Wednesday, October 21, 2015

OCTOBER COMICS (2015): Batman & Dracula: Red Rain

Written by Dough Moench, art by Kelley Jones & Malcolm Jones, III, with colors by Les Dorscheid and letters from Todd Klein

Another Batman Elseworlds tale, but with his affinity for the night, Batman lends himself well to these October Comics. 

In an alternate world, vampires are real, and Dracula has amassed a large enough horde of vampires to his side that he is ready to take over the world, starting with Gotham City.  But Batman is on the case.  At first, he does not realize the victims, whose throats have been slashed, were attacked by vampires.  Digging deeper into the commonality behind those left for dead on Gotham’s streets, he realizes they are all homeless, leading him to the most destitute part of town where he intrudes on the latest attack.  Hindering the attacker, he trails her through the alleys, only to have her disappear without trace or explanation.  When he returns to the victim, he finds her dead, but with puncture wounds, and realizes what he’s up against. 

The understanding that vampires are real also leads to Bruce Wayne coming to grips with how he has been changing.  Concomitant with dreams of a female astral body hovering above his bed, Wayne has become more averse to the daytime while his strength has increased ten-fold.  Eventually, the astral form reveals herself as a vampire who has broken with Dracula, intending to stop his evil before it can spread beyond Gotham, part of her plan being to enlist Batman as a similarly infected “good” vampire, with the speed and strength to battle Dracula on his own terms.  And, in the end, with wings sprouting from his back, Batman is able to do just that.

This was another pairing that just made sense, and Doug Moench’s story works really well.  He paces the comic nicely, revealing answers to the mysteries surrounding Batman and Gotham at opportune moments that add weight and drama to their revelations.  And the ending is quite satisfying, giving us a proper confrontation between these two entities of the night, while never making the outcome seem preordained. 

Again, though, the stars of this book are the artists.  Kelley Jones’s elongated, overmasculinized physiques defy reality, which creates a skewed prism through which to view this story.  As insane as his drawings can be, I love, love, love them.  Jones is unapologetic in his hypertrophied characters as they battle in the sewers and the skies of Gotham.  And that damn cape on Batman—it’s longer than the one Berni Wrightson gave the Dark Knight when he visited Swamp Thing back in the seventies, and it’s magnificent.  Great cartooning can infuse images with a story all their own, and when those pictures are played against dialogue and captions, as with the medium of comics, it can elevate a story to something beyond what either medium could accomplish.  Moench & Jones, et al. all bring their A-game to this book, and it is another October Comic that is eerie and creepy while also being fun and adventurous, a perfect alchemical concoction of comic reading enjoyment.  Check it out!


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