Monday, January 2, 2012

Batman vs. Cthulhu: The Road to Victory

The Doom That Came To Gotham; written by Mike Mignola and Richard Pace; illustrated by Troy Nixey, Dennis Janke, and Dave Stewart (2000): For a time in the 1990's, DC seemed to release a new 'alternate history' take on Batman every week. Many of them were very good, but the sheer weight of stories about Batman in various historical and fictional locales eventually crushed the whole Elseworlds line that had been meant to showcase alternate takes on all DC's heroes.

Hellboy creator Mike Mignola salvages the concept here in a nice riff on H.P. Lovecraft's (never-named-herein) Cthulhu Mythos, with the title bouncing off the HPL short story "The Doom That Came To Sarnath." Mignola sets the story in the 1920's, when Lovecraft was shifting into high gear on the Cthulhu Mythos, and runs Batman, DC, and pop-culture history through a blender. The story homages both Lovecraft and the Lovecraft-derivative John Campbell novella "Who Goes There?", which would go on to be the basis for three movies named The Thing.

Out of the Antarctic comes a universe-threatening menace, and only globe-trotting adventurer Bruce Wayne can stop it, possibly by putting on that Bat costume he's made. Mignola comes up with some pretty clever, Lovecraftian riffs on familiar Bat-family characters that include the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, King Croc, Ra's Al Ghul, and Harvey "Two-Face" Dent, and mixes in Jack Kirby's Demon, the Green Arrow, and some of his own Hellboy -- which itself homages Lovecraft in its very foundations -- with a plague of lizards and some very Hellboyish tweaks to the Demon and Batman himself.

Fun this definitely is. I don't know much about Canadian penciller Troy Nixey, but he's a good fit for the material: this is a grungy world of Jazz-Age grotesques and squamous, batrachian horrors. It's fitting that Nixey ended up directing a film for producer Guillermo del Toro, 2011's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Recommended.

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