Batman: Haunted Gotham
Doug Moench, writer,
Kelley Jones, artist
(DC Comics, 2000)

Batman: The Doom
That Came to Gotham

Mike Mignola &
Richard Pace, writers,
Troy Nixey, artist
(DC Comics, 2000)

Writers of DC's popular Elseworlds series, which places variations on familiar characters in unfamiliar settings, seem particularly fascinated with Batman and the possibilities for new gothic slants on the character. In 2000, two separate teams came up with stories that find Batman and his supporting cast in a monster-laden environment.

The four-part Haunted Gotham gives us a Gotham that is locked away from the rest of the world. It is a giant playpen for demonic forces, and Bruce Wayne's parents and the "Invisible College" have trained Wayne as a champion to fight those evil forces in the guise of a giant bat. The elder Waynes' deaths at the hands of a toothy werewolf triggers the creation of the Batman, who quickly finds himself fighting an undead Joker, the snakelike Lord Ophidian and various forces of Hell. Allies include trusty Alfred, Commissioner Gordon and undercover officer Cassandra Knight, an animated skeleton named Cal and the busty seer Cat Majik.

In The Doom That Came to Gotham, Wayne has spent the last two decades exploring at sea. He returns to Gotham with trusted companions Alfred, Dick, Jason and Tim -- and inadvertently brings something with him from the frozen Antarctic wastes where he traced the lost Cobblepot expedition. Leaving Cobblepot, who went "native" with a flock of deformed penguins, behind, he brings the expedition's only other survivor, a frozen wreck of a man, back to Gotham. Over the course of three books, Wayne encounters Professor Langstrom (the Man-Bat), Jason Blood (the Demon), Oliver Queen (not quite Green Arrow), Harvey Dent (not quite Two-Face) and variations on the themes of Killer Croc, Mister Freeze, Ra's al Ghul and his daughter Talia, Commissioner Gordon, Oracle, Poison Ivy and more.

Both tales involve ancient evils that threaten to rise and sweep over the city. Both tales are dark and monstrous. But, ultimately, neither managed to truly engage me all that much and neither offers a style of art I find very appealing.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 19 January 2002