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Batman: Bloodstorm. Written by Doug Moench. Pencilled by Kelley Jones. Inked by John Beatty. New York: DC Comics, 1994. 1v. (unpaged). $12.95. ISBN 1-56389-185-9.


Superheroes, horror (vampires)

Adults, teens; gore, violence

This is an "Elseworlds" title, a story in which "heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places--some that have existed, or might have existed, and others that can't, couldn't, or shouldn't exist." In this case, Batman has been battling Dracula and has come out victorious but somewhat the worse for wear as a tormented vampire, battling his bloodlust through willpower and an artificial blood substitute invented by Tanya, a former vampire who had inflicted part of the vampirism on Batman. (She gave him the vampiric strength; Dracula's bite gave him the bloodlust. She also managed to become human again and died, though the circumstances are never fully explained. Batman has taken it upon himself to battle the other vampires in Gotham, which usually means wooden-staking and beheading the corpses left behind to prevent their rising later.

Serious bloodletting starts when the Joker, who is still human, sets himself up as the leader of the vampire nest and has his "flock" butcher/convert the various crime bosses in Gotham. The vampires set themselves up in style in the crime bosses' mansions, and the newly risen vampire crime bosses continue to suck the blood of Gotham in various ways. Then Creach, the Joker's lieutenant, stalks a woman named Selina Kyle (who in other worlds was Catwoman, Batman's erstwhile lover/foe depending on circumstances). Though she manages to jump into the river to evade him, he gives her a nasty bite that makes her turn into a cat-being when she sees the moon. Filled with lust for revenge, not blood, she attacks Batman, thinking that he's the one who caused the change. But he convinces her otherwise, and she offers to help him in his crusade. Initially he turns her down. However, he's having a major problem: the blood substitute is no longer slaking his thirst for blood. He consults a student of the supernatural, who has no stories about vampires defeating the bloodlust, though she knows myths about "the selfless love of a woman easing the compulsion." In a scene we thus all expect, Batman ends up in bed, and love, with Selina Kyle. They join to defeat Gotham's vampires once and for all--but they still have the Joker to contend with.

Definitely a better-than-average Batman story, though, as you might expect, heavy on the "tormented Batman" scenes. It's well written and plotted, though it would be nice if just once I didn't figure out the ending (and much of the action as well) by page 5. Unfortunately, given that Batman stories always follow certain patterns, there are few surprises left in this venerable character. Anyway, some of the touches--the Joker's initial confrontation with the scruffy vampires (complete with holy-water-squirting flower), Alfred's calm offering of "sustenance" to his employer--are really quite amusing.

I've always liked Kelley Jones's art; it's angular and grotesque, with lots of teeth (on the normal people as well as the vampires). He does a really nice job with the scene when Creach transforms into a wolf. However, I'm puzzled by the odd shape of Alfred's head, with its enormous chin and jowls. In general, Kelley's male heads are oddly shaped, often very thin and narrow. The gore is not as gory as it could have been--it's almost "gore lite," with the most grotesque scene, the ripping of a man's skin from his face, being more silly than disgusting. (How anyone could peel off the skin of someone's face intact just by sinking his fangs into the person's cheek and upper lip is beyond me. Oh well, I guess vampires have stranger powers than I realize.) The cover art (also by Jones) is pretty stupid--looks like Jones was trying to emulate Rob Liefeld or something, as he gave Batman the weirdest, most out-of-proportion set of arm and chest muscles imaginable.

Although Batman: Gothic is a superior work in the "Batman Horror" genre, Batman: Bloodstorm is interesting and competent. Given that the horror aspects are fairly mild for this sort of thing, it's more for general Batman fans than horror fans.


Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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