Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight, Volume 1 Review (Peter J. Tomasi, Viktor Bogdanovic)

I don’t know how many non-gamers are likely to pick up this book as it’s tied in to the hugely popular (with good reason) Arkham games, but let’s just say spoilers anyway.

If you are a fan of the Arkham games like me, that first scene isn’t a spoiler - the Joker dying at the end of Arkham City is the finale to the story mode, and it’s where Arkham Knight picks up (I know Origins came out after City but that was a prequel).

What’s the story? Well, let’s just stop there because I love the Arkham games and Rocksteady amazingly gave us the impossible experience of being Batman in Gotham. I’d go even further and say the Arkham series are the best superhero games ever made. The combat is so much fun, I play the challenge mode in City to this day!

Asylum’s story was ok but City’s story was all over the place even though it’s still the best in the series. And that’s because the story doesn’t matter in these games. Swooping around Gotham as Batman, grappling up buildings, fighting groups of Joker/Penguin/Two-Face/Black Mask/whoever goons, saving people, battling guys like Bane, Killer Croc and Solomon Grundy - that’s what matters. It’s why I never bothered with the Arkham Unhinged books that were a spinoff from these games.

I’m sure Arkham Knight will be a brilliant finale to the series even if its spinoff comic is a snorefest. Penguin and Harley team up to steal a Wayne Enterprises tablet; Gordon is momentarily dosed with Joker toxin; Scarecrow does his “scary” thing; and Batman fights baddies while Bruce rebuilds Gotham - it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Also, how does Gordon get infected with Joker toxin but lives for 20 minutes after? Don’t most victims die within seconds?

The new bits (that are probably going to be in the game) aren’t very new either. Someone’s in a robot Batsuit (that looks a lot like Ben Affleck’s Bat-Iron-man armour in the Batman Vs Superman trailer) executing crimz, and the Tweedles get a third: Tweedle Die! Hmm. Not very inspired. And of course the Abramovici twins, Mr Hammer and Captain Sickle (awful, awful names even by superhero standards!), return. They’re great mini-bosses to fight in the game - reading about them in a comic? They’re the one-dimensional entities they’ve always been and are totally uninteresting to read about.

And that’s the only thing I liked about this comic: seeing all the stuff I’d probably get to do once the game’s released. Saving Gordon from Joker toxin, exploring New Blackgate, driving the pimped out new Batmobile, and aerial mini-boss battles? AWESOME! As a story though, it’s directionless and the least interesting in the series by far. Harley and Penguin have no plan and Batman’s just arbitrarily rushing about the place punching bad guys. Again, fun to do in a game, boring to read in a comic.

The artist, Viktor Bogdanovic, draws some of the moves Batman pulls in the game - the slide, leaping from the Batmobile - and the airdropped Batsuit from City makes a reappearance. Eh… ok. It’s a comic of a video game, alright! Bogdanovic also seems to be mimicking Greg Capullo’s style quite a bit - I guess go with what’s popular, right?

Peter J. Tomasi’s Batman & Robin series isn’t bad but his Arkham Knight is very weak. To be fair to Tomasi, he really doesn’t have a lot to work with. The appeal of the games is the gameplay and how do you communicate that in a non-interactive medium? He tries but it’s a futile effort.

I’m looking forward to Arkham Knight the game but I’d say fans can easily skip this sub-standard, unexciting spin-off comic without missing anything worthwhile.

Batman: Arkham Knight, Volume 1

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