Batman: Arkham City Mini-Series
Written by Paul Dini
Drawn by Carlos D’Anda
Reviewed by Brad Jones
SPOILER ALERT: THIS REVIEW WILL DISCUSS THE EVENTS FROM BOTH THE BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM AND BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY VIDEOGAMES.
The five issues of Batman: Arkham City act as filler between the events at the close of the amazing videogame, Batman: Arkham Asylum and the start of the even-better Batman: Arkham City. We start this miniseries at the end of Batman’s explosively-charged fists, pummeling Titan-Joker into submission, and according to the end of the first game, bringing peace to the prison, and Gotham City. The Joker-centric first issue, however, exposes us to a Joker poisoned by his own Titan experiments, a Gotham now run by Arkham-warden-turned-mayor Quincy Sharp, and the psycho pulling the strings, Hugo Strange.
At the dedication of the Gotham City Hall (Joker blew up the original in the first game), Strange unleashes a Titan’d brother-sister team to wreak havoc and ignite the “need” for the creation of a prison unlike anything Gotham’s ever seen: Arkham City. Sharp (puppeted by Strange) begin construction on this new facility, cornering off a huge section of Gotham seen as ruined by the criminal element. The idea is to segregate all criminals from the rest of functional society, but as we see in Issues #2 and #3, super-villains like the Joker and the Penguin have already started to carve out little empires behind Arkham City’s new walls.
Normally, I find that comics issued in conjunction with a movie, television show or videogame to be trite cash-ins, but I was surprised and excited to find that this arc was illuminating, creative and intelligent. Dini and D’Anda expand on the universe created in the two Rocksteady games and offer great details to plotlines and characters from the games that I didn’t even necessarily think to question. Where Arkham City primarily succeeds is in transcending the “need” for these stories to be told at all and really work in fleshing out themes, relationships and threats you’ll encounter face-to-face in the new game.
Where the book ultimately triumphs, however, is telling truly excellent stories. Even taken out of the context of playing the games to 100% completion, these five issues work well as stand-alone stories. Issue #3 is particularly well-told, as we follow an unknown thug working his way through the two established powers of the new Arkham City. The twists, turns and action beats of this book (and all of the rest) are so effective; you’ll forget you’re reading something inspired by a videogame.
The art of the series is also incredible, taking a page from the style of the games – giving this Gotham familiarity if you’ve played the games – but also taking the opportunity to showcase some incredible images that you just couldn’t see in a moving, dynamic world.
Finally, I thought it was very smart of the producers to explain via these books certain decisions in and for game. In the new game, Tyger guards (the police force of Arkham City) can hand Batman a whoopin’, but Catwoman can pounce around them as if they were novice thugs. In Issue #4, we learn that the Tyger guards are specifically trained in Batman’s movement and fighting styles; Catwoman, not deemed big enough of a threat by Strange, goes generally unnoticed and ignored within Arkham’s walls. It’s also cool to see different settings in the books that I’m aware of geographically from the game. The books serve to enrich the experience of the game, but even cooler as a Batman consumer, the game definitely enriches the books.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
It’d help to have at least played the first Batman: Arkham game, though I’d say being in the middle of the second game as well gave me even stronger context for these books.
If you’re a fan of the Arkham games – generally held to be the greatest licensed/superhero games ever made – these books are a definite buy. As a fan of Batman and comics, moreover, this series is a “can’t miss” and I’m glad I gave them a shot.