The Doom That Came to Gotham was a canny melding of Batman and Lovecraft in an Elseworlds story from 2000–2001. A new collected edition is now available.
Set in the late 1920s, The Doom That Came to Gotham first introduced Bruce Wayne as a Doc Savage-esque pulp hero, complete with Alfred, Dick, Jason and Tim as his crew. Upon returning to Gotham after a 20-year absence, Bruce found the city beset by bizarre, mystical problems that quickly escalated.
Bruce adopted the Batman persona to chase down leads on the dark occurrences, running afoul of dark magic that had a significant effect on him. It all led to a showdown with a fearsome, demonic Lurker intent on unleashing his power on Gotham.
Co-writer Mike Mignola was the auteur responsible for one of the best alterna-Batman stories ever (the Victorian-set Gotham by Gaslight). The Doom That Came to Gotham was another strong outing for him in that specialized genre. He and co-writer Richard Pace did a canny job extracting elements from the Batman mythos and mixing them with the feverish horror ethos of H.P. Lovecraft. They recast familiar characters in some bold and twisted ways (Two-Face, Ra’s Al-Ghul and Mister Freeze especially). The storytelling was clever and fearless, crafting a dark history for Gotham whose effects reverberated across generations.
The Lovecraft influence on Batman has always been evident. The name “Arkham Asylum” was itself drawn from a town that recurred in several of Lovecraft’s stories. The grotesque nature of several Bat-villains has always carried the horror master’s influence. Mignola and Pace did a nice job emphasizing those elements and exaggerating them in surprising and macabre ways. While a lot of the characterizations didn’t emerge too far above the classic pulp style, the writers did a nice job with Bruce, melding pulp and horror conventions onto the character’s basic persona in a way that fit the story and yet still made Bruce recognizably himself.
Penciller Troy Nixey was an interesting choice for The Doom That Came to Gotham. His character work eschewed the sleek, heroic stylings of a typical comic book. His bodies tended more toward the naturalistic, while his faces could be puffy and distended. But those choices worked in context and Nixey excelled with the otherworldly depictions that populated the story. His demonic creations and stylized take on Jazz Age Gotham were keenly detailed, carrying a big visual punch. Inker Dennis Janke’s heavy line work was an apt fit for the dark, shadowy story. Colorist extraordinaire Dave Stewart wrapped the story in a muted haze that recalled a sepia-effect without the sepia. Occasional bursts of fire stood out all the more against the muted panels that surrounded them. Overall it was nice work that fit the horror ethos of the story well.
The Doom That Came to Gotham isn’t an essential Batman story. But fans of alternate takes on the Batman mythos and especially fans of Mignola will be interested in this creative, intriguing tale.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on December 18, 2015.