Grant Morrison’s work on Batman in the 1980s and 90s was varied. He’s most famous for Arkham Asylum, which we actually only rate for Dave McKean’s painted artwork. Gothic, originally published in the comic Legends of the Dark Knight, is a better piece of storytelling, even if the art work is beginning to date in terms of its rough style and colouring.
The story revolves around a gothic cathedral and a 300-year-old man, who has made a pact with the devil to extend his life in exchange for the eternal damnation of his soul. Needless to say, when his time comes, he hopes he can trick the devil into sparing his soul by offering the souls of an entire city instead, and Gotham is chosen as his target. Batman, of course, has other ideas.
It’s an interesting enough tale, balancing a bit of crime, a bit of thriller and a generous dollop of supernatural nonsense into the Bat-mix. Highlights include Batman’s butler, Alfred, who is provided with a razor-sharp wit; and Batman’s own seeming ability to distance his personal problems from his work. He hears a tape of his murdered father’s voice for the first time in years but can only think of how this may give him a clue to the mystery he’s working on.
Janson’s art is less refined, perhaps hampered by the ungenerous palette provided to him by the standard comic publishing model of the day, but even then some of his lines look a bit rough round the edges. The relative strength of the story helps balance this a bit but it still looks disappointing overall.
It’s a solid Batman story though, that fans will enjoy as long as they don’t mind the pseudo-religious supernatural element, but it’s not up there with the all-time greats.
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