Saturday, July 12, 2014

[Best of Batman] Gotham by Gaslight by Bryan Augustyn

The foremost thing I have always loved about Batman and his stories is the air of dark mystery and malicious intrigue that surrounds its pages. I also grew up with detective fiction and I remember that the very first Batman comic book I read in passing had the same elements I enjoyed about said genre in the first place. I was so drawn to this brooding and reticent watchful guardian of the night in a very inexplicable sense, and I knew that he needs to be a constant thing in my life from there on. 

Reading Bryan Augustyn's self-contained story Gotham by Gaslight unearth those nostalgic feelings. This fifty-paged comic book is set in an alternate universe where Bruce Wayne, Batman and Gotham City are in the nineteenth century. It actually does work well, considering that the general atmospheric theme of a lot of Batman stories belongs to a gothic criteria anyway, and the very essence of the Dark Knight blends with shadows and ghouls running amok in a lawless and godless city. This comic book explored the same events in Bruce's life as we know it in canon but are depicted as if we traveled back to a simpler yet just as malevolent point in time.

Batman's costume is something that could be akin to a steampunk version. I especially loved the mask that resembled a rustic-styled goggles for bird-watching, giving his face a menacing yet old-fashioned look. I also think that the overall visual choices for this comic (the font of the texts, the structural panels and the washed-out color palette) are at par with what the writing is trying to embody. Having a copy of this story is like owning an antique parchment of some sort where the sketches and illustrations are fading and are uneven in some place, but it only adds more to its haunting appeal.

The plot had a good pacing and suspense to it that makes it feel like I'm watching a movie set in the Victorian age that is remarkably well-preserved and true to its time. This is a marvelous, worthwhile read. I'm glad someone thought about writing Batman in this setting and century because it made perfect sense for someone of his nature and origins to fit in such a murky landscape. Gotham City itself after all has that kind of vibe already--something so ancient and dark that you always feel a chill in your spine when you're reading about it. Augustyn's Gotham by Gaslight sings that eerie tune all the way.


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