One of my favorite DC publications is its Elseworlds line. Elseworlds are one-shot stories that essentially create an alternate universe whose connection to DC canon is often just that they feature iconic heroes like Batman and Superman. Many are self-contained universes of their own. Some of the best stories in the DC universe have been Elseworlds titles, two of my favorites being Kingdom Come and Superman: Red Son (which I may review another day). This week however I’ll be looking at Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham, a creepy yet strangely familiar mix of Batman and H.P. Lovecraft-style horror. The story is written by Mike Mignola and Richard Pace and illustrated by Troy Nixey. Originally published as three issues in 2001, the series has been collected into a single volume and was re-published last year. As far as alternate Batman stories go, it nails Batman’s inherently dark mood and pushes that in a creepy Lovecraftian direction.
The Doom That Came to Gotham takes place in 1928, twenty years after Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered in front of his eyes. This being an Elseworlds title however, you’ll find that the story has changed significantly. Bruce’s parents were not killed by gunshot at a movie theater but in a rather gory fashion by a knife-wielding madman. Poor Bruce was the only one to escape and as quickly as he could, he fled Gotham and the mysterious voice that warned him to prepare for the end of the world. The story opens with an expedition by Professor Cobblepot having disappeared in Antarctica. If you know Lovecraft, you know this is a very bad sign. Bruce Wayne, older and wiser than when he fled Gotham, attempts to find the lost expedition and in the process comes across horror like he has never known. And true to Lovecraft, this drives him home to Gotham where the Lurker on the Threshold waits to devour the sinful city. It will be up to Bruce to gather his allies and face down the threat before it can destroy the world, starting with Gotham.
Batman and Lovecraft isn’t a combination that I would have thought of before picking this up, but it’s to the credit of Mignola and company that The Doom That Came to Gotham delivers so well. The changes made in the story fit the earlier time period and the creators craft the setting well enough that it feels like an early twentieth century American city rather than the modern one that most of us are familiar with. Gotham has the same corruption and darkness of any Batman story but rather than being crime ridden and controlled by mob bosses, it feels almost inherently dark, like it’s a living part of the city itself. This helps to nurture the feeling of the Lurker always having been waiting beneath Gotham for its chance to devour the world. Mignola, Pace and Nixey bring in familiar Gotham characters as they weave them into the centrally Lovecraftian themes, creating an old Gotham that feels so perfect that you almost wonder how no one thought of it earlier. And if you’re familiar with Lovecraft, there are plenty of Easter eggs laying in wait. There were a number of times that I actually clapped in glee while reading. It’s a good thing I was reading this at home or people might have wondered if Iog-Sotha had driven me insane. Or possibly that I was the normal kind of crazy. Regardless of my questionable sanity, the greatest strength of The Doom That Came to Gotham is the skill with which Batman and Lovecraft are woven together. The story is an entertaining pulp fiction adventure by itself but it’s really these elements that make it shine.
Nixey deserves particular credit for matching the dark, creepy tone of Mignola and Pace’s writing in the artwork. I wouldn’t call the illustrations beautiful, but that isn’t a style that would suit this story. Nixey uses rough pencils and intricate detail to craft a morbid setting suitable for a Lovecraftian story. The colors by Dave Stewart are also very well done, with the regular Gotham scenes having a dark, muted palette and the otherworldly elements being shown in almost disturbingly vibrant colors. As a counterpart to the writing, Nixey and Stewart complete the mysterious and disturbing mood of The Doom That Came to Gotham.
The Doom That Came to Gotham is a well crafted mix of horror and pulp fiction that I would highly recommend to any fans of both Batman and Lovecraft. Batman’s hometown is one that lends itself well to dark and creepy stories and I was impressed at how well Lovecraft seemed to fit into that universe. I have always enjoyed Elseworlds for showing an alternate vision of what Batman and Superman can be and The Doom That Came to Gotham has worked its way up the list of my favorite Elseworlds titles. If you’re interested at the thought of a creepier than usual pulp version of Batman, this one is well worth your time.