This Gotham by Gaslight story is considered to be the first official Elseworlds story and features a Victorian Age version of the superhero Batman hunting Jack the Ripper, who had come to Gotham City.
GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT (1989)
Author: Brian Augustyn
Artist: Mike Mignola
Inker: P. Craig Russell
Publisher: DC Comics
What You Need to Know:
The year is 1889. Wealthy gentleman Bruce Wayne has returned from his long trip to Europe and is a man with a mission. The mission compels him to don the cape of the bat to fight the evils of the dark. However, just like the bat, someone else has found his home in Gotham. Someone who had a spell of notoriety in London. Someone… sinister.
What You Will Find Out:
Bruce Wayne is on a tour of Europe which ends in Vienna. There he is studying under Dr. Freud. Bruce tells Freud that he has a recurring dream in which he recalls the murder of his parents and decides he must return to Gotham City. On the trip back, Bruce meets Jacob Packer, an old family friend whom he calls Uncle Jake, who is also returning from Europe.
Shortly after arriving in Gotham, Inspector Gordon informs Wayne about criminal gangs currently operating in the city. Gordon also shows Bruce the case of a man who poisoned his wife and tried to commit suicide with the poison, which left him alive with a permanent grin. It is then that Bruce decides to take up the mantle of Batman to fight the criminals on the street.
At the same time, a series of murders of women take place and some people begin to suspect that Batman is the murderer. It is soon discovered that Jack the Ripper has come to Gotham, as the murders in Gotham City seem to resemble the Ripper murders in London.
After a search of Wayne Manor, a bloody knife is found under Bruce’s bed and Bruce is arrested. A trial is held in which Uncle Jake is Bruce’s defense attorney. After the trial, Bruce is convicted of being the Ripper and sentenced to be hanged for his crimes. Bruce is imprisoned in Arkham Asylum.
Once Bruce is in prison, Gordon gives him all the documentation on the crimes. Bruce toils day and night to try to figure out how he can get the Ripper. Just one day before the execution, Bruce learns the identity of the Ripper by discovering he had the skill of a surgeon and used a knife that belonged to the medical group who worked with his father. Bruce escapes from prison with the help of Alfred and heads straight for the Ripper.
Batman interrupts the Ripper as he is about to claim his next victim. Batman chases the Ripper throughout Gotham and the two eventually come to a stop at the grave of Thomas and Martha Wayne, where it is revealed that Jacob Packer is the Ripper. Packer had been trained in medicine and law with the money of Thomas Wayne, but he was driven insane by Martha Wayne’s rejection of his advances. Since then he was killing women who resemble Martha to silence the laughter of Martha he heard in his head.
Packer reveals that he hired an assassin to kill Bruce’s parents. Gordon appears at this time with the police and Batman tells them to arrest Packer. Packer confesses that he is the Ripper and tries to kill Batman, but Gordon shoots Packer dead at the last minute and Batman disappears into the shadows.
Final Thoughts: This 1989 Batman story is a fun ride, but the one-shot short-story format didn’t allow the plot to mature enough to be a true “classic”. The identity of Jack wasn’t hard to figure out and the whole last scene wasn’t as good as might be expected.
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