Review – Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Mike Mignola & Richard Pace
Penciller: Troy Nixey
Inker: Dennis Janke
Colourist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Release Date: November 2000 – January 2001
I was looking forward to reading Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham for review, as it is an Elseworlds story that I had been meaning to get around to reading for a while now. It is written by the brilliant mind that created Hellboy and it mixes Batman lore with the themes of H.P Lovecraft, – what’s not to love? This should have been an easy homerun success for DC, but unfortunately it is not.
The plot sets up Bruce Wayne as an explorer, sailing his ship across the seas for the last 20 years with the Robins as his shipmates, he then returns to a 1920’s themed Gotham City. I actually enjoyed the eerie setup that the first few pages of the book delivers, unfortunately this is the plot’s high point. As soon as Bruce appears as Batman, the story seems to lose its way.
The setup for why Bruce dresses as a bat is clumsy and unclear, much like the portrayal we get of Batman throughout this book. He is sloppy and carries a gun, which he never even uses to any actual effect. He also never feels competent in any given situation, instead it just feels like he happens to be in the right spot at the right time during action sequences or we would have easily been killed. He spends this whole book getting lucky and scraping victory through no real doing of his own.
In terms of the dialogue, my God this is a boring Batman! He says nothing of any real interest through the whole book and has the personality of a wooden board. The dialogue in general is largely expositional and never seems to flow naturally, instead feeling shoehorned in.
After the opening act of Wayne coming back to Gotham, the rest of the book seems to drag on a fair bit before anything else happens of any great significance. To the point that it took me several sittings to even get through the book and honestly, if I didn’t have to finish reading through it for the sake of this review, I would have put it down and moved onto something else more engaging.
It also doesn’t help in terms of focus that so many flashbacks and cryptic metaphors are used throughout the story. I realise that these techniques may have been employed to pay homage to the Lovecraftian style that this book is clearly going for. However, there is an extended flashback sequence that takes place from page 106 to page 114 that feels very aimless and frankly unnecessary to the plot.
One glimpse of hope was when (SPOILER) Jason Todd and Dick Grayson are unceremoniously killed and it seems like one positive of this book is that it doesn’t need to adhere to regular continuity, so no one is safe. Afterwards I was eager to see Bruce’s reaction to finding out that two of his crewmates and adopted sons are dead but instead of seeing any significant grief or loss from Bruce, we instead get one page that shows a couple of frames of him saying goodbye to the Robins at their graveside. It feels like Bruce takes their death rather lightly and nonchalantly fails to bring them up again through the entire rest of the book.
Frankly, the artwork in this book is hard to look at, – and not in the right ways. Upon seeing the first few panels, I thought it was interesting that they had chosen not to make Bruce Wayne as traditionally handsome as he is usually drawn. Then I got a few more pages in and realised that all of the faces are drawn to be extremely ugly and hard to look at. I don’t know if that is because Troy Nixey struggles with drawing faces as I am not aware of his other work, or if it is a stylistic choice, or if it is because they were very obviously trying to recreate the style of Mike Mignola. Regardless of the reason for this, it is extremely noticeable and distracting as you are reading through the book.
I also hated the design of the Batsuit in this story. The Batsuit is supposed to be menacing and strike fear into criminals, the suit seen in this story isn’t menacing in the slightest. It looks baggy and too big for Bruce to fill it out, this makes Batman look pretty weak and wimpy, especially when paired with the fact that he has to carry a gun to defend himself.
Just when you start to get over how pathetic and unthreatening Batman looks in this story, the book manages to one-up itself in terms of ludicrous absurdity. When Batman goes to the graveside of the two dead Robins, he is wearing his full Batsuit in broad daylight, with a trench coat over the top of it. It is genuinely one of the most laughably ridiculous things I’ve ever seen in a Batman comic and that is really saying something.
I also found the book’s final battle to be a confusing mess narratively and the art really didn’t help matters. The weird environmental artwork, mixed with the off-putting character design of the literal Bat-Man that Bruce turns into, along with the weird colour choices just makes the whole thing a nightmare to look at. It results in the reader having a difficult time following the action and ends up just being a cluttered panel of awkward characters designs.
Overall, I came away pretty disappointed after reading Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham for review. It does not live up to the pedigree of Mike Mignola or the literary influencers that it clearly borrows from. This book could have been great, but sadly it is one to skip as there are much better and more worthwhile Elseworlds Batman stories out there to read instead.
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