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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Graphic Novel Review: Batman - "Gotham By Gaslight"

Written by Brian Augustyn
Art by Mike Mignola
Inks by P. Craig Russell
Published by DC Comics

Time for some old graphic novels folks, and this one I picked up from the grave is one that was published months before I was born. 

Published in February 1989,  Batman: Gotham By Gaslight is an Elseworld story that re-imagines the whole Batman mythos in the year 1889, pitting the Caped Crusader himself up against a slick and dreaded opponent who stalks and kills women in the shadows... the famed Jack The Ripper

Written by  Brian Augustyn, the story is a straightforward mystery-detective thriller set in the late 1800s steampunk age, designed by Augustyn to keep readers engaged in its rich, history-influenced plot, while making them guess until the big finale.

 Bruce Wayne is depicted as a millionaire who comes back to Gotham City after a visit from Europe, who is secretly putting down thugs and criminals as Batman during the night - with a little bit of help from Jim Gordon - who feeds him with useful information about Gotham's gangs and tells him just when is the right time to prowl on these criminals. 

At the same time, a plain murder of a wife by his husband came across Gordon and Batman's attention, and they found something similar to that of the Jack The Ripper murders - who has seemingly returned to Gotham to spread his terror. Both agree to hunt down the Ripper, but even as the Batman himself would realize, his mysterious opponent is not of a slacker and is pretty intelligent and wily, even for the World's Greatest Detective.

What follows are intriguing, and perfectly-executed twists bound in one all-original story courtesy of Augustyn. He writes in a way in the manner of most thriller novelists, making his main character (Batman) think aloud as he traces down a killer that nobody has ever seen, and creates scenarios where the reader will be forced to make their own hypothesis and possible solution for the mystery.  

And just what I have said in the beginning, you won't be able to guess what's the going to happen next as the story goes on, and that is exactly what Gotham by Gaslight offers from the beginning to the end.

As if the fresh take on Batman vs Jack The Ripper isn't good enough, legendary artist Mike Mignola (yeah the creator of the celebrated Hellboy) joins Augustyn in bringing an all-time classic that stands the test of time. His unique style of pencilling that made him famous is old-schoolish, yet elegant.  

Mignola's most memorable panels comes in where Batman (who has already figured the true identity of the Ripper) hunts the killer down in a dynamic cat and mouse scene in the middle of the night, that ends up with a gut-wrenching revelation that you couldn't have seen coming.

I have never seen Mignola work on any other comic book aside from Hellboy, and this is the first Batman comic that I read that has Mignola as the artist. With that said, he did a splendid job of putting Batman in the steampunk setting, capturing the 1800s feel in all different aspects like clothing and the way his characters look, and most of all, keeping every scene fresh all the time.

All in all, Gotham by Gaslight is one of the best Batman graphic novels that I have ever read and few of the greatest DC Elseworlds tales that will keep you satisfied even if it was somewhat short in its entirety.

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