When I first heard of the Batman/Lovecraft crossover book The Doom That Came to Gotham, I was skeptical and hesitant to accept it. Later I wondered why no one had ever thought of this before! Sure, Brave and the Bold came close in a story where Bruce Wayne (in full Batman attire) vacationed at his father’s cottage on the cape only to discover that dear old dad was in deep with the occult… but this was whole hog Lovecraft.
An Elseworlds tale by Mike Mignola and Troy Nixey (the pairing behind the criminally unfinished Jenny Finn), The Doom That Came to Gotham sets the Batman universe that we all know and love in that twisted horrific land of the doomed as envisioned by H.P. Lovecraft. The result is like some bastard offspring of Bob Kane and Hellboy after a night-long absinthe binge. What I mean by that is that the characters are rather stiff, the situations and ideas absurd and horrific and the story itself meanders toward an incomprehensible ending. That said, it’s lots of fun for someone who is in love with both Lovecraft and the Caped Crusader.
Elseworlds was an imprint by DC Comics to explore What If? scenarios with their popular characters, be it a Justice League without Superman in Alan David and Mark Farmer’s The Nail or the tale Reverend Wayne against a Cromwellian regime in Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle’s Batman: Holy Terror. Typically the idea is that by setting the familiar characters in unusual settings they reveal another facet to their persona. In the case of this book, it’s like Batman had finally come home. The Doom That Came to Gotham is a hodge-podge of ideas and references to both the Lovecraftian and Batman mythos that anyone not well-versed in either would not catch. For that reason alone, I commend DC for publishing the story.
The diary-style conceit borrowed from the Gothic novel tells the tale of Bruce Wayne who had tracked the doomed Cobblepott expedition to the arctic wastes. There he discovers that Cobblepott had gone insane and considers himself kin to the deformed penguin-like creatures that call the vast white expanse home. However, Bruce does manage to bring back an important find from the Cobblepott expedition and along with the help of his wards Dick, Jason and Tim and faithful assistant Alfred, he returns to his home of Gotham with a strange cargo. The 3 part series introduces dark and twisted versions of Two-Face, Mister Freeze, Killer Croc, the mad Arab R’as Al Ghul and others along with fellow playboy Oliver Queen.
The series was hardly successful due in part to its laser-like concentration on a key demographic and the fact that Mignola had as yet not built a name for himself with Hellboy. I suspect that there are legal problems between Nixey and Mignola (possibly related to the aforementioned unfinished Jenny Finn) that have kept this book from being brought back into print. It’s a shame because while this is not a great comic it is an oddity and a fun comic, one that any self-respecting comic book fan would want ready at his/her shelf on this Halloween season.