I think, if we want, we can consider JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS AND MONSTERS – BATMAN an “Elseworlds” tale – though neither the animated film nor this comic book tie-in stamps itself with the classic DC Comics “What If?” story banner.
Written by J. M. DeMatteis and Bruce Timm (who produced and co-wrote the animated film), this Batman isn’t Bruce Wayne – it’s actually Kirk Langstrom (Man-Bat in the DC Universe proper) – and he’s a vampire. Yeah, he sucks the blood of his victims like traditional vampires do, but the way he actually become a literal “bat-man” is quite different and rather clever. Other than being called Batman and operating in Gotham, there is nothing remotely similar between this alternate universe Batman and the “real” Dark Knight. The story is very noir and reminds me a bit of Frank Miller’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE in that regard. Also, like Bruce Wayne in YEAR ONE, Langstrom is the narrator of the story.
My problem with this incarnation of Batman is that it the character is hard to relate to or root for him. Yes, his victims are the dregs of society and organized crime figures, yet the way this Batman takes them out, well, the way he takes them out, just isn’t heroic to me. Plus, haven’t we seen enough of the “tortured soul vampire?”
Matthew Dow Smith’s art is gritty, rough, and fits the story quite well. Yes, the art and colors are dark, but it’s a very dark story that fits the overall vibe they’re going for quite well. I liked it.
Overall, I wish this story had a bit more heart and it certainly would’ve been nice if I could’ve connected with this Langstrom-Batman. I feel the writers intended to make him a sympathetic character, but they just don’t quite pull it off. (For the record, I’ve yet to see the animated film, but I do have the reviewing copy in my hand as we speak –figuratively speaking, of course as I couldn’t type of this review if I was being literal! Perhaps some of my criticisms with this comic book story will be rectified once I see the movie.)
OK, now it's literally in my hand!
If you’re going to go “all-in” with JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS AND MONSTERS, I’d recommend you picking up this 3-parter as it’s not very expensive (the digital versions of each are only 99 cents). Plus, it likely will allow you to enjoy the film a bit better knowing this Batman’s backstory (that’s what I’m hoping). Also, if you simply like out-of-continuity/alternative universe Batman stories, then I feel you’ll dig this one – though there are much better “Elseworlds” Batman stories. - Bill "Jett" Ramey
Animation legend Bruce Timm returns to the popular DC Universe Original Movies with his unique new vision of a Justice League you’ve never seen before. "Justice League: Gods & Monsters" features a Superman born of General Zod’s blood, a Batman with a healthy dose of bat in the man, and a Wonder Woman rising from the ranks of the New Gods. This ain’t your daddy’s Justice League. They are as likely the world’s saviors as Earth’s despotic rulers. When a group of famed scientists experience untimely “accidents,” a government task force follows the trail of clues to the Justice League -- and into a high stakes game of intrigue, mystery and action that asks the question: How do you serve justice to those above the law? The star-laden voice cast includes Michael C. Hall as Batman, Benjamin Bratt as Superman, Tamara Taylor, as Wonder Woman; Paget Brewster as Lois Lane; C. Thomas Howell as Dr. Will Magnus; Jason Isaacs as Lex Luthor; Richard Chamberlain as Highfather; and Tahmoh Penikett as Steve Trevor.