Gotham by Gaslight: A Tale of the Batman


“What would the Gotham City of 100 years ago have been like?” The back cover begs the question. Flip to the front cover … it doesn’t look that much different from the typical modern Batman: heartbroken, a lonesome pose among the skyscrapers. This image evokes both the classic figure of Spawn and the color palette of the interior art, composed of muddy burnt siennas, navy blues, blacks and the impure yellow or orange of a dirty gas lamp.

The art team, featuring future Hellboy creator Mignola, use complementary styles that lead to visual uniformity throughout the book. Representative of the title, the color palette brings alive the look of the alternate late nineteenth-century settings of London, England and Gotham as dominated by the lack of clean electric lighting.

In the frequent shadows lurks not only Batman but also Jack the Ripper. They have similar cravings for the darkness and seem to thrive in it; Batman would be a bit harder to see in a world that had, by today’s standards, highly inadequate lighting and a society that lived in an age of superstition. Gaslight serves as part murder mystery with a case of severe mistaken identity and part origin story for the Dark Knight.

Despite its length, the book manages to have a reasonably dense story and is a quick and satisfying read — even on my fourth run-through. Because it’s so pleasing to look at and is practically null on the cameo count, it should have you coming back for a worthwhile re-read.

I purchased the book in the same Ebay auction as Speeding Bullets and it turns out Gaslight is much more fascinating, making a quality debut for the Elseworlds line. This review is only for the original release, but Gaslight was re-released with a slightly different cover last year and was coupled with the sequel, Batman: Master of the Future.