Volume Six, Issue 42!
“Trade Spotlight: Batman & Dracula: Red Rain”
Halloween, the greatest of all holidays, is rapidly approaching. And while you may be putting the final touches on your costume, loading up on candy, or binging your favorite spooky movies, there’s still plenty of other ways to get into the Halloween spirit, and one of my favorite ways to do it is by rereading one of my favorite Batman stories: Red Rain.
More commonly known as Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, the DC Elseworlds story from Doug Moench and Kelly Jones finds, you guessed it, Batman facing off with the classic count, and it’s still one of the scariest and visually striking comics I’ve ever read. When a rash of mysterious murder victims with neck wounds and drained blood arrive in Gotham City, it’s up to Batman to solve the case. And while everything points to it being the work of Vampires, and Dracula specifically, Batman refuses to believe it, until he has no choice but to accept the awful truth: Dracula has come to Gotham, and the Dark Knight is hopelessly outmatched.
Part of the charm of Red Rain is the art by Kelly Jones, whose exaggerated style for Batman was a staple for the character’s mid-to-late nineties run. The long ears and seemingly endless cape may turn off some Batman fans, but for me it works because it serves as a depiction of how Batman looks to criminals at night. Not to mention the fact that Jones has typically been a horror artist, so having him on a book where Batman fights the Lord of the Vampires is a no-brainer. Speaking of the Count, Jones’ Dracula is both completely his own but also has some shades of other depictions. While he doesn’t have the collared cape that Bela Lugosi made famous, Dracula does look a little bit like the human form that Gary Oldman’s Count took on in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and in line with that film, takes on numerous terrifying forms as well.
But what probably works more than the art is the tone of the story, set wonderfully by Doug Moench’s script. While Batman has been operating for a few years in Red Rain, he’s never experienced something like this, and Moench gets into the Dark Knight’s head in a way that very few other writers can. The world’s greatest detective spends a good chunk of the story trying to come up with every possible way to explain Dracula as anything other than supernatural, and Moench builds the stakes up perfectly as the story progresses, leading to a finale that not only stands as one of the coolest Batman fights of all time, but one of the coolest versions of Batman period.
Red Rain was followed up by two sequels, Bloodstorm and Crimson Mist¸ and both are pretty good, albeit with some pretty eye-roll worthy moments (Catwoman being a were-creature being the worst). But this Elseworlds universe is really unique, and one that DC has made a handful of returns to. But as cool as the other stories are, they can’t beat Red Rain, which is not only a great Batman story, but also a great Dracula tale and a great comic. Seek it out for a spooky read this All Hallow’s Eve.