Bat-week: Batman: Arkham City comic-book review

Arkham City
Batman returns!

DC Comics’ Batman: Arkham City was originally presented as a 5-issue mini-series serving as a prequel to Rocksteady Studios’ follow up to their 2009’s video game Batman: Arkham Asylum. The comic-book series has now been collected into a single volume book.

I’ve been reading comic-books for years. I’m not the worlds greatest fan of DC Comics, but Batman was always my favorite DC character. This is probably more to do with Frank Miller’s interpretation of The Dark Knight rather than anything else. whilst I was excited for Tim Burton’s Batman of the 1990s, time hasn’t been kind to them. Even Christopher Nolan’s current cinematic Batman outing hasn’t really done it for me. But Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum video captured Batman’s character perfectly.

Batman: Arkham Asylum followed Batman as he unravelled The Joker’s plot to take over the historic Gotham asylum, home to a selection of Batman’s worst enemies. Alone the way Batman faced off against some of his most dangerous enemies such as The Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy and the TITAN infused Bane. At the climax of the game, The Joker, himself having taken the TITAN formula, battled and is defeated by The Dark Knight.

The comic series begins a few months after The Joker’s defeat, with the wheelchair-ridden  Clown Prince of Crime back in incarceration suffering from the effects of the TITAN formula.

Fill in the gaps
Fill in the gaps

The series is written by Paul Dini, veteran Batman scribe of both the comic-book and animated series. Dini also wrote the story for the Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City video games.

The comic-book features Batman wearing the more cinematic and realistic black and grey costume from the video games rather than the tights and underpants from the regular comic series. Saying that, the costume is very similar to the recently updated bat-suit from the rebooted The New 52 Batman comic-books. I’d still say, that the Batman: Arkham City story sits outside the canon of DC’s comic-book  Batman.

The world of Batman: Arkham City is brought to life by artist Carlos D’Anda, who also served as concept artist for the game. Whilst his art is crisp and nicely done, it doesn’t really fit with the art design of either of  the games (something that I can fault with most of these comic-book video-game extensions). The DC Comics  art style is typically more in-your-face and vividly coloured compared to the more gritty look that Marvel gives the likes of its similarly hard-boiled Daredevil books.

In the wake of the Arkham Asylum riots, the former warden and now mayor of Gotham City, Quincy Sharp, proposes to wall of part of the city and turn it into a maximum security facility. This Arkham City will is to become home to Gotham’s scum like something  straight out of Escape from New York.

Meanwhile Harvey Dent, the semi-scarred former Gotham City district attorney, Two-Face has got hold of some of the TITAN formula that the Joker smuggled out of Arkham Asylum. Unbeknown to him, two of Dents lackeys, Terry and Tracy Trask have been playing with the TITAN formula, boosting their strength to superhuman levels.

Batman’s investigation reveals that the Trasks are planning an attack on the Gotham town hall. He also believes that the same mysterious figure behind the Trasks’ attack is also the real brains behind Mayor  Sharp’s plans for Arkham City.

The Joker, dying from the TITAN he dosed himself with at the end of the Arkham Asylum game, escapes to Arkham City with his squeeze, Harley Quinn. The pair of them becoming Arkham City’s first residents.

A sneak peek into Arkham city

The plot neatly sets up the main characters in their places for the beginning of the video-game, including the reveal of who’sbehind Arkham City (but not why, that’s saved for the game). Batman’s recognisance trip into the walled city offers us a sneak peek into the politics of the city and what to expect in the game.

The series ends with a grim foreshadowing showing the denizens of Arkham City settling in nicely,  hinting that mysterious architect of it all has a plan. A plan that involves Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne.

Batman: Arkham City is the first Batman book that I’ve read in years, so I’m not tied down with the regular Batman continuity. Even so, overall I found the book pretty light-weight stuff, especially when you consider the mature leanings of the video game. As a story, I think it could have been told in one over-sized issue rather than a 5-issue series. Even so  I would, however, recommend the book to fans of the game as is does fill in some gaps, even though the comic-book story isn’t essential to the enjoyment of the game.

Batman: Arkham City is available now as in collected single volume from New Zealand’s number-one comic shop, Mark One, who offer free delivery across all of New Zealand.