Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham #1

Posted: Sunday, September 17
By: Ray Tate
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Writer: Mike Mignola & Richard Pace
Artist: Troy Nixey(p), Dennis Janke(i), Dave Stewart(c)
Publisher: DC

Plot: The Bat prepares to do battle with Cthulhu.

Only a half-wit can mess up a concept like Batman if written by H.P. Lovecraft. Mike Mignola's mind has been enslaved by the Great Ones. He easily evokes the atmosphere of the grandmaster of horror. Mr. Lovecraft's stories often occurred in the most remote places on earth. Mr. Mignola's story is no different. Bruce Wayne conquers the ice of Antarctica in search of the doomed Cobblepot expedition.

Troy Nixey and Dennis Janke make the elegant and comical penguins sinister. They make fitting tools for the thing in the ice, and the way they treat the Penguin is original. Whereas the Tim Burton Penguin was simply evil, the Penguin seen here is creepy and in keeping with the Lovecraft tradition only glimpsed through the mist of ice-cold air.

Mr. Mignola characterizes the alternate Batman as an atypical Lovecraftian scientist. The grandmaster's scientists in the beginning of his stories often believe rather arrogantly that the practice of their craft will serve all their needs. The alien entities designed by Lovecraft, some of whom inspired John W. Campbell's The Thing and the creatures of The X-Files, teach them lessons they'll not soon forget--that is if they retain their sanity. The difference between Batman and the average Lovecraftian lab rat is a refreshing lack of arrogance. Batman has been preparing all his life to meet the thing that manipulated the events leading to his parents' murder. In this elseworld, the Dark Knight was not made to frighten criminals but to engender fear in the already superstitious practitioners of occult serving Cthulhu and his ilk. Batman's arsenal of scientific weaponry is geared to peel back the layers of insane mystery, but he has already encountered what seems to be impossible things and lived with the knowledge of these consequences. As such, our hero is more prepared to engage the tentacles slowly coiling around Gotham City.

It's not surprising Batman fits so well amid the terrors of H. P. Lovecraft. Bob Kane's and Bill Finger's original Bat-man owed as much to horror as he did to the mystery genre. Batman and his mythos meld without any friction. For instance, the Swamp Thing who lurked on the periphery of Gotham translates into a Deep One, amphibious monster servants of Cthulhu. Mr. Freeze is reintroduced as something weird rather than tragic. Dick, Jason and Tim get an intriguing make-over as they become traditional wards of the type found in the period setting--also expressed in the trappings of big-game hunter Oliver Queen's mansion. Dirty cops enter the picture briefly to be thwarted by Batman's methods: a tip of the fedora to Dave Stewart for the green gas.

The artwork though dark and moody isn't afraid of using color. The chill blues and fiery reds contrast the grim garb of the Batman. Mr. Nixey surprises with a strength in anatomy as well as the bizarre, and Dennis Janke's inks keep the Dark Knight always partially concealed in the shadows. He gives Mr. Nixey's artwork an even greater weight, and we can see how much his judgment of light and dark decided the final composition of his erstwhile partner Dan Jurgens.

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