Batman & Dracula: Red Rain Review - Batman Fights the Lord of Vampires and Dies...
I was walking out of my Local Comic Shop a couple of weeks ago and spotted Batman Elseworlds: Vol 2. This volume covers Batman's vampire trilogy that was released decades ago at this point. I've never read these stories but I remember them being advertised all over the place when I was a kid. I couldn't afford the graphic novel as a kid. Fortunately, adult Baraka's financial situation has changed and I can now indulge my curiosity. This review will cover the first part of the trilogy but I will review the remaining chapters over time.
I didn't really know what to expect from Red Rain aside from Dracula being the main villain and Bruce becoming a vampire at some point in the story. The book is lengthy and an honest to goodness graphic novel. It will take some time to read but you're getting a single volume in one sitting. If Doug and Kelley released this book in 2021 it would have been stretched out over a year with several associated tie-ins.
The premise of Red Rain is simple enough. Dracula shows up in Gotham and people start dying. The GCPD investigates the deaths but are instructed by high-ups to avoid leaking specifics about the murders to avoid full-scale panic. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne begins having dreams of a strange woman. Over time he begins developing new abilities typically associated with Vampires.
Red Rain is a fun yet dark Batman story that falls into the spookier side of the character's mythos. Bruce goes through significant changes over the course of the story and his transformation from human to vampire has a lot more twists and turns than the title of the review suggests. Dracula is obviously the villain but there are a bunch of other vampires running around as well as another faction attempting to bring him down.
The art direction for the book is as dark and atmospheric as you'd expect from any good horror story. I particularly enjoyed Doug's exaggerated take on The Dark Knight. I remember seeing his Batman covers in the '90s and always saw them as striking when contrast against most other books released at the time. Some of these material and character designs in Red Rain would have disturbed me as a kid and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
The setting is obviously out of continuity but everything from the plot and direction feels right. The story isn't dated at all and reads like one of the better Batman stories you'll ever read continuity or not. The material also adult-oriented. I wouldn't say that kids can't read or enjoy this book but some of the material and panel layouts did raise my eyebrows. I'm not used to seeing material this dark from modern DC comics.
I'd suggest picking up Red Rain either as a stand-alone graphic novel or in the collected Elseworld edition. Red Rain is definitely a nice change of pace from any of the modern Batman Stories being told and although the supernatural elements are there this is still a Batman story and not DC's version of Blade which I appreciate.
On a side note, I'd love to see an ongoing horror-oriented Batman title or feature film. We've had classic out of continuity Batman stories like Arkham Asylum and the Vampire trilogy but Batman fits this sort of storytelling a lot better than you'd probably expect. It's refreshing to see mature creators telling mature stories featuring the mainstream characters and circumstances.