Andy’s Read Pile: Batman, The Doom that Came to Gotham

It’s time for another fantastic entry from Andy Larson’s never ending comic read pile. As I’ve been a little Marvel heavy in recent weeks given the Infinity War countdown, I thought I’d shift over to the other of the big 2, DC. For the most part, I’m not a huge fan of DC books, with Batman being the exception to the rule.

So it wasn’t exactly “pulling teeth” for me to read this week’s entry, an Elseworlds story called “Batman, the Doom that Came to Gotham”. For those of you not in the know, Elseworlds is to DC what What If is to Marvel. It allows writers to tell stories about their favorite characters in a different way without worrying about traditional continuity established in the main books. And in Elseworlds case, those changes can be downright dramatic, completely changing the rules and universe these characters exist in.

Batman is a favorite to be used by writers in this regard, and over the years they have turned him into a vampire, pitted him against Jack the Ripper in Victorian London, and sent him into the far future.

“Doom” is similar to the Victorian London treatment of the character except that its about 50 years later in 1920s New York. Additionally instead of it being set in a universe written by Arthur Conan Doyle, “Doom” makes it abundantly clear that its in the universe of the grandfather of horror, H.P. Lovecraft. In fact the title for this book is actually a play on the title of the Lovecraft short story “ The Doom that Came to Sarnath”.

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Now, as someone that’s read his fair share of Lovecraft, I can say from experience, that its sometimes difficult to read and comprehend as it deals with a lot of truly alien concepts which are hard to realize. In visuals, however, it becomes a completely different story, as the art allows the reader to fill in the missing pieces in their minds and have a better understanding of what the hell is going on.

That is as long as theirs a fairly competent writer at the helm.  And nobody out there now, is better than mimicking that tone and putting it in comic print better than Doom’s wordsmith, Mike Mignola, as referenced by the fact that he’s been doing the same damn thing for years in Hellboy.

Now I’m not going to give away too much of the plot of the story in this post unlike some other reviews, but I will say it’s unlike any other Batman story I’ve read. Mike does a great job of transferring all the characters and concepts made famous in the main Batman series, such as the rogues gallery, Batman’s relationship with Dick and Tim Drake, and even Harvey Dent’s political aspirations. However, he does so without compromising the concepts that make Lovecraftian stories.

There are ancient forbidden texts, sleeping monsters buried in ice, alternate dimensions, evil cults worshiping alien gods, and a general sense that many of the the most important “truths” about our universe are way beyond our understanding and that we should feel blessed that we live in such ignorance as the alternative might drive us mad.

The greatest part in my opinion is the way he recasts the rogues gallery to fit within the above guidelines without losing the key aspects that are touchstones of those villains. The way he recasts Ra Al Ghul as the undead leader of the sinister ancient organization determined to usher in a new era of darkness, Killer Croc as the hulking mutant assassin of said organization, and Mr. Freeze has an unlucky scientist whose been taken over this unimaginatively powerful alien creature they all serve. Personally, the most horrific change is what they do with Harvey Dent to turn him into “Two Face” but I’ll save that for those that may read this book in future.

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But with all those upsides, such as nailing the tone of Lovecraft and dealing with the villains in appropriate yet unique ways, there is one major downside to the story in my opinion, and that’s actually the handling of Batman.

Basically, it boiled down to there was absolutely no reason why Bruce Wayne needed to be Batman at all in this story. He doesn’t solve crimes or protect Gotham in the traditional sense. For the most part, he’s depicted as just an explorer/investigator who got wrapped up in this mystery because of the death of his parents, and might be more competent that the average bear, but in no way is anything extraordinary.

In fact, more than any other depiction of Batman in any other story, Bruce Wayne putting on the Batman suit in “Doom” really displays some sort of deep seated mental problem. It’s the closest to the real life reaction to someone that would do this, like “what the hell are you wearing, and more importantly why are you wearing it”. There’s really no indication that he wore it before this story, and you question why Bruce Wayne couldn’t have done everything he does in the story just in his plain clothes.

But because this is a Batman story, you are left with Batman being the only character in the tale that wears a costume and for no other reason than the meta fictional reason that this book is being sold as a “Batman” book, not a “Bruce Wayne” book. This simple fact actually detracted a lot from the story every time Batman appeared in costume, like nails on a chalkboard. And that’s a lot given how much especially in issue 2 and 3 he’s shown in costume.

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Overall, I would still recommend reading this series, to anyone that either likes Lovecraft stories, Mike Mignola Stories, or Batman stories that are totally different from the norm. I might have to go back an reread this story in a couple years, to see if I can more sense of the whole Batman/Bruce Wayne thing in terms of why they had to put him in a costume at all. As other than that, it’s a fairly impressive yarn with a fantastic twist ending….er…um…ending. Don’t want to Spoil it.

Comic Rating: C+

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