Saturday, 11 October 2014

Batman: Castle of the Bat Review (Jack C. Harris, Bo Hampton)

Elsewords is an old DC series where writers and artists could take popular characters like Batman or Superman and try whatever out-there concept they could come up with as they were safely outside continuity. Some Elseworlds titles have been amazing like Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son but most were kinda so-so in a fun way, like Batman: Castle of the Bat. 

Jack Harris riffs on Mary Shelley’s classic 19th century novel Frankenstein and puts Bruce Wayne in the role of Victor Frankenstein. Bereaved at the death of his parents, Bruce becomes a brilliant scientist as per his father’s dying wish. That is until he stumbles across his father’s brain, preserved for years in a jar and decides to bring his father back to life in a new, better body, made of parts from corpses, going from brilliant to insane scientist very quickly! 

But Bruce’s work with “improving” nature has seen him splice certain animals like bats together with creatures who could benefit from increased hearing - so of course he attempts the same with his soon-to-be-reanimated Pop. Surprising no-one, the results turn out to be nightmarish as the corpse of dead humans with bat DNA comes to life as - the Bat Man! 

This is DC doing Hammer Horror and pulling it off reasonably well because it’s so over the top and daffy. Also, this is Batman in name only, as Bruce is totally out of character while the Bat Man kills people, and the fact that it’s set in Ingolstadt, Germany, as per Shelley’s novel rather than Gotham. 

The story is very melodramatic but it works for the book as it’s hardly the most serious take on Batman - just look at Alfredo, Bruce’s hunchback servant! The way the story develops in the third act is also completely mad with events crashing together deliriously rather than logically, especially the inclusion of Julia, an entirely pointless character except to be the obligatory damsel in distress. The art is decent, it’s painted rather than inked and works well for the gothic flavoured book. 

Batman: Castle of the Bat is a pretty fun, tongue-in-cheek take on Batman, playing up the side of Bruce Wayne that’s ever present - the defining loss of his parents - and mixing it in cleverly with a horror classic. It mostly works and is enjoyable enough but by no means an essential read, even for the most ardent Batman fan.

Batman: Castle of the Bat

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