It’s Halloween, so what better time is there to read some spoooOOOoooky Batman stories? And really, when else should you read about a guy who dresses up like a vampire bat and then literally becomes one?
Such is the concept behind the second Elseworlds: Batman volume. Collecting the Batman/Dracula trilogy of Red Rain, Bloodstorm, and Crimson Mist, this volume sees Batman take on Dracula himself only to slowly turn into as much of a threat as the legendary vampire. The bloody trilogy comes from legendary team Doug Moench and Kelley Jones and, since the first installment’s original publication in 1991, has become one of the most popular tales in the Elseworlds stable.
This week, we take a look at the second volume, Bloodstorm. Can this story rise above its silly name to tell a tale of tortured heroism, or is it nothing more than a blood-soaked cheese-fest? The answer may shock you… or scare you.
If you want a Batman comic with higher stakes…this definitely has more stakes. I won’t say they are higher. But there are lots of stakes.
Three years after Red Rain came Bloodstorm, the story with the silliest title in the trilogy that also happens to be the best read. Red Rain was interesting, though it felt incomplete, and… we’ll get to Crimson Mist. Bloodstorm, though, has the best narrative of the three stories by a long shot.
A large part of that is because Batman actually has some internal conflict. After the evens of Red Rain, Bruce has taken it upon himself to hunt down the last of Dracula’s legions. That is interesting enough motive to drive a story, but he also struggles with bloodlust. Taking Tanya’s formulas, Bruce has concocted some serums that will serve as a substitute for the blood that he so desires, but the effectiveness of it is slowly fading. Eventually, Batman will need blood.
It’s an emotional center and heart that the first story was missing, and I was genuinely compelled by Bruce’s struggles. Had this story been an introspective piece where he battled his growing addiction I may have even loved it.
Instead, they turn Catwoman into a literal cat-woman, further proving that Jones cannot draw women.
This also throws off the timeline of these stories, in that there really isn’t one. Batman and Selina Kyle seem to have no idea who the other is, yet there are several established villains running around Gotham City at the same time. It’s really confusing.
The main antagonist is the Joker, who has convinced the remnants of Dracula’s army to join him without, you know, sucking his blood. The idea is pretty novel and really macabre: he can get the vampires close to crime bosses in Gotham, giving them an endless supply of blood while he in turn rises the ranks of crime. I’ve been ragging on Jones quite a bit, and while I won’t ever be an apologist, I will say I like his Joker. He runs the gamut of Clown Prince of Crime to agent of chaos, and the facial expressions Jones uses are consistently great.
Like Red Rain before it, Jones does have a few moments where his style is… let’s say more than an acquired taste. Besides his Joker being pretty great, he’s a master at putting Batman in some truly moody, almost disturbing poses. And again, even if I’m not a big fan of his style, it’s a perfect fit for this kind of story: haunting, macabre, and grotesque.
There’s a sense of twisted poetry in the final fates of the Joker and Batman: Bruce struggles so long with his bloodlust, and it’s ultimately his greatest enemy who causes him to break. The irony that the Joker is the first of Batman’s victims is fairly interesting, and it gives the story a genuine sense of tragedy. Even with the somewhat goofy presentation, that beat hit the way it was supposed to.
Even with its faults, I liked this story. There was a definite throughline and structure that was missing from the first one, culminating in some choices that actually resonate because they’re properly set up. The art is still a bit of a mess, and I can’t say that I liked the goofy Catwoman stuff, but this was still a pretty good horror story that actually felt kind of scary.
Bonus features: A fairly interesting intro from Eric Van Lustbader, wherein he quotes Prince quite heavily. Besides that, nada.
Value: The collection can be found on Amazon for less than twenty bucks, but I’d still say get it at a discount.
Overall: Hands down the best story of the three, Bloodstorm manages to tell a compelling story that is more than just the sum of its spooky, macabre parts. There’s some good drama here, with Bruce’s internal conflict and insatiable hunger, and the violence is insane camp without quite being too much. Jones’ pencils are still an acquired taste and definitely the weak link here, but it still fits the spooky nature of the story and isn’t anything but distinct and memorable.