Arkham War #1 – a new spin on the familiar

Arkham War #1forever-evil-arkham-war-6-665x1024


Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Scot Eaton and Jamie Mendoza
Colored by Andrew Dalhouse
Cover by Jason Fabok and Blond.
Published by DC Comics 

Hot on the heels of the start of the Forever Evil arc, Arkham War is a 6 issue run that swings the focus back into a Gotham City that has inevitably fallen into chaos.

If you haven’t kept up to speed with Trinity War then fear not. You won’t need to be chasing down back issues or hitting up Wikipedia if you want to familiarise yourself with the set up. You can safely pick this issue up as a new reader. Everything you really need to know is covered within the first few panels, thanks to the ever reliable exposition engine, Jim Gordon. A pile of stubbed cigarettes at his feet indicative of the stress he and others left in Gotham are going through. A situation made all the worse knowing that help probably isn’t on it’s way.

As for the criminal element we’re given glimpses of many perennial members of the rogues gallery, through a variety of panels and in many cases direct name dropping. No Joker, but all the usual suspects are here. This opening issue places the emphasis on Bane’s arrival and subsequent conquest of Blackgate Prison. Meanwhile, the story simultaneously follows Scarecrow’s attempts to unite Gothams new ruling criminal elite against Bane and his sudden arrival. Penguin makes a significant appearance, but the standout moments are taken up by Professor Pyg. His scenes showcase the brutality of a villain dominated Gotham far more effectively than anything else in the issue. However, oddly, a number of Pyg’s scenes are presented in a red, washed out tone that seems inconsistent with the otherwise stellar artwork throughout.

PygCrazy

What may become immediately apparent is that we have seen this sort of thing before. An Arkham Asylum/Blackgate Prison break out and the carving up of the city by key villains isn’t anything new. We saw something very similar on the big screen in last years “Dark Knight Rises” and besides the premise, the actual reality of the situation is closely mirrored by the video game Batman: Arkham City.

What sets Arkham War apart from what has come before is the absence of any impending rescue by Batman. There is also a great link back to Scott Snyder’s Court of Owls arc, which suggests Banes reappearance is part of a long term plan rather than mere wanton carnage.

Overall, the opening issue of the Arkham War hints at a potentially new spin on a set up that has been seen before. It’s a concept that does have some great potential in a post Justice League universe. It just remains to be seen whether the key villains and in particular the Scarecrow, who spends most of this issue as a middle man, can carry this short arc to a satisfying and memorable conclusion.

– Lol Craven




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