Saturday, 20 February 2016

Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham Review (Mike Mignola, Richard Pace)

Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham is a three-part Elseworlds story from 2000/2001 from writers Mike Mignola and Richard Pace who blended Batman with HP Lovecraft - a winning combo, right? Well, sort of… 

It’s 1928 and an Antarctic expedition to retrieve the missing Professor Cobblepot led by eccentric millionaire Bruce Wayne reveals an unspeakable horror sleeping beneath the ice! It’s up to Batman to save Gotham from Yogs, Thoths, Sh’thgloths, Yhueth’sHUThgtsthathgueanths and other creatures whose names you can’t pronounce properly without a mouthful of peanut butter! 

Seeing how Mignola is Mr Horror Comic, it makes sense for him to be co-writing a Lovecraftian comic and the idea is a good fit with Batman’s dark, gothic world. The Lovecraft elements are there: monsters in the ice, cursed books, slumbering tentacle creatures, doomed journal entries and so on. 

Except Mignola/Pace can’t really make their alternate Bruce Wayne into a convincing Batman, motivation-wise. Sure there’s the “kid Bruce watching his parents killed” origin scene but absolutely no connection for him from that point on to becoming a Bat-themed vigilante. He becomes a seafarer who happens to have an old-timey Batman outfit for no reason! 

The story suffers from a rambling, vague plot with too many characters who seem to be there as fanservice only. Jason Blood/Etrigan, Killer Croc, Mister Freeze, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Ollie Queen really don’t have major parts to play in the story but they’re a part of Batman’s world so let’s throw them in there anyway! I did like Barbara Gordon’s reimagining as a spirit medium - a true Oracle! - and the way Mignola/Pace used Two-Face as part of the warped finale. 

Fans will be disappointed that Mignola only draws the covers which is probably why Troy Nixey was hired as he draws in a pretty good facsimile of Mignola’s style. Nixey even pays homage to the Mignolaverse by drawing Bruce like Lobster Johnson in Antarctica (those gogs!), Ra’s Al-Ghul as Rasputin, and Killer Croc as a frog monster! I enjoyed his depiction of Etrigan too who looks genuinely disturbing for a change. Nixey’s shortcoming seems to be kids as he makes Tim Drake look like a deformed mini-Quasimodo throughout! Generally though I had no problems with the art and thought it was a fine complement to the script. 

I would’ve liked the story to have been tighter but then it wouldn’t be a genuine Lovecraft homage if it was so maybe that’s intentional - truly great horror writing isn’t Lovecraft’s style! Still, Batman and Lovecraft is a decent pairing making The Doom That Came to Gotham an interesting and creative re-imagining that’s worth a look for all Batman and Mike Mignola fans.

Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham

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