Steve Orlando is a writer best known at DC for his stylish deep cuts of continuity in the spirit of Grant Morrison. His revamp of the gay villain Extraño was fantastic, and his runs on Supergirl and JLA, while often overlooked, were both interesting and unique reads. Gotham City Monsters is the latest installment in his body of work, the newest of many miniseries he has worked on to dive into the lesser known, more obscure DC realms. This series focuses on DC’s monstrous characters as they are forced to team up to fight a universal threat, and it is immediately compelling.
The issue bounces between characters as each member of the cast is given a different reason to visit the Magus Theatre. This is an opportunity for Orlando to give a quick hook for each character before the plot begins. Andrew Bennett fights a cult of vampires that no longer accept his rule, and discovers that they have a new leader that poses a threat to him. Killer Croc, fresh off of his parole from the Suicide Squad, wallows in the fact that the world won’t give him a chance before being invited to the Magus Theatre by the man who runs his motel in Monstertown. Frankenstein fights and kills a Minotaur in a bar before finding Mandrill nearby, eventually learning that something shady is going on at the Magus Theatre. Orca grieves who she used to be, and Lady Clay ponders her identity and direction now that Kobra has been destroyed. Orlando is able to use this issue to establish each character’s identity and core conflicts before thrusting them together into a team.
As this is a setup issue, there isn’t very much by way of plot. The issue ends with the emergence and reveal of the villain, who is someone most audiences wouldn’t be familiar with. That being said, the stakes are immediately recognizable. An entire theater full of people is massacred in a sacrifice to bring the villain of the story into the fray. Yet his words to end the issue seem almost heroic: “Shall we rescue the Multiverse?” Orlando’s penchant for cutting deep into DC lore to find underused concepts to revitalize is a major strength here, as he brings Melmoth back for the first time since Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers. Yet despite the deep cut nature of this reveal, an intense understanding of DC lore is not necessary to enjoy this issue. Orlando does an excellent job introducing and explaining everyone and the states they are in before starting the plot, making this a very accessible comic.
Amancay Nahuelpan is the artist on this issue, with Trish Mulvihill coloring and Tom Napolitano on letters. Everyone working on the visual aspect of the comic does an excellent job. Nahuelpan’s art provides a life and emotion to these monstrous characters despite their inhuman forms. The layouts are also incredibly skillful, giving individual moments and action scenes a certain rhythm and flow to guide readers across the page. Mulvihill’s colors are excellent as well, contrasting the darkness of the characters’ natural settings with the harsh neon of the Magus Theatre and Melmoth’s magic. The letters are also excellent, with narration boxes depicted as distinct from other captions, and different characters’ word balloons taking on separate styles. The entire book has a level of care put into every visual detail, and it leads to a spectacular result.
Gotham City Monsters is a book with a lot of style and heart, and is exactly the kind of offering that DC has been lacking for some time. It’s an excellent read with a lot of potential to grow, and everyone working on the book is doing a spectacular job. Folks who read this issue will come away very excited for more content involving Frankenstein, Killer Croc, and everyone else in the book.