Tales of the Multiverse: Batman Vampire

July 26, 2008

For those who have been disappointed by Countdown’s Search for Ray Palmer, this is one way to seek solace. Retreat into the original Batman Vampire trilogy — Red RainBloodstorm, and Crimson Mist — entirely collected in this volume. These tales which first appeared in 1991 are superbly written by Doug Moench and drawn by Kelley Jones, possibly the only person in comics whose art consistently spooks me.

Before they became so-called Tales of the Multiverse, these were Elseworlds stories in a time when the Elseworlds imprint was thinking small and unclearly. Red Rain’s premise of having Batman and Dracula meet was just a talent away from becoming one in a string of duds that came and went. Moench’s ingenuity was to take the implications of such an encounter seriously, transport the menace Dracula would pose into an ambivalently modern-urban context, and fill in all the gaps between the mundane and the supernatural to create an uncannier horror.

Moench further demonstrates his understanding that, true to our real fear about vampires, what Dracula’s legacy stands for cannot be ended even if he is killed. With the false closure of Red Rain, the Batman made powerful by vampiric mutation to defeat the Prince of the Undead returns in Bloodstorm with the realisation that all the potential for Dracula’s evil has simply been internalised. It’s an interesting twist to the Batman’s traditional struggle between dark justice and conscience. Throw into the brew the destabilising presence of the Joker, and you have a foregone conclusion in a steep ride into self-destruction.

The slaining of Batman Vampire, however, returns Gotham to its status quo, meaning that its maniacal villains see the chance to re-emerge on the surface of social disruption. As crime figures soar, Moench whips out one last card: the only one person who can stop the collective rampage of 2-Face, Killer Croc, Riddler, Scarecrow, Penguin, and Poison Ivy is also not alive. But what is the price that must be paid for summoning the undead from the grave?

This trilogy is a Faustian tragedy on a grand scale, a long dirge that fiercely refuses to give us any glimpse of light. During my initial read, I did not think that it was possible for the episodes to get darker and darker, scarier and scarier, but they really do. For this, Jones’s role is central: his unearthly drawings with all the most frightening body contortions, metaphysical use of shadow and light, and unnatural colours take your imagination on a wild ride that only gets better when you read this in the eerie still of night.

Gweek gives this volume 10 stakes through the heart.


One Response to “Tales of the Multiverse: Batman Vampire”

  1. gweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee xx

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