Batman: Arkham Unhinged #1 review

I was supposed to have an interview with author Derek Fridolfs about this series but that’s been postponed. Since that’s not happening anytime soon I’ve decided to write reviews of the five digital comics I bought in preparation for the interview…

Never before have I paid for a digital comic. Digital comics are a real blessing to international comic book fans who don’t have access to comic shops overstocked with issues of DC and Marvel heroes upon day of release or any day…ever. But when it comes to a guy from Missouri, like me, the desire or need to buy a digital comic just isn’t there. I like to collect comics, real comics that I can touch. I get every issue in a series with maybe a few variants here and there. I like the feel of getting to hold it in my hands and these digital comics just aren’t very tangible.

But, this is different. Batman: Arkham Unhinged is available online and online only so if you don’t buy it on, you just aren’t going to see anymore of the “Arkhamverse” outside of the 2 stellar Rocksteady games. Period. And that sucks. Let’s face it, Batman comics right now are basically a sea of sameness. It’s all one timeline that’s been battered around by the DC New 52 reboot where we are in a constant state of confusion as to how long Batman has operated, if Bane ever even showed up, how Barbara started walking again, etc. It’s all one universe, poorly coordinated. With Batman: Arkham Unhinged you don’t get all that baggage. You won’t be running to back issues or find yourself scouring Wikipedia for hours educating yourself about what happened or if ___ is still canon.

It’s real simple: did you play Arkham Asylum? If so, you’re good. If not, it’ll be the best $20 you ever spent, enjoy. That’s all it takes! You’re all caught up on what’s happened. Oh, and you know how Batman: The Animated Series is still the gold-standard for how Batman should be handled, well Paul Dini was the architect behind this Arkhamverse. You shouldn’t need more convincing than that.

Batman: Arkham Unhinged picks up where the prequel mini-series written by Paul Dini and Derek Fridolfs left off meaning that it’s still a prequel to the Arkham City video game which came out over a month ago. So now that most who are interested in this universe have already played through Arkham City…what reason is there to go back? Obviously, a more interesting comic would take place after the events of Arkham City, but there’s still plenty of good stuff for Fridolfs to work with. Think about all the characters from Arkham City that were underused. Now is the chance to flesh them out a bit. I can’t be the only one who was disappointed by the lack of Black Mask. He’s one of the first character trophies you get, yet he does nothing in the main story and only makes a small cameo in the beginning of the game and in the Robin DLC. What happened to Scarecrow? What were Robin and Nightwing up to that night? How about Gordon? The possibilities are numerous, but far from endless. Exactly how much time Arkham Unhinged has to tell its story before the video game begins is still in question and the series seems apprehensive about giving away important plot points in its video game counterpart. Hopefully, as the series continues author Derek Fridolf will get more freedom to include more spoilerish material from Arkham City, but for now he’s playing it safe.

The Actual Review

When it comes to reviewing a digital comic I have no standard to go by. It costs a dollar and it’s only around 10 pages long. So rather than going by a 1-10 scale I’m going to make any digital comic review plain and simple: it’s either “Worth a Buck” or it’s not and in that case I’ll recommend something else that is worth a dollar.
Chapter 1: Inside Job is a comic that features Selina Kyle changing into her Catwoman outfit while watching the news. An exposition heavy newscast that introduces Mayor Quincy Sharp and Dr. Hugo Strange while reminding us what Arkham City is. We learn that Two-Face and Catwoman are the only real super-villains still at large and Hugo Strange is dead-set on catching them. Catwoman doesn’t like this too much so she makes a cheeky remark with her numerous cats as her only audience and then turns the TV off…with her whip. The good news is that this issue and the series improves in quality after that bit of silliness and Two-Face calls up Catwoman. Look at this shot:

Pretty cool, huh? I found this to be the moment that Arkham Unhinged truly begins. Every panel leading up to the Two-Face reveal was nothing but plain backgrounds and boring exposition with a ridiculous whip cracked TV on/switch finale. As soon as Two-Face shows his ugly mug the door bursts in and we get wonderful fight scene between Catwoman and some Tyger guards. But…I spoke a little too soon. We get a shot of what Selina’s bedroom looks like and there’s knock-off Hello Kitty stuff everywhere and slippers and it just doesn’t feel like the sort of place Selina would sleep. At all. It’s just goofy. Oh and for anyone complaining about how Catwoman’s boobs were always hanging out (you are the minority, by the way) and that there’s be no way for her to fight like that, you’ll be pleased to know that when the Arkham Unhinged Catwoman gets in a fight she zips up.

Much like the first issue of Catwoman’s own comic, she gets run out of her apartment by thugs. Nothing we haven’t seen before. Hugo orders that they take Catwoman’s belongings from her vault and wait for her to come to them. The end. Not much, but you have to admit that they managed to squeeze quite a bit of content into just 10 pages. It’s just a shame that half of that was devoted toward explaining something that the folks who are interested in buying this comic already know by heart. It’s a weak debut issue, but don’t let that discourage you. This is the weakest Arkham Unhinged issue and even it’s not that bad when compared with some comics on shelves for 4 times as much. Honestly, though, the first 3 issues of Arkham Unhinged can be skipped. The real fun starts at issue #4 and that new arc.

Worth a Buck?

No. Go download a song instead. Legally.