Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/28/23;
Warner;
Animated;
$29.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief partial nudity.
Voices of David Giuntoli, Tati Gabrielle, Christopher Gorham, Patrick Fabian, John DiMaggio, David Dastmalchian, Gideon Adlon, Karan Brar, Jeffrey Combs, Darin De Paul, Brian George, Jason Marsden, Navid Negahban, Emily O’Brien, Tim Russ, William Salyers, Matthew Waterson.

Comic book superheroes meet Lovecraftian horror in this Elseworlds tale that reimagines Batman as having to fight monsters in the late 1920s.

Based on a comic book miniseries published from 2000 to 2001 co-written by “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola, the story involves Bruce Wayne as an international explorer who accidentally unleashes an ancient evil while investigating a lost expedition in the arctic. Upon his return to Gotham City after a decades-long absence, he assumes the mantle of Batman to fight the dark forces that infest the city, uncovering a supernatural conspiracy that redefines everything he thought he knew about his family’s origins.

The premise offers a fun way to reshape the Batman mythology while allowing the filmmakers to indulge in their fascination for big scary monsters with a bold, vivid animation style. Among the most interesting elements is the re-imagining of the Green Arrow as a rich, eccentric drunk who bears the weight of his family’s sins for a centuries old pact that is tied to the evil now plaguing Gotham.

The Blu-ray includes a good commentary track with producer/co-director Sam Liu, screenwriter Jase Ricci, DC creative director Mike Carlin, and producer Jim Krieg, in which they discuss the merits and challenges of bringing this particular story to life.

There’s also a 13-minute featurette called “Batman: Shadows of Gotham” that explores the psychological overtones of the story.

Also included is the two-part “The Demon’s Quest” episode from “Batman: The Animated Series” that focuses on Ra’s al Ghul, a character with a crucial role in Doom That Came to Gotham.

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Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Animated;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for some violence.
Voices of Bruce Greenwood, Jennifer Carpenter, John DiMaggio, Grey DeLisle, Scott Patterson, William Salyers, Yuri Lowenthal, Anthony Head, Tara Strong, Kari Wuhrer.

The idea of exploring familiar characters in alternate realities has become a staple of storytelling. This is especially true in comic books, where characters must constantly be updated and often re-defined for new eras and generations.

The medium of comics naturally lends itself to presenting “what if” stories that shed new light on the characters without subjecting them to situations that would hinder or alter their ongoing storylines. Decades ago, they were called “imaginary stories.” In 1989, DC Comics started calling them “Elseworlds.”

The first of the Elseworlds brand was that year’s Gotham by Gaslight, which re-imagined Batman as a vigilante detective at the turn of the 19th century confronting Jack the Ripper. That was the conceit of Elseworlds: to put superheroes and their supporting cast in alternate timelines, either by exploring them in different eras, or changing something in their own personal history to create a ripple effect (a later story that often gets mentioned for potential adaptation found Superman raised as a hero of the Soviet Union).

The latest entry of the animated DC Universe is loosely based on the Gotham by Gaslight on-shot graphic novel, while also drawing heavily upon its sequel, 1991’s Master of the Future. In deconstructing the original story, the filmmakers have given the concept a new life, presenting a satisfying mystery that plays out quite differently from the book. This lets the film stand quite well as its own thing while honoring the spirit of the books, allowing longtime fans to watch without any fear of spoilers.

The animation is distinctive and beautiful, and the screenplay is filled with fun nods to Batman lore that fans should appreciate.

The Blu-ray includes a 20-minute featurette about the original graphic novel, as well as a nice audio commentary from the filmmakers. Both delve into just why Gotham by Gaslight has become an iconic Batman story.

The Blu-ray also includes an eight-and-a-half-minute preview of the next DC Universe animated movie, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, plus some bonus cartoons from animated Batman TV shows.