First appearance – The Bat Jet
A Gothic Take On Batman
OOOOP it’s only my favourite comic book writer of all time writing my favourite comic book character. Hope that I’m not really biased on this one….ooop think I might be.
I read Gothic years and years ago when I was first getting into Batman. I took the plunge on it because I’d seen it mentioned in many top 10 lists for books on the character. On first read I enjoyed it. It ticked a lot of boxes and was well paced. It wasn’t my favourite but I still had a good time. Maybe it was “New Year’s Eve Syndrome”. It had been hyped up and didn’t really deliver…ever (New Years Eve..not the book).
Years passed (added for dramatic effect) and I read more and more. I never really appreciated how much of a bloody genius Grant Morrison was until I read his run that began in Batman and Son and Ended with Batman Inc. from that run he firmly placed himself as my favourite Batman writer.
This is my return to the book after reading that seminal run, I now know what to expect from Morrison. All his intricacies that I never really noticed before were now red flags to me and I’ve got a keen eye going into them for this book.
So…let us begin.
“Gotham City Is Hell And I Am The King Of Hell”
The art in the book is very very Dark Knight Returnsy so it’s no surprise that Klaus Janson, the artist in this book did a lot of work on the aforementioned title. However, the problems that I have with TDKR’s Art are non existent here. The characters are a lot easier to make out, their expressions very readable and Janson has provided a realistic and grounded feel to the book that keeps in with the tone of the prior chapters. There is a brilliant death trap later in the story that Janson illustrates with a method and precision that demonstrates just how good he is. His use of paneling is natural and helps to keep the stories pace fast when it needs to be and slower in those tense moments. I honestly think this is one of his best pieces of work. It’s not perfect though, the art is a bit cartoony at time and blocky, a bit like John Romita Jr but more refined. I enjoyed it, however it is probably one of the weaker entries in the run. That’s not because Janson is bad, just the previous artists were amazing.
“It’s not good to see me, for scum like you it’s never good to see me”
The story begins with the mysterious Mr Whisper (bit like Mr. Kipling but for Whisper Bars) returning to Gotham City and taking down the mobsters that had wronged him 20 years earlier. The mobsters are more scared of him than they are of Batman. He has no shadow, he can’t be killed, he cuts knives with butter, he smokes like…..40 a day, he leaves the toilet seat up, he’s the most evil man in the world.
The mobsters are that scared that they call for Batman, using an inverted bat signal. Batman tells them they can rot for all he cares but he soon gets dragged into the frey when the mysterious Mr. Whisper has begins haunting his dreams. I mean what would you do, you’re a billionaire playboy dreaming of lingerie models and some old guy in a trench coat, possible flasher, starts popping up. You’d want revenge!!!
One Hell Of A Read
The book is very religious and throughout there are many references to heaven, hell, God and the Devil. Batman early on states that Gotham City is hell and that he is the devil.
The king of hell.
This gets contested throughout the book and it is almost like all of the characters are viling to become the ruler of the hellish landscape. The previously mentioned inverted bat signal can be viewed as being similar to that of an upside down pentagram, used by Satan worshipers and the Illuminati. This scene is one of my favourites in all of the Batman books that I’ve read. It shows that Batman, though seen as a demon, will not compromise and if he is the king of hell, then he is not willing to give his subjects an easy ride. Morrison has done a lot of research to provide the allure that there is something paranormal about this book without spelling it out directly. The devil himself (or herself in this matter) even makes an appearance later towards the climax and this helps cement it truly in an otherworldly setting. To me the book should be viewed as a warning towards sin. We find out that Mr. Whisper was part of a cult who believed that sin was the road to salvation and that to understand God one must be bathed in sin to truly be humble towards him.
You’ve Made Gotham Hell…Now Rot In It
Dreams sequences appear throughout, whilst in 90% of stories they are throwaways they actually assist with the books arc. We see that Bruce mentally still lives in his father’s shadow. He is almost childlike in his dreams and when Mr. Whisper starts to enter them he almost becomes helpless. This is great at demonstrating just how much Bruce fears Whisper initially and enforces the fact that the Batman persona has granted Bruce with the confidence to face evil head on. The dreams also tell Mr. Whispers back story. We learn that he was a headmaster at Bruce’s childhood school and that the disappearance of children forced him to resign. This is a brilliant way of adding depth to their relationship and raising the stakes .
Hell Of A Lot Of Hell Puns
The book is extremely dark in it’s themes. It involves torture, rape, child murder and even has hints of pedophilia. So yeah, if you’re a fan of the 1966 show you probably shouldn’t be here.
I mean like here in general cos you’re probably an idiot.
This is truly the most skin crawling entry thus far. You really get a sense of just how wicked and depraved our villain when his back story is discussed and when he meets his end there is a true sense of relief. Mr Whisper’s past is what I think will be make or break for most readers. The tone of the canon up to this point has been one of realism. Everything has been dealt with in a down to earth manner and to find out Whisper is over 300 years old can be a bit jarring. Add onto this the fact that he sold his soul to the devil and some readers may be put off. However, I do think that it is handled very well. This doesn’t feel like a breakneck twist and it works within context. Batman receives clues through dreams at one point and though this is a little twee, it’s glanced over and isn’t enough to completely ruin the book. Even if it is quite bad.
To me the book is about people coming back to life in more ways than one. Doing good things even when you yourself may suffer. If Gotham is hell then this book earns Batman his place in heaven.
Though I have minor problems with the art and story, this almost standalone book is a great addition to the run so far. There are lots of moments where tension is high and you almost feel your skin crawl from the sick and depraved acts that take place throughout the pages. It’s great to see just how seriously Morrison takes the characters and he truly intertwines his thoughts on religion metaphorically enough to the point that they don’t detract from the story. It’s easy to see why this book is so widely loved as it’s easy to jump into, well paced and leaves you wanting more. Gothic is one of the best so far.
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.