Review: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT Author: Ricky Church (Follow @RICHARDCHURCH16)
Date: July 17, 2017
SYNOPSIS: In an age of mystery and superstition, how would the people of Gotham react to a weird creature of the night, a bat-garbed vigilante feared by the guilty and the innocent alike? The very first Elseworlds tale re-imagines the Dark Knight detective in Victorian times and pits him against the infamous murderer Jack the Ripper.
So I’ve got a confession to make: I have never read Batman: Gotham by Gaslight. I always had trouble finding it in stores or on Amazon, but luck stroke recently and I was finally able to purchase and read it. Our leader Jett was pretty surprised I’d never read it before and ordered me to review it or else my free subscription of BOF for the year would be revoked. So, what is my fresh take on this classic Batman story?
Placing Batman in the Victorian age is a pretty great idea on paper and really fits with the character. Brian Augustyn makes good use of the Victorian era, creating an eerie atmosphere as Batman hunts the rooftops of a very gothic Gotham City. In this tale, Bruce Wayne comes back to Gotham after training throughout Europe to fight crime, but has to contend with another figure that has just come to Gotham... London’s infamous Jack the Ripper.
Augustyn writes a compelling story with a good characterization of Bruce and the other supporting characters. Batman definitely comes across as a frightening, unknown beast to Gotham City. One neat aspect to the story was how the police believed Batman and Jack the Ripper might be one and the same. It’s something that has often come up in Batman ‘year one’ stories, but having the two of them mixed up was a good touch.
One thing though is how little detective work there is in the story. I had thought Augustyn would take more advantage of this, but the detective aspect doesn’t come into play until more than halfway into the story as Batman actually focuses on discovering Jack’s identity. And though Augustyn introduces some characters who could possibly be the infamous killer, there’s really only one character that stood out, to me at least, as who it could be. It’s still a good mystery, but I just thought there would be a bit more of a Sherlock Holmes vibe, especially when its inspired by the Holmes era.
Mike Mignola’s art is one of the book’s highlights though. The eeriness throughout the story is largely due to his rendering of Gotham and Batman (and his Victorian era Batman does look very cool) and David Hornung’s colours. There’s a couple cool nods to Batman’s early era with Bob Kane and Bill Finger as well, but overall Mignola does a great job at crafting this new look for The Dark Knight.
While Gotham by Gaslight didn’t quite deliver as much on the mystery aspect as I might have liked, it still delivered a compelling story with some great artwork that helped in making a Victorian era Gotham City a very eerie and dark place. With the news going around that DC is finally making an animated adaptation of this graphic novel – allegedly – it is definitely a movie to look forward to. - Ricky Church