Comicsphere: Batman, Gotham By Gaslight
Brought to you by messrs. Brian Augustyn, Michael Mignola, P. Craig Russell, David Hornung.
In places where I have been hanging out in a virtual capacity there has been much discussion of the design of book covers and how this affects the sales but more importantly the perception of the work contained therein. It should be plainly obvious that something designed to let the reader know at a glance what they are to find within the pages of a book needs to reflect and summarise that content in a striking and attractive way. Well this book does just that — Mignola’s artwork, the lettering, and the choice of colours conjures up the gothic feel before you even get anywhere near a story or a synopsis. Also, knowing the look of Batman as he normally appears clues you in to the fact that all is not as it normally is in this tale.
Batman has been reimagined, reinvented, spun — whatever you might wish to term it, more than most. His has become something of a mythic template onto which any number of concepts and ideas may be grafted. He has traveled backwards and forwards in time, he has died, gone mad — whatever you might throw at a character has been thrown at Batman or Bruce Wayne, and the great thing is that he is an elastic enough character for them all to coexist.
Here Batman is against Jack The Ripper, a figure who has been reimagined even more times than our hero. This story manages to take Saucy Jack and mash him up against the caped crusader and provide an interesting take on both of them. Batman has a new flavour virtue of his redesigned costume and his setting, coming of something like Sherlock Holmes in Batman’s skin, and the legendary detective’s own battle with the Ripper must surely have been an influence here.
Some of these smaller books can come off feeling slightly rushed and wanting of a more expansive frame over which to stretch their narratives; that is not the case here. The book is a perfect length and the handling of the idea of the Ripper is interesting enough for the idea to once more have fresh life breathed into it. You are left thinking what a great idea it would be to revisit the Batman of this era though. There is a different sensibility, a different edge to the character — a different psycho-geography to explore. I enjoyed this and would definitely recommend it — it could even be one of those books you give to people unsure about reading cape books. Batman was always a different kind of cape, and this is a different kind of Batman.