Halloween Scene: Batman Haunted Gotham (2000)

Welcome to October folks! I’m just barely making it in under the wire here, but my goal is to have a Halloween Scene (or at least one) up every day of October so here we go. Today’s installment is on a trade I picked up called Batman: Haunted Gotham. Originally printed as four 48 page issues, this Doug Moench-written and Kelley Jones-drawn mini-series takes a look at an alternate reality in which Gotham is literally haunted. It’s kind of like Bette Noire from Fallen Angel.

Anyway, in this version of the Batman story, Bruce looses his parents, who happen to be part of a group trying to keep the dark forces at bay, as an adult after they’ve trained him his whole life to take up the mantle of the bat as Gotham’s protector. What I really like about this story–essentially an Elseworlds, but I’m not sure if it was every officially labeled as such–is that not every relationship from regular Batman continuity is the same regardless of the universe. Yes Batman is aided by Alfred and Gordon and there’s a Catwoman-type character, but there’s enough differences and new characters that things don’t feel rote.

Another thing that helps keep these stories interesting is Jones’ awesome art. I’ve talked about liking him before when I wrote about Batman comics last October, and my opinions haven’t changed. No one draws a spooky Batman like Jones and Moench’s story offers him plenty of other horror themes to try his hand at: werewolf assassins, demons, ghosts, talking skeletons, an even more Gothic Gotham, and Jones just runs with it.

I will say that this is one of the few trades I’ve read and realized that it would have probably read better in single issues (or at least in fewer settings). The first two issues show as Bruce becoming Batman and facing off against a Frankenstein-like Joker (another interesting alteration of the mythos), then the second issue goes off on a tangent about a snake god and then with the last issue we’re back to the story elements from the first two issues. It’s a bit strange that a four issues series would have time to take a tangent like that, but I guess it’s better to expand the world than stretch the story for no creative reason.

All in all I dug this book. It’s not scary by any means, but it’s a fun read if you take your time.

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