Batman: Book of the Dead
by Doug Moench, Barry Kitson

Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham
by Doug Moench, Jim
Balent, Kim DeMulder
(DC, 1999)

I have always respected Doug Moench as a writer. Two of his most recent efforts use the Batman characters in two very different Elseworld comic books.

The first is Batman: Book of the Dead. In this version of the Batman mythos, Bruce Wayne's parents were archaeologists murdered because of their knowledge of dangerous secrets from the earliest days of ancient Egypt. Those who enjoy movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Stargate or the remake of The Mummy will relish this foray into pseudo-history.

The double plot involves not only Batman but a hitherto unknown bat-headed deity from Egyptian mythology. As a story, this is good work, but some plot lines are not developed fully.

Barry Kitson's art is appropriate for such a plot. What bothers me is the attempt to document the basic premises of the plot. Not even the inclusion of a bibliography can validate the credibility of Egyptian gods being space travelers in weird helmets. (This notion has been around for some time. Even mystery writers, such as P.C. Doherty in his recent Mask of Ra, incorporate it into otherwise accurate stories.)

Give Moench and Kitson an A for story and art, if not for history.

Now that I have vented my spleen let me praise with far fewer reservations Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham. The title is self-explanatory: in this Elseworlds tale, Catwoman and Batman have switched roles, but this Batman is far more murderous than the "real" Catwoman.

Jim Balent and Kim DeMulder provide excellent art for Moench's script. I do have trouble taking the female villain Two-Face's costume seriously. It just does not work.

Another minor problem is the seeming failure of Catwoman to guard "stately Kyle Manor" against intruders. The ease of entry enables the felonious Batman to discover her secret identity, an essential plot element, but is out of character.

[ by Michael Vance ]
Rambles: 11 October 2002

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