Here we have a Mad Hatter story that takes place within the Arkham City video game’s timeline. It isn’t a prequel. It also doesn’t jive with the events of Arkham City very well and that’s a big problem I have whenever this series tries to slip in tales that coincide with the game rather than predate it. In the video game, you– you’re Batman– YOU struggle through hallucinations, free yourself of his hypnosis, defeat his zombies, and destroy the hat Tetch. By destroying the hat you have rendered the Mad Hatter impotent. Batman doesn’t even bother chaining the lunatic up because he knows, you know, that no further harm can be caused. In this comic we see that the Mad Hatter dusted himself off, found some more mind altering chemicals stashed who-knows-where, hired new henchmen, and began kidnapping women. This whole thing, to me, cheapens my achievements as Batman in the video game. It makes me feel like I was a shitty Batman. I had infinite rope, why didn’t I tie this guy up?
And what does this add to the story of Arkham City? Nothing. It simply replays the same events again. Batman gets drugged, he fights through hallucinations, beats up the zombies, and with all the hallucinogens used up it’s shown that Mad Hatter now has nowhere to go and now way to survive in Arkham City on his own. It’s pointless. This exact same point came across clearly the first time Batman beat him in the video game. And how did Mad Hatter amass so many henchmen so soon? All of the Alice in Wonderland themed baddies from Detective Comics #841 make an appearance in this issue even though they were never referenced in the Arkham City video games as being residents of the prison. Why wouldn’t he have been allied with them from the beginning? How on earth did he ever manage to capture Catwoman or Poison Ivy? Those feats alone are greater than most of the acts committed by any villain in the game.
As for Mad Hatter’s characterization. Look, Mad Hatter is the sort of guy who talks to himself, sings to himself. He gets lost in a world of imagination. So I don’t understand why there are so many narrative thought boxes in this issue when we could’ve just had Jervis deliver a rich soliloquy instead. The artist, Peter Nguyen, even drew Jervis gesturing dramatically as his inner monologue played over the panels. This is kind of an odd complaint to have but for some reason it stuck out like a sore thumb to me. I really like the Mad Hatter for his overly dramatic side and author Derek Fridolfs seems to have captured that voice but to not have the character speak these words aloud strips him of one of the characteristics that makes him so outlandish.
It’s a better book than many of the previous installments if you look at it as a book all on its own, but that’s not what this series is, is it? It’s a companion piece to the greater works of the Arkham video games and it needs to respect the canon of that universe more. When it comes to Arkham Unhinged there are two very important questions I have to ask before I give it a score: Did the book entertain? Mildly. And does it enhance the Arkham City mythology? No. The things that happened here either repeated the same beats that happened in the game itself or they felt implausible given the game’s timeline. It’s an alright read for kids but older readers would be better off spending their money on any of the other 5 or so Batman titles that came out today.