes succeeding. Now, Gotham is already at a critical point under Bane’s control, and a microscope on the volatile Monstertown magnifying some of its most captivating citizens is one of the best examinations of Gotham’s darker side. That’s exactly what Gotham City Monsters is providing, and it’s off to a tremendous start in its first issue.

Gotham City Monsters pulls no punches. On the contrary, it dishes them out regularly—visceral, unexpected punches that accentuate every bleak depiction of Frankenstein and his cohorts’ efforts. There’s no reprieve from the brutality of Monstertown to be found in the first issue of Gotham City Monsters whether you’re looking for it in the dialogue or the violent imagery that fills its pages. Everything’s crafted with a sense of instability, each inhabitant of Monstertown drawn with a unique brand of wildness to show how close every day in the troubled area is to unraveling at a moment's notice.

While Frankenstein and his team are the star monsters in a series that follows Event Leviathan, we don’t get to see them all together just yet. Instead, Gotham City Monsters opens with an introduction for every character, a brief story for each that could’ve been a satisfactory issues on their own. Frankenstein is joined by the vampire Andrew Bennet, Killer Croc, Lady Clayface, and Orca, but it’s Frankenstein’s show, so we see him the most.

While some readers may be more familiar with Croc and will become invested in a route to redemption that’s laid out in these pages, it’s Frankenstein who deserves the applause here. Monstrous in his appearance and actions and willing to dispatch threats at a moment’s notice, Frankenstein is the hero Monstertown deserves. The character’s conversations are written so that he has a poetic nature without being overbearing or annoying as if he were always about to break into a monologue. His words are sharp yet measured and act themselves as climactic steps towards his decisive actions.

When he’s done talking—when anyone in Monstertown is done talking, for that matter—his intentions are punctuated with swift actions. We see at least three instances of Frankenstein alone tapping into his ferocious nature, and each one is more startling and visually impressive than the last. Gotham City Monsters’ harsh depiction of Gotham is praiseworthy throughout the story, depicting the city as a sordid place that suffocates hope. The three critical moments of Frankenstein’s still steal the show, though. The whole issue is accented with grotesque imagery and an emphasis on shadows and bleak colors, but each time Frankenstein takes action, it’s a sight to behold.

Give us pages and panels of Monstertown’s sort-of heroes just going around decimating anyone who deserves it and that’d be worthy of a whole series on its own, but Gotham City Monsters has an underlying story connecting the guts of Monstertown that culminates in an epic ritual coordinated by the evil Melmoth. We know precious little about what could possibly come next when Gotham City Monsters #1 end, but one feels that it’ll be the individual stories of each monster comprising this unlikely team that will sell the series. So long as you’ve got an appetite for horror and a desire to see the underbelly of Gotham, you’ll be excited to see how Frankenstein and company handle their problems in Gotham City Monsters.

Published by DC Comics

On September 11, 2019

Written by Steve Orlando

Art by Amancay Nahuelpan

Colors by Trish Mulvihill

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Letters by Tom Napolitano

Cover by Philip Tan & Jay David Ramos