Batman: Arkham City: End Game #1 review

Yes, this is a one-shot. If you buy it you won’t have to worry about picking up any more. If you’re played the video games you’ll be right at home here and enjoy a single story with a beginning, middle, and end. And yes, the comic is $6.99.

Now to the important business: is it a good comic and is it worth you paying $6.99 to read it? $6.99 is awfully expensive for a comic and the ongoing Arkham Unhinged series written by the same author hasn’t been a very dependable title. However, this book gives writer Derek Fridolfs more room to breathe. In Arkham Unhinged, a prequel to Arkham City, his writing feels restricted. Many of the characters are off limits because using them would contradict the events of the proceeding video game. Here, that’s not quite the case. Now the writer is free of the prequel cage and free to show us what happens after the events of the Arkham City video game. It’s a blank canvas. However, even though he’s out of the cage he’s still on a bit of a leash. He can’t do too much with these characters because let’s face it, the Arkham games have been a major success and they’ll want to make another one without having to rely on the continuity of the comics. So he can take more chances than he did with Arkham Unhinged, but he can’t go too far off course. What we get is a really cool…well, first off let me say that if you haven’t played the video game Arkham City you shouldn’t read this comic and you definitely shouldn’t finish this review because I’m going to go into video game spoilers. Big ones. Really, really big ones.

So, as those of you who have played the game know, the Joker dies at the end and it was all very shocking. The very first page of this book is the Joker’s dead body. It wastes no time showing us what happened at the end of the game, it expects that if you’re here you know. Turns out Joker had some sort of intricate plot planned so that he can cause havoc from beyond the grave. Think Jigsaw from the SAW movies, it’s that sort of thing. Also, much like the Joker’s severed face in the New 52 comics, the GCPD is worried about the Joker’s remains being stolen or, if the Joker is really dead, for him to be treated as a martyr of some kind. So to cause a bit of mayhem, Joker’s lackeys broadcast a tape to the masses detailing that whoever finds Joker’s body and brings it to Harley Quinn will be rewarded with 100 million dollars. It’s a sweet prize so everybody in Gotham goes nuts checking every morgue, hospital, and graveyard in town. It plays out in a pretty exciting way, but if you think about it, I don’t think Gothamites would try to find Joker’s body. Folks should know the Joker at this point. They know that this isn’t going to end well for whoever finds the body. In cases like Nolan’s The Dark Knight, the people were motivated out of fear or in Burton’s Batman, people show up for the parade because they don’t know the Joker yet. Here, they all know perfectly well that he’s a mass murderer.

As I said before with the leash thing, Fridolfs apparently can’t go too far with this post-video game story and instead uses 1/3 the book to tell a flashback story about one of Batman and Joker’s first encounters. It’s alright, but it’s not what I’m paying a premium price to read.

The artwork is good, but it doesn’t fit the material. When you buy a book intended to be an epilogue to Arkham City you expect it to actually look like Arkham City. Jason Shawn Alexander draws a very detailed, gritty Gotham and an extremely creepy Joker. It reminded me of the work of Jock on some pages. His Batman didn’t look very good though and that was a shame. He took a chance on the no-lenses look for the cowl without any of the black make-up on the eyes you see in the movies and it didn’t pay off. Seeing Batman with such giant eye-holes in his mask exposing his face doesn’t look very imposing. Lee Loughridge’s colors blend perfectly with Alexander’s style to give this book a very dark and disturbing tone that really leaves you with a bleak feeling when the story concludes.

This was a good read and made a damn fine epilogue to the Arkham City video game. However, those who haven’t played the game should steer clear of this, as it is something that only the initiated will enjoy. Another great detriment to this book is its  $7 dollar price tag which, even though I enjoyed the book, still feels way too steep for what I hold in my hands. Way too steep. And surprisingly, at 64 pages it still felt like the story was cut short. So…this is a tough one to review. I think fans of the game should totally read this but I also think it’s over priced and needed a better ending.

SCORE: 7.5/10