BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT: THE KRYPTONIAN AGE #1 Review

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SYNOPSIS: The new era of Elseworlds kicks off with the return of its crown jewel, the mysterious and gothic world originated by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola! When a mysterious meteor falls on the wide-open plains of the Midwest, it will unleash a chain of events that find Gotham’s bizarre Batman contending with not just the twin threats of the Catwoman and a mysterious international assassin but also the emergence of superhuman beings beyond all comprehension! This sequel series expands the 19th-century DC Universe beyond the confines of Gotham City, showcasing bold new visions of once-familiar heroes… Do not miss it!

BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT is not simply one of my favorite DC ELSEWORLDS stories, it’s one of my favorite Batman stories, period.  Considered to be the first ELSEWORLDS story, it was released way back in 1989 and spawned one sequel, BATMAN: MASTER OF THE FUTURE (which was OK), as well as an animated movie (that I quite liked).  Now, ELSEWORLDS is back and so is The Batman of Earth-19 in another comic book sequel titled BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT: THE KRYPTONIAN AGE.

And as you can tell by the title, the Earth-19 (“Metropolis/Smallville by Gaslight?”) version of Superman is in it…although we’ve yet to meet him.

With a new creative team — Andy Diggle (writer), Leonardo Fernandez (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer) — issue #1 picks up not too long after the events of MASTER OF THE FUTURE.  While we don’t see Bruce Wayne, he is still engaged to Julie Madison — who we see representing him at a Gotham event while he’s out Batmanning by gaslight.

We meet this world’s version of Selina Kyle; or Lady Selina Kyle, I should say.  Selina is wealthy, apparently having inherited a lot of money from her late husband (no idea who he was), and uses it to help the downtrodden women of Gotham.  Her public persona of Selina is a ruse as her real self is Catwoman — a Robin Hood-like antihero who takes from the rich and gives to the poor.  In a nod to BATMAN: YEAR ONE, this Selina even has a sidekick in Holly Robinson (well, her first name is Holly, so just go with me on this one).

Also, we’re introduced to the League of Shadows (BATMAN BEGINS homage?) and its leader, Talia Al Ghul.  This is where the different story parts in this issue coverage: Batman, Catwoman, Talia/League of Shadows ninjas, and even Superman…indirectly.  I’ll leave it for you to read and find out how for yourself, but it’s a pretty cool and very “Batman” action scene.

Oh yeah, while we don’t see Superman at all in this story as I’ve already mentioned, we — the audience/reader — are made aware of his existence.  The issue opens in the Kansa Tribal Territory in 1860 where a homesteading couple — Jonathan and Martha Kent — are making their way to stake a piece of land in Kansas.

Anyone want to guess what they encounter?

If you guess a rocket ship crashlanding next to their covered wagon, you win!

In more allusions to Superman, that Wayne Foundation event I previously mentioned?  It’s to introduce a new Gotham Museum exhibit called “The Krytonian Age.”  And why is Selina there?  Well, so Catwoman can steal a glowing green ring.  Based on the title of this comic and the introduction of the Kents, I’m going to assume that it’s Kryptonite and not a Green Lantern ring…unless it was Abin Sur was in that aforementioned crashed rockship.

Lots of questions exist after reading issue #1, but that’s the whole point and this setup story of 30-ish pages has done its job and got me interested.

While I’m happy to return to Earth-19 and the GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT world, I’m not so sure if I want Superman to exist in it.  While I haven’t read the entire story yet, I’d probably have preferred if it were a more grounded one…maybe the first meeting between The Batman and that “happy-looking jasper” mentioned in the original GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT.

With that said, issue #1 has got me intrigued to see how all of this plays out over the next 11 issues. – Bill “Jett” Ramey

GRADE: B+