Thursday, 17 March 2016

[Comic Review] - Batman & Dracula - Red Rain

Batman & Dracula - Red Rain

The idea of mishmashing genres is nothing new and the idea of Batman himself in some ways is conceptually close to vampyres already. It is really the very first place anyone would go to when thinking of ideas for an elseworld story about Batman. This is something I have never been a big fan of. Do I want to see Conan in a Terminator story? No not really. Some stories just do not need to be told and they always seam to have a faint smell of desperation and hollowness about them. A cynical mind might say that they feel like ideas born out of a desire to cross pollinate fans from one series to another rather than an actual writer thinking a story should be told for "pure" reasons and a more comical mind might see it as hokey.

Eric V Lustblader eloquently sums up my feelings about mash ups in the forward

I have a love hate relationship with vampyres. On one hand I think they are nearly the perfect classical monster of literature and on the other hand I thoroughly despise how they are usually depicted in modern popular culture. They are just behind zombies as the most over used and boring villains of all time. It takes a special story to be able to breath life into these monsters which are so well know and so often used, that very few surprises can be worked into the tale. It doesn't help that they are most often used badly. So I came with a pretty sceptical attitude when I started to read this book.

This is how vamps are usually depicted. Fucking lame.

To my extreme surprise one of my worries about the book was not founded. While this books dose have whiffs of the Anne Rice taint that has polluted horror fiction these vamps are still in fact, monsters. They live in the sewer, they do not stop rotting, so they are kind of like zombies. The ideas of predator and prey are taken to literal levels through the vamps regressing into "intelligent rats"  as one character calls them in the squeal, Batman : Bloodstorm.

There is an imagining going on here with these vamps, beyond the usual wish fulfilment we see in most modern stories. The original and incredibly deep ideas of "cost" are still present for these vampyres. The closer the bloodline to Dracula the more human they appear, but  the taint of demon becomes stronger. At no point are they "just immortal humans". They are demons, or monsters.

The comic has a very strong set of opening panels that really carry you for much of the book. In fact I would say that the book is a little slow in some areas and this engaging start not only sets the mood but also gives the story teller some leeway to marauder around the point for a while. I am sure if you spent 5 seconds thinking you have already got the plot basically mapped out. Dracula comes to town. Strange deaths intrigue Batman, dead rise for the grave... etc etc. This is a story they really writes itself. So the crux of the tale is really in how the characters behave, not in the actual events themselves which are obvious and known the the reader just by looking at the cover.

One of the great detractors, for me at least was the lettering in this book. Now I am not saying this will be a problem for everyone but I found the calligraphy to be particularly hard to read. The cursive is used to invoke the feeling of a hand written journal, like the Bram Stoker books. Yet as a child of the computer age, who can't use a pen with out getting a pain in my hand and basically never reads cursive I just found it difficult to read. Especially as the standard  bold text is replaced with underlines and this cramps an already busy text box. Though I think my heavy dyslexia has something to do with it as well.

Much of the story is told in cursive, with underlined words instead of bold

Another wasted opportunity was that the story didn't go old school with Batman himself. This is a tale that I felt should have been told as a detective story. The gothic nature of vamps and of Batman lends itself perfectly to the lovecraftian idea of discovering the horrible truths under the city. Truths even Batman didn't know about the Gotham. I think this could have been a angle for the book to take but instead the discovery is very early on and all the subsequent information is spoon fed to Batman through an auxiliary character.

All in all I think this is one of the better Batman Elseworlds stories and much of that is due to the mind blowing art. Though I think that it could have been a lot better. This is one of those books you read and go "Yeah, that wasn't bad" and move on. There are two other stories in the series ( [url=]Batman : Bloodstorm[/url] / [url=]Batman - Crimson Mist[/url]) and it is my hope that they fully commit the the idea more than this tale did. It felt somehow reserved. The supernatual aspect is so bizarre in a Batman setting that in some ways the story doesn't really deal with it. Maybe the next one will be "all in".

* Recommended *

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