Batman: Gotham By Gaslight Review By Deffinition
Upon it’s release in 1989, Batman: Gotham By Gaslight, revolutionized the Comic Book Industry. Labelled as the first ‘Elseworld Story’, it allowed The Dark Knight to be taken in new directions. Set in 1889, the book centres around Batman taking down Jack The Ripper. Free from the shackles of continuity and canon the book was unrivaled in terms of innovation, however, since its release, many imitators have copied this aesthetic and some would even argue that they have bettered it.
Coinciding with the release of DC’s new animated adaptation I decided to retread the foggy pages of the graphic novel to see if this aesthetic still works 30 years on or if this is one that should be left in the past.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the storyline so make sure you leave a comment at the end of my review detailing your thoughts on the work.
With that out the way, let’s get into Batman: Gotham By Gaslight.
Opening on a letter from the man himself, Jack The Ripper has a chilling entry into the DC universe. Detailing his murders, this cold introduction acts as a somber reminder of just how brutal the serial killer was and instantly manages to add gravitas to the work.
This aesthetic carries over into the opening few pages which depict the Wayne’s being murdered by a lone gunman in the Wild West. Masterfully reinventing their deaths, it immediately showcases how an Elseworld story allows the creative team to expand the key characteristics of Batman’s inception into brilliant new directions. I absolutely loved the initial pages and they paint a shadowy, Godless world that fans of the Dark Knight will lap up.
Grounding the book in 1889 was an inspired choice that allows Brian Augustyn to cameo key historical figures. Sigmond Freud makes an appearance and it is heavily implied that Wayne studied under the fictional Detective Sherlock Holmes. These historical figures add a level of authenticity and believability to the work that is often missing from the more fantastical storylines in the Caped Crusader’s Canon. Working as a snapshot of life at the time it’s breath taking to see gigantic steam power ships and expansive dining halls that seem to be steeped in history. Wayne Manor has never looked so mysterious and it’s upon our entry to this location that we discover the Steampunk Batsuit.
‘It’s been waiting for you’
I fell head over heels the first moment I saw the Steampunk Batsuit. Detailed and practical it feels like a true invention of the era. Stitches skew outwards from the cowl, the cape is like the leather wings of a bat and the utility belt is populated with knives, making it appear as the most deadly incarnation that it has ever been.
There is credibility to be had when staring at the costume and Mike Mignola uses sillouhette beautifully to depict how intimidating this get up would be to criminals of the time.
All in all it’s one of my favourite designs for The World’s Greatest Detective. Rivalling the costume from The Dark Knight Returns, it really feels grounded and empowering at the same time. Batman truly becomes a wraith when wearing it and I challenge anyone to not adore how the Dark Knight capitalises on his surroundings.
As he races into the night we see a legend born again and it’s one of the best versions of the character ever.
Return Of The Ripper
Just as Batman stalks the city at night, so does The Ripper. Mercilessly slaying victims, he gleefully taunts the police and when Bruce is unable to explain his whereabouts of a night, he becomes the main suspect. Placed on trial we see Augustyn beautifully portray the injustice of a trial during a time where DNA did not exist and Witness testimony was often badgered into fitting a case.
Sentenced to be hanged after a humungous betrayal from his ‘two faced’ friend, Harvey Dent. Bruce really seems at wits end. However, he’s not out of the game just yet. Solving the case from his cell he escapes confinement and tracks down the Ripper before he claims another victim.
Batman Vs Jack The Ripper
Whilst the identity of The Ripper is fairly obvious (mainly because there are only about five character in the entire book), the Climax is still delivered well and in an enthralling manner. Augustyn manages to showcase the psychotic psychology of the Ripper whilst tying neatly into Batman’s origin in a way that doesn’t feel ham fisted and capitalises on the aesthetic in a perfectly executed finale.
Batman: Gotham By Gaslight still holds up tremendously. It’s pages seem other worldly, Dark and brooding, they perfectly capture the look of the 1800s and this is one of the best illustrated comics out there. Story wise this works brilliantly for newcomers and still features enough minute Easter eggs that will satisfy hardcore fans. Augustyn and Mignola worked together symbiotically to create an outstanding graphic novel that still deserves it place on all of the top ten lists that it appears upon.
Batman: Gotham By Gaslight would go on to spawn a sequel, animated movie and cancelled video game but the original is by far the best. I highly recommend that you pick this up whether you are a huge fan of The Dark Knight or are just starting out in comics and need a gateway into the genre.
Breathtaking from start to finish, Gotham By Gaslight gets a…
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