Dr. Kirk Langstrom is back in his own title, separate from DC's ongoing "Future State" titles giving fans a look at a story closer to the present timeline rather than the sci-fi epics currently front-and-center at the publisher. Set sometime before the events of Metal and Langstrom's time in Justice League Dark, this series jumps right into the action of who Man-Bat is and what the character stands for. It's also there this debut issue finds itself most successful.
When it comes to characters like Man-Bat, you run the risk of releasing a series too close to the classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde where two moral and physical opposite halves make a whole—here two opposing forces battle each other over one shared body. It's a story we see time and time again in comics with characters like the Hulk and Morbius. Yet here, writer Dave Wielgosz and company are quick to separate this comic book from the others in a harrowing and heartbreaking manner.
The opening pages of Man-Bat #1 dive headfirst into drug addiction and the impact it has on those in the addict's immediate circle. What's more important here, however, is that this story doesn't come with a happy ending—at least not as of yet. Not only has this creative team sent Langstrom on a downward spiral, but they've had him make decisions and turns all too realistic—even for a character that's half man and half bat.
Again, it's a topic where this comic really succeeds. Langstrom drives away his entire support group in pursuit of the ultimate high. In this case, it's being able to transform himself into a crime-fighting vigilante. But the protagonist never admits defeat, nor does he assume any wrongdoing. No, Langstrom believes he's always right—certainly a common trait among similar types in a real world without costumed heroes.
This issue is paced well and moves from cover-to-cover relatively quickly, even though it's a character study by design. Wielgosz and company even bring in the big guns with Batman, but that plot thread is forgettable as this team makes you desire the eponymous character tremendously from page one. Admittedly, Kumar's line art does shine best when it comes to Batman and his iconic cowl; it still fits well with the rest of the story. Langstrom's passion and despair can be felt throughout and that's largely thanks to this art team.
Man-Bat #1 is both a solid primer for the title character, and a splendid introduction to a great story. Though this team tries to cram more big name stars in to help carry the title, Man-Bat still stands out entirely on his own merits.
Published by DC Comics
On January 2, 2021
Written by Dave Wielgosz
Art by Sumit Kumar
Colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr.0comments
Letters by Tom Napolitano
Cover by Kyle Hotz & Alejandro Sanchez