January 21st, 2011

coin flipping through the air

The first (official) Elseworlds: "Batman: Holy Terror"

NOTE: I offer another departure from the usual topic today because... well, I just really want to discuss this one with you guys. I can justify this with the fact that it's written by the excellent author of this great Hugo Strange story I posted a while back, and also because it's a great example of what alternate universe storytelling can do. It'll be good to keep this in mind when I look at the various alternate Two-Face stories, even the ridiculous ones where Harvey's a deranged ballet dancer, thank YOU, Mike Grell.

The best Elseworlds stories utilize the alternate reality format to gain fresh perspective on the characters and themes they represent. I've always loved the mantra which used to accompany the earliest books in this imprint:

"In Elseworlds, heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places--some that have existed, and others that can't, couldn't, or shouldn't exist. The result is stories that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow."

I've always loved that last line. "As familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow." So why are there so many mediocre Elseworlds stories? Why do so many follow the formula of "plug in X character in Y time setting, tell basically the same origin"? Asking "What If?" doesn't really matter if that question isn't followed by, "So What?"

That is not the case with Alan Brennert's last (and only) major DC story, Batman: Holy Terror, the first alternate universe DC story to carry the Elseworlds brand. It's that rare Elseworlds (hell, that rare story) which actually has something to say about its lead character and the alternate reality he inhabits.

In this instance, it's Batman in a Puritanical theocracy.

This story is not to be confused with a similarly-titled, aborted project by Frank Miller, although the two do play with similar ideas. Except Brennert's is far more subversive, even more so today than when it was published. After all, in this story, Batman is waging a Holy War. And what's another word for one of those?

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Damn it, I want a sequel.