Batman: Arkham Unhinged
$22.99, color, 160 pages
Writers and Artists: Various
Reprinting Batman: Arkham Unhinged #1-5, which first appeared digitally.
I actually enjoyed the first "chapter" of this story enough that I had my hopes up that a videogame-based comic book wouldn't be a waste of time. Unfortunately, the follow-through wasn't up to the same caliber.
The plot of the videogame is Batman in "Arkham City," an area of Gotham ruled by Hugo Strange, where Batman's rogues gallery and various gangs reside. I imagine it's a pretty exciting game, as you play Batman taking on one threat after another.
As a comic book, though, it's pretty hard to accept that any city would set aside part of itself as an open-air asylum/prison. And once you did, why on Earth would anybody, including Batman, go in there?
As I said, though, the first 30 pages were delightful. Written by Derek Fridolfs with attractive art by Mike S. Miller, "Inside Job" sets Catwoman against Two-Face, with Batman in between, and all three of them on the run from Strange's enforcers, who want to drag them to Arkham City. The dialogue, especially Catwoman at her naughty/funny best, is pitch perfect. Had the whole book been in this vein, I would be recommending it from the rooftops.
But subsequent chapters, written and drawn by others, don't live up to that promise. Chapter Two is basically a book-long conversation between Batman and Commissioner Gordon, explaining to each other things they already know about how Arkham City came to exist. So, OK, it's exposition for the reader, and none of us are strangers to that. But in addition to being a preposterous conversation, it suffers from being implausible -- as I mentioned above, Arkham City only works as a game conceit. The writer's efforts to convince the reader (through dialogue!) that this could really happen is painful.
It's all downhill from there, as Penguin (who is mysteriously tall and working-class English) and Joker battle to a stalemate in implausibly non-lethal ways, Harley Quinn "fights" the Scarface dummy, Batman goes to Arkham City for no apparent reason and fighting people for, I dunno, exercise and Nightwing, Oracle and other Bat-friends making appearances but not really helping out. Oh, and the final chapter is the story of a conjoined twin getting separated, but otherwise not advancing what little plot there is.
I guess the two people who were once one will become important in a sequel, because that's another flaw this book has: It doesn't end, it just stops! Clearly, it's to be continued, as virtually every "plotline" remains unresolved.
Hopefully the next book will have some resolutions. Because right now we have half a story for $23, and that ain't right.