Hello, my friends. Now that Halloween has come and gone, it’s time to return to our main business. As such, welcome back to another entry in the series called…
In September 2015, I released my review of “Justice League: Gods & Monsters”. The 23rd entry in the DC Universe Animated Original Movie line weaved an Elseworlds tale about a Trinity of superheroes being framed for murdering a group of prominent scientists. Prior to that film’s release, there was also “Justice League: Gods & Monsters Chronicles” where each one of those heroes had an episode to demonstrate their abilities and it helped to establish both their universe and some important supporting characters. Around the time of the film’s release, DC Comics would release a series of comics that expanded on our heroes. In the film, it does show our main characters’ origins. However, the first time we meet them as fully-established heroes is when they’re together and stopping a hostile situation. These comics would help explore that particular gap in their progression. As such, let’s start things off with our Dark Knight.
Published on July 21, 2015, this was the first comic tie-in released. One constant thing throughout the entire series is that Bruce Timm and J.M. DeMatteis wrote every single entry. Handling the art work for this outing will be Matthew Don Smith, while Francesco Francavilla handles our primary cover as he depecits Batman standing still with his back to a broken window while blood drips from his fangs. One last constant throughout this series is that the alternate covers for #1 issues are handled by Darwyn Cooke, who’s story “DC: The New Frontier” was adapted into the film “Justice League: The New Frontier” and who also handled writing duties on its comic tie-in “Justice League: The New Frontier Special”. Here, he gives us Batman dramatically standing over his victim after he just sucked out his blood. Either way, let’s dive in and delve further into this Dark Knight’s origin.
We open with a domestic dispute as a drunken guy named Joseph is in the middle of abusing his wife. Before he can cause even more harm to his woman, Kirk Langstrom arrives to break up the scene.
He manages to put Joseph’s drunken antics to a permanent end as he quenches his bloodlust by biting into his neck and kills him.
Despite being saved from her former husband’s violent strikes, she grabs a knife and manages to stab Kirk. Fortunately, his otherworldly nature prevents the wound from hurting him as he proceeds to scold her actions. After leaving, his narration says that she was hoping to turn Joseph around despite his abusive behavior. He also mentions his backstory from the film, how he was diagnosed with lymphoma and his “cure” ended up turning him into the superhuman monster that he is.
We then have a quick scene where Kirk makes a surprise visit to his parent’s house. However, his own father isn’t exactly thrilled to see him again. As his mother would tell him, Kirk’s dad is a more simple man and wanted him to follow in his footsteps as a car mechanic instead of the scientific opportunities that his son earned. Instead of getting some necessary parental help, Kirk’s own mother asks him to leave.
We then cut to a restaurant called Swifty’s where Langstrom meets up with a woman named Francine. It turns out that these two had a relationship in the past, but the present rudely interrupts them when her current husband named Harv comes in to break up their conversation. Unfortunately, Kirk has mistaken the comment as coming off rude as he throws him out the window. As such, he speeds off and takes his leave.
Later, Kirk is back at his hideout: the basement of a condemned building that he turned into his own laboratory. He tries to withstand his bloodlust and hopes to ride it out. However, it’s too much for him to withstand as it tells him via his inner voice. As such, he proceeds to put on some gloves and a black mask.
From there, we have a full-page montage where Kirk hunts down various criminals throughout Gotham City. As the media covers his escapades, he receives his moniker of Batman from the local papers.
From there, we cut to an office building where Kirk is investigating under the guise of a janitor. It turns out that he’s infiltrating a devious meeting that’s being held by mob boss Lew Mason. He then brings up his childhood friend named Rupert Thorne and how much of a disappointment he has become. It turns out that he took some prostitution profits from his boss. As such, Lew has his longtime friend pay for his betrayal by taking his own life.
Afterwards, Mason and company prepare to have some dinner. Unfortunately for them, Kirk is in his guise and was waiting for them in the dining room. He proceeds to easily defeat Mason’s men before he finally comes across the law-eluding mob boss and his right-hand man named Joe Chill.
From there, Kirk proceeds to exterminate both men before smashing through the top-floor window and gliding out into the night.
Sometime later, a funeral is held for Lew Mason. Kirk discreetly attends as he overlooks the various family members & mob workers and studies their actions. He then comes across Lew’s two most immediate spouses, his wife Angela and his son Jeremy.
That night, Kirk proceeds to spy on Lew’s family. His narration states that Angela is an honorable lady who delves into charity work while Jeremy has absolutely no connections to his father’s mob life, since he’s an accomplished college student with promising aspirations. Kirk would continue to spy on Jeremy over the next several weeks as the young man continues to effectively handle his business.
Eventually, Kirk would confront Jeremy at an art museum and engage in casual conversation. That night however, a supernatural occurrence is happening at the graveyard.
It turns out that a newly-zombified Joe Chill has managed to dig himself out of his own grave and has returned to the land of the living.
After their meeting, Kirk and Jeremy would start becoming close friends. Even better, the newfound friendship has been beneficial in helping Langstrom curb his bloodlust. As such, he opens up his cancerous condition to his buddy. With Jeremy being completely understanding, they get to work in Kirk’s lab in order to find a cure. However, a fateful moment comes into play as they return to Mason Manor as Jeremy discovers his mother dead on the floor. After initially thinking that Langstrom sold him out, Jeremy calms down and tells his friend that the mob incorrectly thought that his father kept records on their activities in order to keep his fellow men under check. Now, they’ve murdered Mrs. Mason in order to “send a message”. As such, Kirk tells his buddy that he intends to take care of his situation.
Several weeks go by as Jeremy Mason hides out in Langstrom’s lab while Kirk investigates. His search ultimately makes its way towards a house that serves as the hideout to a mysterious figure going by the name of “The Sovereign”. Kirk would blow through the numerous henchmen before he finally confronts the big boss. To his shock, it turns out to be the zombified Joe Chill. It turns out that his genetic disorder (mentioned during the first encounter) actually served as his blessing in disguise. Due to Kirk sucking on his blood, it also cured him of his disease before his eventual resurrection.
Kirk came armed with handguns and fires away, but the bullets are unable to harm the ghoulish gangster. From there, Joe proceeds to give Langstrom a severe beatdown.
With the fight entirely in his favor, Joe decides to talk about his eventual plans. Once Langstrom is out of the way, he’s going to go take care of Jeremy Mason. Fortunately, this information fuels a turnaround for Kirk as he kicks Chill away before he grabs an axe and puts a permanent end to his ghoulish foe.
We then cut to several weeks later where Kirk arrives at Mason Manor. After meeting up with Jeremy, he explains that he’s been studying Joe Chill’s corpse. Because of the childhood symptom, it absorbed the “Batman Antibodies”. Jeremy states that this could be the key in developing a cure, but Kirk says that he’s no longer interested due to his own friend himself. It turns out Jeremy was actually getting prepped from birth to one day take over the family crime business. He then tell Langstrom that he knew about his friend killing his father, but doesn’t care since he felt that they could accomplish much together.
With a terrifying revelation, Kirk is forced to bite his friend in the neck and prevent his eventual rise to power. And so, the comic ends with a distraught Langstrom on top of Mason Manor in the rain weeping over the fact that he stopped a future enemy by killing his present friend.
Because of his otherworldly condition, Kirk Langstrom hasn’t had much luxury in terms of friends. Before his unlikely unionship, his lone pals were Will Magnus and Tina. In fact, his only friendship was with his bloodlust and a voice in his head. If not for Jeremy’s secret training towards his father’s mob life, then it’s possible that his cure would have come here. However, then he wouldn’t have played an important role in the movie. To summarize that piece of characterization, it’s going to be a while until he reaches the point in his life where he can have consistent friends. On a different note, it would have been nice to see how he came across to his current costume. However, I enjoyed seeing his makeshift uniform, since all iconic outfits had to start somewhere. On a final note about Kirk, it was somewhat interesting that we get a taste of what his home life was. However, that doesn’t play into a grand scheme other than the initial development of his scientific genius. It was also neat seeing different takes on Joe Chill and Rupert Thorne. Anyone who’s familiar with “Batman: The Animated Series” would instantly know that Thorne is a crime boss in the Gotham City we all know and love. Meanwhile, Joe Chill (as shown numerous times over in the main series) was the random crook that murdered Bruce Wayne’s parents. The latter here gets much more to do and the way that he becomes semi-powerful fits well in this format. Where else would you find a terminal illness getting cured by a vampire bite and then that person comes back as a commanding ghoul? It’s the kind of silly science that’s found a home in this medium.
Overall, this is an interestingly neat entry. Kirk’s struggles with his bloodlust is fairly-handled as his short-lived friendship helps for a while, the alternate takes on familiar characters is imaginative and it has something of a tragic feel on the story where until he meets up with the rest of his heroic friends, he’s somewhat destined to end up alone with his personal demons. Obviously, more characterization will come in the three-issue prequel series, but Kirk Langstrom has some added dimension to his past thanks to his mini-war with the Gotham mob. More heroics await him in his future, but this is worth checking out for Kirk’s early heroics.
Next Time: The Man of Steel has his beginnings with his Mexican family. Tragedy and oppression will mold this Last Son of Krypton into the fierce fighter that he’s become as we dig into “Justice League: Gods & Monsters-Superman #1”.
Batman (created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger), Justice League (created by Gardner Fox) and all related characters are owned by DC Comics.