Saturday, 29 July 2017

Batman: Arkham Reborn Review (David Hine, Jeremy Haun)


Usually any Batman book with “Arkham” or “Asylum” in the title is Bantha poodoo but I was pleasantly surprised to find that David Hine and Jeremy Haun’s Arkham Reborn breaks that tradition by being surprisingly brilliant. It’s a tale of creepy psychological horror that becomes more enthralling as the strange story of Jeremiah Arkham, the head of the Asylum and descendant of the founder, unfolds.

Following Black Mask’s impromptu demolition of Arkham Asylum in Battle for the Cowl, a new, modern Asylum has sprung up with state-of-the-art treatment facilities. But it’s Arkham Asylum so the shit hits the fan immediately! Jeremiah Arkham is about to discover that you don’t have to be crazy to work at the Asylum, but if you’re working there to start with, you probably already are…

Arkham Reborn isn’t really a Batman book. Obviously it’s set in the same universe but the Dark Knight only appears in a handful of scenes. The main character is instead Jeremiah Arkham whose vulnerability and fragility, in being the opposite of Batman, makes him a more compelling protagonist for this kind of story, especially once he’s surrounded by the worst of Batman’s rogues and their darkness begins to poison his state of mind.

Like a Poe character, Jeremiah becomes increasingly more disturbed until the twist in the third act revealing his true identity shows how damaged he’s become. That, along with his unsettling private cadre of deformed patients, felt like reading a comic starring John Doe from Se7en with a sprinkling of Fight Club – as a fan of both movies I say that’s a pretty damn interesting mix!

The story is a little unfocused and meandering in places. The Raggedy Man subplot didn’t seem to have any point to it except to emphasise the psychological horror aspect some more but it was entertaining so I didn’t mind so much. And Jeremiah’s tormentors’ motivations were a bit weak. Jeremiah’s reveal is cool in the moment but I’m not sure it works completely.

It’s also not the most cohesive narrative. There are either pages missing from the end of Act 2 and the beginning of Act 3 or the transition was just awkwardly written/edited - time has passed and characters’ circumstances have changed in between the pages without us seeing how or why. And the scene when the inmates predictably take over the Asylum and Batman predictably put them back in their boxes was dull purely because it’s been done so many times before and is at this point the archetypical Arkham Asylum scene.

They were minor complaints though that didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. It’s a dark, creepy and gripping read that’s sharply realised and well-written and drawn – exactly what an Arkham Asylum comic should be and yet what they almost never are! It’s flawed but if you want to read a good Arkham Asylum book/horror comic, I recommend Arkham Reborn.

2 comments:

  1. Spoilers to those who haven't read it:

    Is this the one where Arkham imagines a group of highly-dangerous inmates? I remember that one being pretty awesome, if not a bit slow at the beginning.

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