Review by Ian Keogh
A third and final visit to the world of a vampire Batman appeared eight years after he was introduced by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones in Red Rain. 1995’s Bloodstorm appeared to have ended his career. It featured alternate versions of other villains from Batman’s canon, and the trick is repeated here, with Killer Croc, Scarecrow and Two-Face among those re-envisaged in a more horrific form. Gotham transforms readily to horror territory, as do Batman and his villains, and without Batman the crazies are running riot and it’s beyond Commissioner Gordon’s police department to stop them. It causes him to re-evaluate just how much of threat Batman actually is in comparison.
Jones has again improved artistically, and his problems with anatomy are no longer as pronounced. In combination with colourist Gregory Wright, he’s evolved a modified design for Batman, as exaggerated as in the previous books, but now with a more feral mouth and striking crimson eyes reflecting the title. Batman’s vampire status also requires a new form, more Man-Bat than Batman, and Jones comes up with a great design for this, retro, feral and disturbing, and the transformation scenes are also notable. However, for all the good, Jones occasionally tips too far into grotesquery, with the Penguin a special travesty.
Halfway through Alfred and Commissioner Gordon wonder if they’ve let something loose that’s actually worse than the villains, but it’s a little too late for that. The crimson mist refers to the bloodlust Batman now experiences. It’s been some while since he was alive, and his period dead has changed him. Although it’s overplayed at times, there’s a tragedy to this as Batman’s inner demons come flooding out uncontrollably, but it also becomes repetitive.
In both previous stories there have been effective scenes where Batman consults a vampire expert, and the escalation of his condition over the three visits is nicely planned. However, overall Crimson Mist devolves into excess. If the vampire Batman in Bloodstorm was savage, it’s ratcheted up to eleven here as Batman is barely able to keep himself under control, and no longer bothers when it comes to the criminal fraternity. You only really want to see Batman putting the bite on one of his villains so many times. There’s no subtlety to the way either Moench or Jones depict this, which is admittedly the point, but the novelty fades.
All three tales of this vampire Batman are now combined as the second volume of Batman: Elseworlds.