My forays into the mainstream DC universe are rare at best, but after one of my class teachers last week encouraged me to 'read some Batman comics' in preparation for this weeks seminar, I thought it would be rude not to. In addition to being one of modern day comic books most critically acclaimed figures, Grant Morrison is the current writer of Batman inc. and has recently completed a hugely commercially successful run on Batman and Robin. Batman: Gothic is one of the Scottish writers earlier attempts at writing the character, taking place in the anthology series Legends of the Dark Knight.
The plot takes a more supernatural angle on Batman and his world than is often seen, with the Dark Knight dealing with a series of murders in Gotham City, which may or may not be linked with a mysterious figure from the past. I found the plot fairly unremarkable. The additions to Batman's backstory were solid and made sense, but it feels like every time I read a Batman comic book or watch a Batman film his childhood is dredged up in some way. This is probably a more modern day trend and so may not have applied as much when Morrison was writing this story, but I found it a fairly tired element of the arc that didn't really add much. The villain was pretty generic as well, with no discernible motivations beyond 'being eeeeevil'. One of the strongest aspects of Batman's universe is his wealth of cool villains, this might have been a more effective story had Morrison used an already established foe, or even one with a little more depth.
The tone of the story was spot on for me though, and was one of the arc's strongest features. While Batman stories do not traditionally deal with supernatural themes, they seemed to fit in very well here with his universe. Batman has the potential to be a very dark character, and this is something that Morrison was not afraid to explore here with some very 'mature' subject matter and imagery. He also has a great handle on the character of Bruce Wayne, in particular his relationship with his butler Alfred- who stole every scene that he appeared in. With Batman himself being such a compelling character it is often easy to ignore his civilian alter-ego, a pitfall that Morrison thankfully avoided.
Janson's art was serviceable and fit with the tone of the story but is ultimately not really to my taste. Janson is a great inker, but his pencilling work often looks rough with some questionable anatomy. Thankfully this fits with the tone of the story so it wasn't too jarring.
Despite having a few flaws, Batman: Gothic was an enjoyable enough read. Morrison clearly has a great handle on Batman and his world and I'm not surprised that he has gone on to great success with the character.