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.
Just in time for Halloween, we’re looking at the final chapter, Crimson Mist. The insanity reaches a fever pitch, and Alfred and Gordon have to channel their inner Van Helsings to make things right. Buckle in for one last spoooooky ride.
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.
I can’t believe I’m saying this: this story where Batman becomes a vampire is getting a little too silly.
Seriously, Crimson Mist here is absolutely bananas. Nowhere is that more evident than in the character designs for Batman’s rogues: Scarecrow runs around with dude’s thumbs stitched into his costume, Killer Croc is straight up naked, and the Riddler has a question mark stitched into his face and his torso. It is absolutely silly, completely ridiculous and the best kind of bonkers.
The story, while not as engrossing as Bloodstorm, is still pretty interesting: crime is running rampant on the streets of Gotham, so Alfred and Gordon make the decision to “un-stake” Batman so he can clean up the streets.
It works too well.
Now a fully-fledged member of the undead, Batman has to slake his thirst for blood and goes waaaaaay overboard in how he dispatches criminals.
And their heads.
From their bodies.
Credit where it’s due: Kelley Jones is the perfect artist for this book. I’m not a huge fan of his style, but his exaggerated angles, surplus ribs/vertebrae, and almost cartoonish violence fits right in with the insanity of Moench’s story. Really, I can’t imagine someone like Jason Fabok or Lee Weeks working on this book; while their styles may be more refined and more technically pleasing, Jones just knows how to illustrate grotesqueries like nobody’s business. For that, I give him props.
Taking the lingering threads of Red Rain and Bloodstorm, Moench has taken this story to its logical conclusion. Batman has become the villain of his own story, and only the faintest shreds of his former humanity keep him from preying on the innocent. He knows the time will come when he can no longer control himself, though, so before he is too far gone he tasks Alfred and Gordon with taking him down permanently. So, this is pretty much Pennyworth and Gordon: Vampire Hunters. Frankly, I’d read a whole series of that.
Interesting ideas aside, it’s just so over-the-top violent that I can’t take it seriously. On a visceral level, it’s morbidly entertaining to see Batman just let loose and go nuts all over the scum of the streets. It’s about as far removed from anything I would normally want as a Batman fan, but this isn’t supposed to be taken as canon. This is simply some guys saying “hey, what if Batman became a vampire?” and following that idea all the way through.
Crimson Mist is a fun read, but it’s kind of trashy. I mean, Batman describes his mist form as “traveling as moist, sticky mist bearing thirst and bringing vengeance.” It’s so delightfully insane that you can’t help being entertained. And really, that’s what this is: entertaining. I wouldn’t say it’s good, and it becomes a bit too much even for a story about a guy dressed like Dracula becoming Dracula, but it’s never, ever boring.
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: The weakest of the three stories, Crimson Mist is simultaneously too silly and too gruesome to be taken seriously. I did love some of the ideas explored and can at least appreciate how insane it gets, but after the surprisingly balanced Bloodstorm this just goes too far off the rails. Still, read together these three stories are a pretty cohesive unit, and if you like Batman and vampires and want an annual Halloween read you can’t really go wrong.