THIS WEEK: The Elseworlds imprint returns with Batman – Gotham By Gaslight: The Kryptonian Age #1. Plus, we have our usual round-up of blurbs about other DC books this week!

The Kryptonian AgeBatman – Gotham By Gaslight: The Kryptonian Age #1

Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Simon Bowland

If you’re not familiar with the 1989 one-shot, Gotham by Gaslight, you should know that the book is an absolute classic. Clocking in at just 48 pages, its story put Batman into the 19th Century, in a Victorian-Era Gotham City besieged by Jack The Ripper. It featured all-time great Batman artwork by Mike Mignola (inked by P. Craig Russell), and you can maybe draw a direct line from it to the Hellboy Universe, to the way those stories so often take real history or myths, and twist them into something more fantastical. It was so successful, it essentially created the Elseworlds imprint, although that concept and name wasn’t created at the time of its publication, so the first printing didn’t bear the logo.

And it did get a sequel a few years later in the form of Batman: Master of the Future, which brought back the continuity and the writer — Brian Augustyn — and teamed him this time with artist Eduardo BarretoMaster of the Future was very different from Gotham by Gaslight, going in a more action-heavy, swashbuckling direction, and, perhaps notably, editorial did not give it the Gaslight name. Released in 1991, it was the only attempt to follow-up Gaslight directly — until this week, with the release of Batman — Gotham By Gaslight: The Kryptonian Age #1.

That’s all to say I think there’s a lot of pressure on this new comic. It’s the first to bear the Gaslight name since the original, and it’s also intended as the relaunch of the Elseworlds line (more on that later). But just putting Gotham By Gaslight on the cover of a new comic for the first time in 35 years, creates a set of pretty lofty expectations. And I definitely thought to myself while reading, well hats off to these creators for even agreeing to do this.

The Kryptonian Age

With that in mind, I think this comic does beg comparison to the original…and that’s a tough spot to be in. Leandro Fernandez, who is colored here by Dave Stewart and lettered by Simon Bowland, does a really admirable job with the art, having fun with the details of the setting, and laying down some great splash panels, particularly as we get to the action-heavy end of this first issue. It’s a very good-looking book, in which Batman fights a squad of ninjas in a sequence that spills onto the top of a moving train. Even putting that sequence aside, so much of this comic is great fun and very kinetic.

But it’s not really all that related to the Gaslight concept or setting. It’s more of a romp that reads pretty well and (again) looks great, but has a lot of stuff that could really appear in most any Batman comic. Something that was so special about the original Gotham By Gaslight was that almost everything that happens in the book — from the antagonist to the way Bruce Wayne writes letters, and on and on — stems from people or ideas of the time period, really leaning into the historical fiction elements. We don’t really get that as much here.

Instead, this book — which is scripted by Andy Diggle — wants to show you a bunch of familiar Batman characters, but just kind of steam-punked out, which is something the original really seemed to deliberately resist doing. In the first comic, there was a quick hint at The Joker, an Easter Egg basically, but the book exercised restraint and stuck to its own story. The Kryptonian Age is a diametric opposite, using this first 32-page installment to show you many of Batman’s rogues in their old-timey approximations. If you’re into that sort of alternate universe story, you’re going to like this comic very much. 

Personally, I kind of wished it had just been its own thing and not had the pressure of living up to Gotham By Gaslight. So far, it doesn’t really rely on any continuity from either of the past two adventures set in this world (although there’s plenty of time for that to change). The other thing about this book is its the first to bear Elseworlds branding in over a decade. It makes sense that to bring back the imprint, editorial would want to do another Gaslight book. There’s a nice symmetry that makes us hardcore DC Comics fans point at the cover like the Leonardo DiCaprio meme where he points at the TV.

That said, I don’t think Elseworlds ever really went away. I mean, I know it did technically, that they stopped using the name and putting the familiar logo on the cover. But at the same time, DC Black Label has filled that niche with many of its out-of-continuity stories, and so have genre series like DCeased and Dark Knights of Steel, which were Elseworlds stories at a time when the branding was on ice. While we haven’t had the name in circulation, we’ve had plenty to satisfy our Elseworlds fix. That’s not really a knock on this new book, just something I was thinking about while reading.

Overall, it’s nice to see the familiar Elseworlds logo back, and if you relax and stop thinking so much about the original (which is something I was unable to do), Batman – Gotham by Gaslight: The Kryptonian Age #1 is a pretty fun comic.

Verdict: BROWSE

The Round-Up

  • I don’t think I’ve had a chance to write about it here yet, but I’ve really loved the ongoing Batman & Robin series, and this week we get Batman & Robin #10, which ties up a lot of what’s been happening in this series. This series, which is written by Joshua Williamson, is also a continuation of the great Robin series starring Damian Wayne, bringing in some of the events and characters from that book. Throughout the run the art has been fantastic, and this issue is no exception, featuring the duo of Nikola Cizmesija and Simone Di Meo, with Rex Lokus coloring the formers pages and Giovanna Niro coloring the latter, and letters by Steve Wands. Anyway, this issue has everything that has made this series great, high-flying action, laughs based on the Bruce-Damian dynamic, and a strong determination to bring a sense of fun adventure to Gotham City. Also…SPOILER…but we get to meet R’s Al Ghost, which made me laugh pretty hard. 
  • And now for something totally different — but still in Gotham City — this week we also get Red Hood: The Hill #5, written by Shawn Martinbrough, pencilled by Tony Akins, inked by Martinbrough, colored by Matt Herms, and lettered by Troy Peteri. Based around Jason Todd (obviously) this is the penultimate issue of what has been my favorite Todd story in I don’t know how long, giving him an interesting neighborhood, cast of supporting characters and moral quandaries. There’s a sequence with an automated Bat-mobile and a bunch of bad guys here too that just looks amazing.
  • Finally, this week we also got Suicide Squad: Dream Team #4, which wraps up that story (for now) and serves as a bit of lead-in to DC’s upcoming big summer event, Absolute Power. What a banger of a final issue this was though, loaded with twists, character dilemmas and big explosions. Amanda Waller has been around, orchestrating a big anti-hero plot and tormenting characters for a while now — and this is one of the highlights. I’m also really enjoying the presence of Dreamer in the DCU, and the way they’re using her powers. It’s not a powerset we’ve seen a lot of in mainstream superhero books of late, which makes things all the more interesting.

Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!

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