Amateur Batfan: Vol. 3 – Batman Gothic

Posted: January 14, 2014 by kingcrimsonprog in Amateur Batfan
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Hello and welcome to third installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Magnum opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them.

This articles’ theme is “Pick one that Magnum has read,” because he hadn’t read Mad Monk or Monster Men and so couldn’t read my previous entry. That theme cuts out the possibility of writing about the two books that I most wanted to talk about though, Heart Of Hush and Gates Of Gotham. What to write about then? I was tempted to chose “Batman R.I.P” because the last two entries had been about books I really liked, and I wanted to chose one that I had an initially very negative reaction to, just so that all the Batfan articles don’t end up being more-or-less the same.

I was tempted to chose that, but in the end, I’ve decided that “the Morrison run” (of which Batman R.I.P is the third installment) should be handled in one, single, huge post, rather than in individual posts out of sequence.

This book seemed like a nice compromise. A story that Magnum has read, and that is even by Morrison, but that isn’t part of that giant run.

(Morrison’s run, if you don’t know, lasts so long that its sold in separate books, and buying them all would be pretty costly. Also, they are all linked together and don’t really work as stand alone releases. So, if you want to read it, it’s a big commitment.)

Batman

Batman Gothic:

– Writers: Grant Morrison
– Art: Klaus Janson

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint
– Timeline Position: Year One
– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Mr. Whisper, The Mafia

– Cameos: Thomas Wayne (in a flashback)

– References: N/A

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth

– Story: The Mafia (although not Falconi or Maroni’s Mafia family from other stories, new characters instead. People like “Boss Ottavio” who as far as I’m aware, keeping in mind I’m new to this, don’t appear in any other stories) task Batman to catch a new villain called Mr. Whisper, who is committing beyond-the-grave revenge killings on the men who killed him twenty years ago. Its kind of similar to Fear The Reaper and Mask Of The Phantasm in a way… a “beyond-the grave revenge story against organized criminals in Gotham” kinda way.

– Tone: The tone is pretty interesting. Its kind of progressive or psychedelic in places with its use of dream sequences and supernatural goings-on. The general style of the book is a detective story, although at one point batman is captured in a manner really reminiscent to the 60s TV show too.

It is interesting to think that Grant Morrison wrote this story. It isn’t a part of his aforementioned huge run that began with Batman & Son and ended just recently, but interestingly it does contain certain elements that you would associate with what I’d describe as ‘Morrison’s Style.” In that run, Morrison uses a lot of the more imaginative and out-there story devices, enjoys incorporating the more fantasy and supernatural side of Batman into his work, tries to bring in stuff from all eras of Batman (including the fun 60s stuff), and invents new villains for himself. In that way it feels a bit like what The Corner is to The Wire. Or like Burn The Priest to Lamb Of God. Its not a part of it, but you could definitely tell the same people made it.

What I mean by that is that this story has the invention of a new Villain, a lot of trippy sections, and it mixes Year One’s grim crime drama tone with one or two cheeky 60s-style things like the inclusion of a bat-gyrocopter and batman being tied to a conveyer belt by the baddie.

I said last time that I’d rather read Batman stories with no magic, deamons or superpowers in them, and that I’m one of those people who want Batman to exist in the real world.

I sometimes find Red Hood and Ras Al Ghul and anything to do with Lazarus Pits to be a bit hard to swallow, even though a lot of good stories have included them. This story includes a semi-deamonic villain who sold his soul to the devil and has a sort of immortality (temporary immortality with a caveat). It also features a ghost ship. It even has a horcrux of sorts. So. Not a story that would be possible in the real-world then.

You know what though, even though it nominally includes things I profess to dislike, this is a really enjoyable, well made, solid, creative, self-contained mystery story. It shows Morrison’s quality as a writer without having to commit you to about £150 worth of books. (Morrison’s run, multiple books, remember?)

Its pretty interesting to read a book that has absolutely nothing to do with anything else at all. With the exception of Batman and Alfred, there are absolutely no characters from other Batman stories. Its just who is this killer?, stop this killer, resolution. In a good way. Its like an AC/DC song. Batman R.I.P by contrast is like one of the more challenging Mars Volta songs.

– Art: Of all the Batman books that I’ve read so far, this has probably got the least flashy, least glossy, least detailed art. Ok, Run Riddler Run had worse art, and I’d say its kind of tied with The Dark Knight Returns, but its not as good as Killing Joke. Its functional art. I wouldn’t ever say “don’t read this due to the poor art” or anything like that, but its not a gorgeous feast for the eyes like Hush or All Star Batman & Robin.

– Overall: Its not the prettiest looking book out there, but its got substance. On the upside this is a short, simple, enjoyable and creative story. Short and sweet. Not really much else you can say about it. Its pretty sparse in places, with multiple full pages containing less than five words of dialogue. Its not overcomplicated with extra characters and you don’t have to have read any other Batman story ever to “get it.”

On the downside it doesn’t “add anything” to the Batman mythology and it doesn’t really reveal anything new, except stuff that only relates to this one-off villain and those one-off mobsters. I guess it tells you that Bruce had a one-off childhood friend called Rob (who isn’t Hush; somebody should’ve tied the two together) and that Bruce got spanked in school and his dad complained about it. I guess that’s some characterization for his dad. Ok, so that’s not much of a downside. Its just a pretty interesting standalone story. If the idea of the Devil appearing in a Batman story puts you off, then I’d say avoid it, but if you can get past that, as I have had to, then its pretty flawless.

I wouldn’t say this is “essential reading” or tell you to rush out and buy it if you weren’t already going to (like I would with Gates Of Gotham). I would however, if asked, say it was really solid and worth getting, providing that you were already tempted. I’d confirm its value when relevant, but I wouldn’t actively publicize it day to day.

It’s a good book. Its definitely better than some of the Judge Dredd crossovers I’ve read. Its just, y’know, not a big point of discussion. Good job I chose to blog about then, ey?

Until next time readers,

Same bat time, Same bat blog.

[Side note: is bat time 10.47?]

Comments
  1. You’ll find that most of the Legends Of The Dark Knight collections (like this and Venom and many others) won’t add much to the Batman mythology. The series was a sort of vehicle for creators to tell stories they wanted to tell but it was sually set in the past and didn’t (as far as I know) ever cross over with the main books at the time (Batman and Detective Comics, and later Shadow Of The Bat).

    The DKR comparison is appropriate as Janson inked that book too. I don’t know enough about inkers in the same way I do about pencillers to say “oh look, it’s that inker”, but 9 times out of 10 I’d pick Janson’s embellishment out of a bunch of others. He’s very good on his own, too.

    I’ve not read Gothic in three years. I must give it a go sometime soon. Soon as I get these bloody exams, erm, exam over…then you’ll see, Gothic! I’ll show you!

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  2. Also if I can sell something to the same value I have my eye on a copy of the Wagner books on Ebay and I’ll pick those up next and read your post and then get back to you about the things that you said in your post that i was unable to comment on at the time because i hadn’t read the things that the things in the post were.

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  3. Mackers says:

    Great book, noticed the Run Riddler Run mention there, I don’t know if you’ve made an article on that one, but it fucking sucks!
    And Paul what you said about the Legends series is true but I think there was the very odd comic that tied in with the main continuity, during No Mans Land series… though I haven’t read them so I can’t confirm it. I read about it on a wiki article because I was browsing for other Legends books to seek out, its a fantastic series

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  4. Good point Mackers, there were LOTDK issues in No Man’s Land. Heck, I’ve read some of them and didn’t notice. You know, I’m fffffffffffairly well read when it comes to Batman, and I’ve never even heard of Run Riddler Run. I’ve just looked it up and I’ve also never heard of either of the guys who worked on it.

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