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The Monolith #6
writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
artist: Tomm Coker

It's almost a shame that The Monolith needs the once-reliable profile boost of a Batman guest-appearance. This tale of a Jewish Golem set free to achieve justice in the streets of modern-day New York has already had a steady stream of action, intrigue, and a few mysteries we should look forward to solving. Unfortunately, like a lot of new books without bats, spiders or supers these days, it may not have yet gotten a steady stream of readers.

And so at least one subplot had to be temporarily put on hold to bring in The Batman.

If creators have to give in to the guest appearance, they might as well do it right, and so far, Palmiotti and Gray do. It's easy to jump in with this issue, absolutely crucial to bringing in new readers. (If you haven't been reading Monolith, you may want to pick up the back issues, but it's not a necessity.)

Importantly (for me), Palmiotti and Gray utilize Bruce Wayne, a character underused in his own books, no matter how many story arcs in Gotham carry the message that Batman should focus on the man beneath the mask. The writers here remember that being a bajillionaire affords an opportunity to do social good without having to beat up any costumed lunatics.

Since this is a comic book, of course, the opportunity for Wayne to don cape and cowl will arise soon enough. And Palmiotti and Gray have made their macguffin a fairly important one: somebody has been going around New York City blowing up Arab-American and Muslim-owned buildings.

No thinly-veiled allegories for real-world situations here, using imaginary anagrammed countries. The crimes in this comic book could happen, and thankfully have not, because we don't really have a Batman to put a stop to them. Or a golem.

As they have done continuously and subtly in every issue, the writers are putting the one thing popular culture doesn't really want to talk about seriously front and center: the religious divide. (The titular character comes from Jewish tradition, but it's likely that a Buddhist had a hand in his formation, and Catholicism has been thrown into the mix. Now Islam plays a crucial role.) It has all been done for entertainment, but with this arc it looks like it could grow into something serious. You can come for the Bat, but you'll get a little thought-provocation with him.

If that isn't enough, then go for the characterization. The main cast of the book has already developed personality and charm, from the uncomfortable heir of the golem, Alice Cohen to her co-workers. These are the everyday people in the DC Universe, for whom a glimpse of Green Lantern is humdrum because they've got more important things to worry about, like just getting through the day. Even by focusing on Bruce Wayne first, Palmiotti and Gray underscore their focus on the people on the streets, not the heads in the clouds.

As for the golem himself, possibly named Peter, he could easily be dismissed as another Lenny clone, but first Phil Winslade and now Tomm Coker have given him a dimension of empathy. If he once was a human soul, the Monolith has no knowledge of it. But he still struggles towards it, wishing to be something more than he was created to be.

The concept has been knocked around the DC Universe before, in Primal Force and Ragman. But this take bothers to make us care; in a tougher marketplace, however, it may disappear just as quickly as those others.

That would be a shame. Bring on Batman. Bring on Superman. Do whatever it takes in order to get people to read a well-written, well-drawn book that actually has something on its mind.


Derek McCaw

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