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It began last month in Batman #7.

It began without any preamble.

It began.. with the Monster Men.

(Pre-Flashpoint, Chase Lawler was a musician turned Manhunter by something like the Wild Hunt.

At least, that's what he believed.)

Its beginning was noted.

" It is time to start.

" This is Batman's final night. "

Outside, Batman and his own were going over their plans to evacuate at-risk Gothamites to safe ground.

They were interrupted by loud sounds.

Batman took off in his Batplane towards the strange thing.

He darted in and out of its fumbling grasp, ejecting with a jetpack. Venting that thing's fuel and triggering its self-destruct let him bring the childlike creature down.

He, Batwoman, and Nightwing examined it. They sent extracted DNA data back to the cave, where Alfred and Duke discovered that it was something programmable.

They also discovered that it was someone human- someone Batman knew of, someone who'd killed himself in Commissioner Gordon's office and left a message: " The Monster Men are coming..

" Aren't they.. Strange.. "

Batman realized who that was referring to- Hugo Strange.

Another roar in another direction interrupted him- he, Nightwing, and Batwoman turned towards it.

As they took in the implications, Batman voiced the obvious conclusion.

In Nightwing #5, Batman ordered Dick to go down to the city morgue- since the Monster Man they'd met appeared to be made of a dead man- and figure out what was going on.

He saved someone's life and took off.

(Another couple of apt references- Penelope Young was the doctor in the Batman: Arkham games who developed the man-monster-making Venom-derivative Titan.

Jackson Chappell was a one-off Batman Beyond villain who turned Venom into a slap-on street drug for his own profit.)

While Batwoman and Batman fought the monster, Orphan and Spoiler kept an eye on the evacuated people.

Nightwing arrived at the morgue, beat up the guards Strange'd left there, and made his way into the room from the opening.

He commed the cave.

" Warn Batman. Warn everyone. You said Strange is growing his monsters from human corpses? Well, we've seen two monsters..

" .. but there are four bodies missing. "

(I'm kind of disappointed Hugo didn't kill the guy himself. The scene certainly looked like he could've.)

Duke let Nightwing know about the Blackgate monster as he left the morgue.

Dick replied that he'd head that way; Gotham Girl said she'd back him up.

She headed there, disregarding everyone's objections for her convictions.

In Detective Comics #941, tensions flared up at the evacuation site.

On the streets, Clayface helped evacuate people.

One of his split-off selves pushed some of them out of the way of falling debris.

Back at the cave, Spoiler realized something about the strange red gunk that seemed to be making people angry, as she and Orphan and the GCPD were holding those angered people back- the grassy smell it gave off had to be some kind of airborne communication method, something that could be inhibited with all the flares they had at hand.

At Blackgate, Gotham Girl was furiously burning some of the little monsters with her eyes when Nightwing arrived.

He told her to calm down- she said she was calm. Then some of the monsterlings jumped on her- she flailed through a wall, where she came face-to-face with the Blackgate monster.

" Not anymore! "

She tore the monster apart, covering her and Nightwing in fluids.

Dick urged calm again. She responded more calmly.

He went to get something to clean them both off- and was wracked with convulsions.

So was she.

As Clayface evacuated scared people and Spoiler and Orphan dealt with maddened people, Batwoman called in for help with the many-headed beast she and Batman were facing.

No one responded, to her frustration.

Batman #8 saw the transformed Nightwing and Gotham Girl come down on Batwoman and Batman.

She took them on, leaving him to deal with the monster he didn't know.

The monster Gotham Girl broke Batwoman's baton; she cabled the transformed Nightwing's legs and found herself carried into the air.

Batman confronted the transformed Claire, with people at his side- people who were coming together.

" Only one way to find out. "

They held their own against Gotham Girl until she shockwave clapped Clayface off Batman.

Then someone called to her from above.

Back at the evacuation cave, Spoiler and Orphan triggered their flares, successfully burning the gunk off the afflicted people.

It oozed off them and flowed away. One of the civilians wondered if that meant it was dealt with.

They heard a loud sound.

Back on the streets, Duke cured Claire, injecting her with cells programmed to trigger the Monster Man cells to evacuate whatever body they were in.

That only left the transformed Nightwing, who'd just shaken off Batwoman- who, as she was falling from the sky, called in her plan.

Nightwing #6 opened with that plan- grabbing the transformed Dick and pulling him down towards the indestructible Gotham Girl, holding Duke's antidote lancet (which'd broken as it'd pierced her transformed skin) up so that he'd fall right on it- working.

The Bats regrouped in the face of the fourth monster, heading their way.

While Duke and Gotham Girl headed back to Alfred, Dick and Steph went to higher ground.

With a device she had on hand and the data it linked them to, they started looking into the Venom-esque Alfred and Duke'd discovered was driving the Monster Men's transformed bodies.

Batman interrupted them, warning them that the fourth monster was coming after them.

Dick responded that they couldn't worry about that- they were too busy tracking down what Strange'd used to make it.

There was only one thing that could stop the beast, he said, one thing that could be done now that the streets were evacuated.

" Activate the Wayne watchtowers. "

Batman did.

The monster climbing up after them, right on top of them, reeled at the sudden bright flash (with a Bat-symbol distinct in its center) from the building.

Dick told Steph that they needed to evacuate now, as the tower was charging up again. Steph said she needed a bit more to get what she was looking for.

She took it and got it- they took off as the monster received a shock that sent it tumbling down below to the streets.

Alfred noticed that that wasn't the end of them- he'd just seen the DNA in the sample they'd collected changing. He was now seeing that happen on a larger scale- bits from the four fallen monsters across Gotham were converging together, rewriting themselves to incorporate pieces of the others, combining into a greater whole.

" It's like God putting together a broken clock, Master Dick. "

" It's not God, Alfred..

" It's Strange. "

The Batfolk regrouped again- Batman ordered them each to take one of the watchtowers, to stand against the thudding they could hear.

Spoiler shared what she'd found- the only place in Gotham Strange could have made his stuff of monsters at.

Dick shared what he'd deduced about the monsters.

Dick said that Batman shouldn't confront Strange, shouldn't give the madman what he wanted. He suggested going himself.

Batman waved that off.

" Strange wants Batman, face-to-face? "

Detective Comics #942 this week opened with them meeting, and Strange revealing that the Batsuit he was wearing was wired to kill him at the slightest firm touch.

Batman couldn't hit him- all he could do was listen to him. All he could do was hear Strange discuss his diagnosis and conclude that he wasn't fit for his office- that the Batman should be him, Strange.

Outside, Strange's diagnosis raged over Gotham, feeling the works of the man it was describing.

" We'll test it in the field. "

The wires held the monster in place.

Dick realized what Strange was saying with it, and what he could do.

He grabbed the broken antidote lancet he had with him, jumped out of his tower, ran down the cables, and leapt into the monster's open maw.

Strange pointed that out, calling it another example of Batman's inadequacy for the role he essayed.

Batman aimed a punch at him.

Outside, the monster growled- and started spitting itself up.

The monster disintegrated into a shower of gunk- Dick and the broken first monster, the one like a child, fell from it.

Batwoman left her tower and caught Dick as he was falling.

(A very interesting visual, that.)

Things wrapped up on roughly that note.

(A team story with interesting threats and something awesome to do for everyone- this only bodes well for the upcoming JLA that Steve Orlando's scripting.

Hopefully he does it like he did all of this.)
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