Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It Must Be Wednesday: Batman Gates of Gotham #1

Batman: Gates of Gotham #1(of 5)
Writer(s): Scott Snyder & Kyle Higgins
Artist: Trevor McCarthy

Batman: Gates of Gotham has many elements of a modern Gothic mystery. A hidden figure wreaks havoc on the city by planting bombs on several bridges, killing more than Batman and his fellow vigilantes can save. Vignettes into Gotham's history reveal a connection between major players in the story and their ancestors, including the grandfathers of The Penguin and Bruce Wayne. The bridge-as-target is an appropriate metaphor for connecting the past to the present, and it could make for an interesting visual element. Despite the potential this story has, the book doesn't quite come together. For starters, the artwork is not a good fit for the story; disturbing moments are awkwardly portrayed leading to some unintentionally hokey results (see Batman's attempts at underwater rescue, or his interrogation of a pleather wearing henchman). Complicated action sequences are further hindered by overly-busy layouts. That's not to say McCarthy doesn't have his moments. He deftly portrays turn of the century Gotham, but that is only a few pages of the book. A more well-rounded artist could have maintained a consistent tone between the past and present, or made them different enough to serve as interesting comparisons. The story itself also feels disjointed, especially when Dick, Tim, and Damian discuss solving the mystery at hand. This rag-tag team of Batman & Company feels more like the Hardy Boys with cowls. The book's concept is intriguing, but it is not elevated by the writing and one is left to wonder what could have been had the book been given to a different creative team.

Since "madman on the loose" is a tried and true story for the Batverse, I'd imagine the most interesting bits will be revealed in the history surrounding the Gates of Gotham. Maybe keeping the story in the past would have helped keep my interest. As it stands, if I want a good Gothic Batman tale, I'll re-read Arkham Asylum, and for a team book Batman, Inc. is a more satisfying take on that concept. DC promises this title to be a "gamechanger", but considering how often that adjective is attached to stories these days, it has lost its weight.  The secret history of Gotham, as tantalizing a reveal as it may be, isn't enough to keep me reading.

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