Several mob bosses of Gotham's underworld are under attack by an individual that has them so spooked, they have no choice but to try and seek an alliance with Batman. Batman refuses to help them because they're only getting what's coming to them, since they are completely responsible for the crime in Gotham. However, something one of the bosses said to Batman triggers a memory to his childhood, which prompts him to take action against the person going by the name of Mr. Whisper. -summary
Taking place under the Legends of the Dark Knight banner, Gothic is another story along the lines of Shaman and Venom, that takes place during the earlier portion of Batman's crime fighting career, more than likely during the first year. The story was written back in 1990 by Grant Morrison, who is mainly known for his New X-Men run as well as Batman: Arkham Asylum - A Serious House On Serious Earth. When looking back at this story, you can see the seeds being planted towards Batman: AA. Like that story, Morrison attempts to make this more than a simple Batman thriller; he goes the psychological route supporting it with a great amount of western mythology and symbolism, that dabbles in the supernatural consisting of the Faustian Bargain. Many people I know who aren't fond of this story credit their disappointment towards the supernatural setting. I guess it all boils down to how one prefers their superhero stories, because I have no issues here since Morrison was able to weave together a very coherent story that fits well with the dark atmosphere of Batman.
I think the major strength here is the plot. I still find it interesting watching a green Batman take on the criminal element, with his foe getting the drop on him simply due to human error. Batman feels quite human, as he should, since he's even taken by surprised and even frightened by the things that goes bump in the night. Character development also runs into Mr. Whisper, as he does have a very interesting origin with a motive to go along with it. Unlike Batman's main rogues gallery which is made up of villains who aren't completely responsible for their actions, this is a man consumed by pure evil who seeks death and misery for a real reason. Whisper is among the best written characters I've come across.
Morrison deserves a great amount of credit for the pacing. The transition between past, present, and dreams moves pretty smooth. The mystery is well handled too, with some things being easy to figure out, while others are well concealed. I think his use of symbolism here is brilliant as well. There's one segment where Whisper has Batman captured, and I can imagine the entire set up going over some people heads, and brushed off as a typical bad guy moment. There's more to it than meets the eye.
Klaus Janson's artwork is done with a moodiness that compliments the tone very well. There's a horror film influence on the dream segments, and the artwork portrays that randomness of dreams all too well; with one moment featuring Bruce as a full grown adult in his Batman outfit, and the next he's a child with the uniform sagging all over. The artwork may not be the greatest but it spoke to me.
Batman: Gothic isn't without its flaws though. Although I enjoyed the story overall, even up to this day, like Batman: Arkham Asylum it can feel too slow on occasion, as well as a bit wordy. The book only contain five issues, Legends of the Dark Knight 6-10, and it honestly felt a little longer than that. In any case, don't let that deter you from reading an overall enjoyable story. It works very well as a stand alone tale for those who are somewhat familiar with Batman. I wouldn't recommend this as a great place to start though, since it feels a lot more like a drama/thriller than a superhero story, in addition it lacks a known villain. If you want a Batman story easier to get into, then I recommend Batman: The Last Arkham or Batman: The Man Who Laughs.
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