Review: Batman: Gates of Gotham 1-5
Scott Snyder has proven himself with American Vampire and his run on Detective Comics to be one DC’s best writers. Gates of Gotham, however, is not quite at that level. It is by no means bad or unreadable but it doesn’t capture the same thrill and intrigue that his other comics have done.
The story of Gates of Gotham regards the destruction of Gotham’s landmarks, where the city becomes a character in a plot that spans decades of its history. Batman (Dick Grayson) and all of his allies must stop whoever is responsible and discover their motives before Gotham becomes unrecognizable. The best attributes of the story are its characters and how it elaborates on Gotham’s past. I really enjoyed seeing Damien antagonize Cassandra Cain, and Tim Drake’s wit and Dick trying to hold all three of them together. They all make the story interesting and better realized.
The other aspect, Gotham’s past, is another welcome addition to a Batman story. The reader finally gets to see a definitive history of Gotham, almost to the extent that the city becomes a character. And I say almost, because of its villain, who is likely the biggest disappointment of the miniseries. The mastermind behind this is actually a relatively unimpressive character that contradicts efforts to make it appear like this unraveling of the city’s past is an act of self-destruction. Gotham only becomes a better explained backdrop, never a entity that is responding to its inhabitants.
However, I have to commend this series for its consistency. Gates of Gotham has three writers working on this simultaneously, Scott Snyder (the lead), Kyle Higgins and Ryan Parrott. While Snyder and Higgins handled the story, Higgins and Parrott wrote the scripts. You rarely see a series these days that has more than two writers working on it, so this is not so much praise, as it is surprise that the story ended up as good as it did.
The art is equally scatter-shot, as the later issues prove. Issues one to three and five were penciled and inked by Trevor McCarthy, but there are at least three others involved in the last three. McCarthy isn’t involved at all in issue four. I imagine this has a lot to do with the DC relaunch happening tomorrow, as DC scrambles to release five comics in four months. I couldn’t help thinking that the series might have been better suited to just have been released on a normal schedule, as the sometimes jarring shift from 3-4-5 does not help Gates of Gotham in any way.
McCarthy’s art is decent and was well-suited for the historic parts of the plot, not as well for the modern day aspects, but it’s fine. The art has good execution and flow, even if it is busy at times. Backgrounds were visually more impressive over characters. I was not a fan of Dustin Nguyen’s and Derec Donovan’s art in issue four as it left far too loose by comparison to how tight McCarthy played his work in the other issues. They weren’t bad per se, just too different and didn’t quite fit the story. I must commend Guy Major who was the only consistent visual element of all five issues, and his colouring is what really brought the artwork together. In fact, I would ascribe to him much of the visual flow and the distinctive look of Gotham in this series.
Gates of Gotham is a good series that could have been better. It helps transition Batman from pre-Flashpoint to the relaunch, but fails a critical ambition, to create Gotham as a living creature. In some ways it feels rushed towards the end, as the conclusion seems to be the weakest part of all. If you come to read about Gotham’s Gates, come for the dysfunctional (but oh-so-entertaining) Bat-family, as this is probably the last time we’ll see them in their current state.