Review of Batman: Bloodstorm (Batman: Vampire Trilogy)

A Dark Obsession

In the second part of Doug Moench's Batman: Vampire trilogy, a still-human Joker is the new leader of the vampires. In an apt symbiotic relationship, the Joker provides the vampires with victims from the Italian mob, who are reborn as vampires more than willing to help carry out his plan of destroying Batman--whom the underworld fear even more now that he is a vampire.

Batman revels in his growing vampire strength. Unfortunately, the craving for human blood grows too, and the blood substitute he drinks is losing its potency. Fearing that he may be unable to control his bloodlust, Batman finds solace in Selina Kyle, who has become a werecat after being stalked and bitten by a vampire. Realising they have common enemies, they set out to destroy the vampire mob. In an echo of his relationship with renegade vampire Tanya, Batman's alliance with Selina becomes romantic. But when he loses his last chance of remaining pure of heart, Batman succumbs to his craving.

Batman's narration is suitably melodramatic in Bloodstorm, at times veering into purple prose territory. Stylistically, Batman looks vampiric than in the previous story, Batman & Dracula: Red Rain; many panels show him with exaggerated ears (although Kelley Jones draws them very prominently anyway), fangs, and cape.

Vampire Batman struggles with his bloodlust in Batman: Bloodstorm. (pencils: Kelley Jones, inks: Malcolm Jones III)
Vampire Batman struggles with his bloodlust in Batman: Bloodstorm. (pencils: Kelley Jones, inks: Malcolm Jones III)

Gothicism and Eroticism

Bloodstorm has many elements of Gothic narratives, which embrace both horror and romantic traditions. In particular, the subplot with Selina (and to a lesser extent, Tanya) is akin to Gothic stories where women are pursued--often for sexual purposes--by evil men. Both women have their bodies violated and deformed by monsters, while they remain pure at heart. Idealised, they are perfunctory love interests whose main purpose is to instill in Batman the urge for revenge. Their roles are limited, but they are true to the Gothic genre--even if the "selfless love of a woman" bit is a little clichéd.

Bloodstorm is easily the most Gothic of all the stories in the Batman: Vampire trilogy. Dreams and nightmares are a common motif in Gothic narratives, because they can portray characters' psychology in a highly emotional and sensational fashion. In Red Rain, Tanya visited Bruce Wayne in erotic dreams--almost like a succubus--but Batman's dreams are no longer pleasant. His obsession is so great that a sexual dream about Tanya turns to nightmare, in which he kills her and drinks her blood.

Another common Gothic convention is taboo, especially that of a sexual nature. The vampire, that most sensual of Gothic creatures, embodies sexual taboo. When Batman feeds for the first time, his immediate reaction has erotic overtones: "The blood is ecstasy, everything I've craved, everything I need. I gulp it greedily, lost in the rhythm of sucking, in the rich texture and tangy taste, transfixed, transported...and damned."

Like some Gothic characters--mainly antagonists--Batman's attempts to repress his darker emotions fail, resulting in tragedy. Yet we may still sympathise with him, for he did not choose to become a vampire. Rationally, he does not want to feed on humans, but his emotional, sensual vampire nature is too strong. Batman's first taste of human blood is the moment of his fall from heroism into villainy.

Source

Moench, Doug (w), Jones, Kelley (p), and Beatty, John, Malcolm Jones III. (i). Batman: Vampire. Ed. Scott Nybakken. New York: DC Comics, 2007.

Voller, Jack. The Literary Gothic. <http://www.litgothic.com/index_html.html

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