Monday, March 12, 2012

Batman: Arkham City (comics)

Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Carlos D'Anda
Collects: Batman: Arkham City #1-5, five digital chapters

Comic prequels can be a tricky act to balance. If they show important events, there's a tendency for the game developers to forget storytelling rules and assume you read the comic, making it mandatory instead of supplemental. Ask Halo fans about that one. But this is written by Paul Dini, who is a pretty safe bet as far as comics go.

As expected, Dini delivers a good read, even if an instance or two of the above manages to sneak in.

Being a prequel, the main event exists in service to something else; it's there to set up the events of the game. That's not necessarily a bad thing in this case, as the comic fills in some details the game didn't bother with. When the game starts, Arkham City has already been constructed and the game is rolling immediately. Specifics of how we got to that point aren't what the game focuses on.

As a bridge between the games, this comic holds up well. Many of the elements present in the game are set up here, such as the factions vying for control in Arkham City as well as the armed Tyger task force. It's not necessary material, but it fleshes things out a bit more. The book even bothers explaining a thing or two the game neglected.

Except, that last bit is my one real issue with the book; actually, not just the book, it was one of my few quibbles with the game too. As you may know, Quincy Sharp appears all of once in the game itself, with no mention of his possession by Amadeus Arkham among other things. Odd, considering it was a fairly major subplot of Arkham Asylum. We receive some answers here, but it feels more like clearing the deck; it reveals Sharp has a disorder that leaves him extremely prone to suggestion, making him little more than a cipher. The possession was never on the up and up; worse still, it's not even explained in Arkham City itself.

Granted, that plot point was wrapped up in a side quest, but it seemed to be a clear setup for the sequel; instead, it's a footnote brushed aside in a tie-in.

If I have any other nits to pick, it boils down to my general feeling that structuring this book as a direct prequel might have been a bit detrimental. I think the book would have been better served by fleshing out the Arkhamverse more through adventures in the intervening year between the events of Asylum and City, with the elements leading up to the games opening as a subplot. I think an approach like that would have helped the book stand alone better while still accomplishing the goal of building up to the game.

The short stories - originally digital exclusives - are also included, by the way. They're cute but hardly important, though one does give a better look at the Robin of the Arkhamverse. His jokes are even worse than Burt Wards. That's a sentence I never thought I would type up.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

A solid tie-in; to be expected, given Paul Dinis involvement. Pick it up if you want a bit more background detail on the game. If that's not a big deal to you, it's safe to skip it.


  1. I'm actually going to be starting Arkham City any day now, so this review was a big help to me. I wasn't sure if this took place between the games or during the game, or if it was just an adaptation. Now I guess I just need to decide whether to read it before I actually start Arkham City, or if I should get a little ways into the game first.

  2. I don't think it really matters when you read it. I beat the game a long time ago and only read this recently. Didn't hurt me a bit.

    The book fleshes out a few things from the game, but other than the Quincy Sharpe thing it's nothing you'll miss. The game does a fine job of explaining itself on it's own. I just wish the game had at least made a passing reference to the business with Sharpe and what happened; he does show up at one point in the game, but I do not recall getting any kind of nod to the Amadeus Arkham subplot from the first game.

  3. That Quincy Sharpe thing kinda stinks. After finishing that subplot in Arkham Asylum, I felt pretty convinced that it would play a major role in Arkham City, too. I hope the Riddler is back at least, and maybe even that he has a bigger role this time around. I actually expected a bit more pay-off to that story in Asylum (I was convinced it would turn out he was the mastermind behind [i]everything[/i] in the game), but it was a good storyline nonetheless.

  4. Riddler plays a far more substantial role in City. The game is literally PACKED with riddles and trophies to find. Get enough of them and you can save a civilian he kidnapped; said civilians are in Saw-like traps and you have to Batman them to safety. It's pretty awesome. His subplot is huge in City is what I'm saying.