Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Batman: Arkham Manor Review (Gerry Duggan, Shawn Crystal)

Spinning out of DC’s weekly series Batman Eternal is Arkham Manor. When Arkham Asylum is destroyed (see Batman Eternal Vol 2), where does the city of Gotham end up housing its dangerously disturbed inmates? Wayne Manor of course! Because martial law is arbitrarily enforced and everyone’s private property is fair game. Was that really why martial law was declared in Batman Eternal Vol 2 – so we’d get Arkham Manor?! It wasn't worth it.

However, once the inmates have been transferred over to the newly branded Arkham Manor, someone begins killing them off. Batman decides to don a new costume and, as “Jack Shaw”, investigate the crimes from the inside as one of the patients.

Arkham Manor should really be called Yet Another ****ing Batman Title! We really didn’t need Arkham Manor which is ostensibly a banal murder mystery with a contrived setup. It’s so boring! Who killed… Some Guy? Who killed… Another Guy? Who cares? The ending won’t wow anyone either as it’s anticlimactic, particularly with the reveal of who the murderer is.

Gerry Duggan (I thought he was Marvel exclusive?) writes a detective Batman storyline, rather than Batman the superhero, which is what most Batman stories these days focuses on. That’s great, I love it when Batman’s sleuthing away. Except he’s supposed to be the World’s Greatest Detective and Duggan writes him as a dolt!

Was adopting a new identity and going undercover the best approach to catching the killer? Wouldn’t setting up a surveillance network inside the Manor and then swooping in as Batman once you saw something prove more effective? Because once Bruce sees something, he’s got to change out of his Jack Shaw getup and into the Batsuit. Also, it’s only once Bruce rejects the Jack Shaw identity entirely and becomes Batman that he actually gets anywhere with the case, proving Jack Shaw was a bad idea the whole time. 

How can the killer navigate his way around Bruce’s own house better than him? Also, “death in Arkham” storylines are a dime a dozen – Batman usually solves them in an issue or less. So why does it take him 6 issues? Oh – the same reason why he’s having trouble finding his way around the Manor: because Duggan’s written Bruce as astoopid so he can stretch this nonsense to a book-length narrative! Really poor stuff.

I didn’t care for Shawn Crystal’s art which was too angular and exaggerated/cartoony for my taste. None of the designs – of Jack Shaw, Arkham Manor, or the villain – were particularly memorable and the first time we see his Batman is pretty awful (think Lurch from the Addams Family cosplaying as the Dark Knight!). 

Mr Freeze and Scarecrow are weirdly out of character in this book, both acting as the comic relief, especially Victor (though thankfully he’s not in Arnie pun-overload mode), but I actually didn’t mind that. A little unusual levity was welcome in this otherwise pedestrian whodunit.

Actually, looking at Batman’s full plate (Endgame, Eternal, Batman & Robin, Justice League, to name a few), this might have been the ideal book for an Alfred storyline – old Alf going undercover, using his acting abilities to become a new character, and catching the crook using his knowledge of the Manor? That might’ve added that little extra flavour to make this a spicier read – might but probably not because, as it is, Arkham Manor is another dull Batman book that’s not really worth picking up.

Arkham Manor

1 comment:

  1. It's a shame that this one has such bad reviews across the board. I love your idea for turning this into an Alfred book, though; THAT'S something the New 52 needed.