Have you ever stared up at the stars, began pondering the mysteries of life and thought, “gee, I wonder how Gotham City was built?” If you answered “yes,” then Batman: Gates of Gotham is the story of you. Well, even if you said “no,” Gates of Gotham is still a pretty entertaining read. And besides, Batman takes on a Steam-punk villain, so there’s that also. Oh, and it’s set before the New 52 reboot. So, if you long for a simpler time when DC had only rebooted its universe 3 times instead of 4, then this is the book for you, too.
The story is by Scott Snyder (Batman, American Vampire) and Kyle Higgins (Nightwing), with the dialogue by Higgins and Ryan Parrott. The art was done by Trevor McCarthy. The story was initially a 5-issue mini-series. The trade paperback was recently released, and contains the 5 issues, along with the Nightrunner story that was split up between Detective Comics Annual #12 and Batman Annual #28. This story was written by Kyle Higgins and drawn by Trevor McCarthy.
The story is split up between 1881 and the present. The stuff in 1881 deals with how the influential members of Gotham City, Alan Wayne, Edward Elliot, and Theodore Cobblepot built up Gotham City using two creative brothers named Nicholas and Bradley to design and build the bridges and skyscrapers. The brothers had been brought to Gotham by their father, with promises of going to the “City in the clouds.” The two brothers begin a business designing small buildings and bridges for people. One day they are approached by Alan Wayne to do one of their grander bridge designs, the Trigate (Wayne) Bridge. They also build the Cobblepot and Elliot Bridges. (Those names are not used in the present day). With the success of the bridges, they begin building skyscrapers, with the first one being the first Wayne Tower. This gives the brothers the joy of finally having a city of the clouds.
Over time, Nicholas becomes enamored with the rich men, and is made to feel like he is one of them, most notably by Alan Wayne. Bradley, though, never trusts the older men. He comments that you never become one of the family with the rich family, and they weren’t bringing out Gotham’s good side, but only covering its true nature. However, Bradley always stays by his brother’s side in their endeavors. A problem arises when their is a dispute between Alan Wayne and Cameron Kane. Mayor Theodore Cobblepot and Edward Elliot were split on where to put the bridge, so the decision came down to Nicholas’ expertise. Even though he knows that the Kane site is the better option, he sides with Wayne. During construction of the bridge, there is an accident, and Bradley is killed. He had been underwater, wearing a decompression suit. Nicholas spends days in a decompression suit, searching the wreckage for any clues because he believed that Cameron Kane sabotaged the bridge.
Without any evidence, Nicholas goes to Alan Wayne with his belief that Cameron Kane sabotaged the bridge. Wayne tells him that there is nothing they can do without evidence, and if he doesn’t have any then it’s best to keep quiet. Nicholas is upset, believing that this is just an example of the rich protecting their own. He storms into the Kane residence, wearing one of the decompression suits. Nicholas goes after Cameron Kane, but is shot in the back by his son, Robert Kane. Nicholas grabs Robert by the throat, and is unable to release him because the gun shot has damaged the suit and he’s now unable to move at all.
And now, back to the present. (Well, the pre-Flashpoint present. And I will eventually write about Flashpoint. Maybe after I decide to start and finish a 52 days of 52 thing I kind of want to do. But I digress.) Batman (Dick Grayson, remember) is trying to get information out of someone about a shipment of semtex (explosives). As the guy tells him that Cobblepot was behind the transportation of it, the Trigate bridge blows up, then two other bridges blow up as well. Batman saves who he can, tells Commissioner Gordon that Cobblepot may have some information regarding this, and talks to Red Robin about a message that was sent to the paper. The message states that the families will fall by the gates of Gotham. Batman confronts Cobblepot, only to be told that he had no hand in this, and wouldn’t blow up a bridge that once had his name on it. Batman points out that it’s funny that this person blew up the “Cobblepot Pass” with explosives he got from Cobblepot, and wonders what else he might blow up. Cobblepot tells him that all he knows is that the guy wore a funny suit. Dick fills Tim in on the details, and also that Cassandra Cain is there. She had been following the Semtex in Hong Kong. Tim fills Dick in on the history of the bridges. Alan Wayne was behind Trigate, and the third bridge was named after the Elliots.
A man in a “steampunk” looking suit is shown to be kidnapping Tommy Elliot (Hush) from Arkham Asylum on security footage. Batman and Gordon decide that it’s best to evacuate all building owned by the Wayne and Cobblepot families. Robin and Black Bat are watching the Iceberg Lounge, while Robin is antagonizing Black Bat. Batman is looking for clues at the Elliot residence. Red Robin is back at the lab trying to piece together a full visual of the steam-punk suit from the security footage. Red Robin finds an alert for an explosive substance in one of the Wayne buildings, and Batman checks it out. Inside, he finds Hush with a bomb strapped to him. Black Bat and Robin go into the Iceberg Lounge and discover a bomb, also. Both bombs speed up their countdowns when there are attempts to defuse them. Batman takes the bomb off of Hush and escapes the building, and Black Bat pulls Robin away from the bomb and out of the building. Both buildings explode. Batman asks Hush how this is part of the “gates,” and Hush tells him that the “gates” are a who, not a what. Gates is the last name of the brothers that built Gotham.
Robin is unhappy that Black Bat pulled him away from the bomb, even though it saved his life. Cobblepot is unhappy that Batman let his building get blown up. Red Robin tells Batman that he’s found some info about the mysterious suit. It was designed by Nicholas and Bradley Gates, and used until the death of Robert Kane. The last known suit was reported stolen by Dillon May. Batman sends Robin and Red Robin to check him out. Batman and Black Bat watch the footage of Hush’s capture, noting that he has information the man in the suit wants. Batman thinks about a line Hush told him about the Elliots being good at keeping secrets. Batman and Black Bat check out the archives for the newspaper the Elliots owned. They find the plans for Wayne Tower and Iceberg Lounge are missing, but plans for the Kane bridge are also missing. Red Robin tells Robin that the only reason he doesn’t like Black Bat is that she’s just one more person his father picked over him.
Red Robin and Robin run into the man in the suit. He says that he is The Architect, and that the Gate name will live forever. They fight, but The Architect gets away. Batman and Black Bat arrive, and everyone is caught up on information. They realize that if The Architect blows up the retaining wall, he’ll flood half of Gotham City. In the debris, Black Bat finds a journal. Robin helps Red Robin back to the Batcave for medical attention while Batman and Black Bat take the Batboat to the Kane Bridge. On their way to the bridge, they discuss what it’s like for an outsider to try to be one of the families, and if it’s possible. Batman attacks The Architect, while Black Bat, now joined by Robin, go after the explosives. They find that it’s the same setup as before. To get around the acceleration of the timer, Black Bat has the Batboat tow the bomb away, blowing it up instead of the bridge. Batman subdues The Architect, and reveals to him that the journal he’s been reading was written by a madman from Arkham Asylum. It was found that prolonged times in the decompression suits caused people to go insane. Batman also reveals that it was Dillon May in the suit. His real name is Zachary Gate.
Scott Snyder’s name on the project is what drew me to this story. I have greatly enjoyed his Batman work and highly recommend it. However, it’s obvious that he only had some input in the story. I’m guessing the stuff that takes place in the past. But that’s not to say that the rest of the story is bad. Quite the opposite. Kyle Higgins does a fine job here. And Ryan Parrott with whatever dialogue that he worked on. The dialogue between the characters was almost perfect. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed when this group was the status quo. Not to say that the Batman lineup is worse now, but this group was fun to read. It seemed like there was more interaction back then, and Damian’s arrogance towards everyone, even though they’ve been doing the hero thing a lot longer, was usually enjoyable to read. There’s also some really nice moments between Tim and Cassandra that I kind of wish the Bat-books had expanded on at the time.
I also thought Trevor McCarthy’s art was pretty good. Most notable, I really liked his ability to draw expressions. It might seem like a small thing, but the correct expression can help make or break a scene. Overall, his style kind of reminds me of Francesco Francavilla.
Overall, I recommend that you read this story.
As a bonus, here are Dustin Nguyen’s variant covers, just because they are so pretty.