I’m feeling rather tuckered out after writing the massive 6,700 word The Dark Knight Returns review and today’s Batman #17 so expect for the rest of today’s reviews to be pretty short and to the point because this guy needs a break from Batman.
Batman: Arkham Unhinged continues to improve in quality with issue #11 but not enough to make it a need-to-buy comic. The story surrounding Joker being put on trial by Two-Face before a jury of his peers is a really fun concept but it never reached it’s full potential. It’s an idea we’ve seen before in the Batman universe. First it was the classic Batman: The Animated Series episode “Trial” in which Joker was the judge and Batman was the defendant. Another one that’s fresh in my memory was in the recently reviewed No Man’s Land, Volume 4 which featured Two-Face as the judge and prosecuting attorney in a trial of The People vs. Commissioner Gordon. Both of those stories were given a fair amount of time to do what needed to be done, but after the perfectly paced setup of Unhinged #11 the book sprinted toward the finale.
The recognizable rogues who take the witness stand are only given a single panel to say a few lines and then we cut to another one. In those vignettes the entire point of “Is Joker responsible for Arkham City?” is lost because all the villains do is deliver a one-liner about how much they hate the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s mildly amusing, but not as captivating as keeping with the established theme. The trials in those other stories I mentioned were more enthralling because it wasn’t so clear cut that Gordon was or wasn’t at fault for some of the misery in No Man’s Land or that Batman hadn’t indeed made Gotham a worse place. Man… just talking about that episode makes me want to watch it again.
As I said, the setup for the trial is perfect. Lots of suspense as to what could possibly come next. But the trial is over almost as soon as it begins and then we have an uninteresting fight scene and ending that leaves all the bad guys right back where they once were. It is a prequel to the games after all so it would be odd to have Batman defeat any of them. However, since it’s a prequel it was also very odd to have Batman and Joker spend so much time together in the latter half of the book. It takes away the poignancy of their first confrontation in the video game.
The real highlight of the book is the artwork by Mico Suayan. Seeing these pages has me incredibly excited for what he has in store for his upcoming run on Red Hood & the Outlaws with James Tynion! This is easily the best artwork I have seen in all 11 issues of Arkham Unhinged. Nobody has captured the look and feel of the video game in such detail before. Nobody. Mico really did his homework or he’s a big fan of the video game. Either way, he knocked it out of the park and issue #11 is gorgeous. The only problem I had was with one page in which every villain on the jury is represented by an extreme close-up in their own individual panel. Poison Ivy’s was a close-up of her leaf-covered crotch and I found that to be gratuitous.
We also get to see the first appearance of The Ventriloquist in the Arkhamverse and Black Mask gets some more facetime than he did in the video game or the DLC. Lettering for Two-Face was done nicely with Harvey’s lines being clean in a perfectly smooth bubble followed by the distorted, demonic looking text that came from Two-Face’s mouth.
I would imagine many of you have already had your fill of the Joker for a good long while what with Death of the Family wrapping up today, but even though this issue is centered around the Joker, he’s not exactly the star. It’s the supporting characters that steal the show. There are some funny moments and the artwork is the very best that this series has ever had, but overall it’s not a re-readable issue. It tries to do what The Animated Series and No Man’s Land did, but it’s as if writer Derek Fridolfs either didn’t have enough time to do it or had no idea where to go with the concept once he got started. But man! That artwork is great. I feel bad for giving it a 6 because I liked the look of the book so much, but really it’s not a must-buy. It’s something you’ll want to flip through at the store before making your decision on whether or not it’s worth it to you.