For a little over a year now the series Arkham Unhinged has been going up online as a digital first and then collected in print copies that show up in stores a few months later. The story of Arkham Unhinged is based on the Arkhamverse, the Batman universe created by Paul Dini and Rocksteady Studios, particularly the days leading up to the first chapter of the Arkham City video game. It’s a prequel.
I was really surprised to learn that Arkham Unhinged was getting the hardcover treatment, but man is it pretty! Not only is it a nice looking dust jacket, but if you pull that thing off you’ll find something even more appealing.
The Batman in the front, Joker in the back design looks amazing. It seems a shame to cover it up.
Volume 1 collects printed issues 1-5, which is really 7 stand-alone stories. Most of these tales are written by Derek Fridolfs with a few collaborators including the great Paul Dini. The artwork is handled by a different artist on each story with Juan Ryp being the standout illustrator of the bunch. Story #1 focuses on Two-Face and Catwoman but is a really underwhelming story with lackluster art.
The second tale is easily the best. This one centers around Gordon and actually does add a little something to the Arkhamverse because Gordon was noticeably missing for most of the second video game. I actually gave this comic a 9/10 when it was originally published and of all the stories to come from this series so far this is still ranks as the best in my opinion.
The third story has artwork that ignores the style of the video game and a story that makes the Joker/Penguin rivalry detailed in the video game’s hidden tapes a far less compelling conflict. Penguin in particular looks nothing like himself but there are some pretty gruesome and surprising Joker moments here for you to enjoy.
The following three short stories are over in a flash. One is rather clever because it takes the Legends of the Dark Knight premise from Batman: Animated Series and uses it as a means of explaining the various playable skins in the the Arkham games. Stories about Scarface and Mr. Freeze on the other hand fall flat.
Rounding out the book is an origin story for the Abramovici Twins. You’ll know them as the hammer and sickle brothers who worked for Joker and Penguin. It’s a pretty boring story but the artwork by Juan Ryp is fantastic and well worth checking out. He really did a nice job of capturing the look and feel of the games. Overall though, there really isn’t much that I personally would ever come back and re-read again someday.
The only bonus material that comes with this book is an Xbox 360 code for 5 downloadable Arkham City playable skins. These include the 1970;s Batsuit, Animated Series Batman, Earth One Batsuit, The Dark Knight Returns Batman, and the Batman: Year One Batsuit. The Batman Beyond and Sinestro Corps skins are not included oddly enough, but all 7 suits can be downloaded on the X-box marketplace for 400 points. From what I can tell these suits can’t be purchased individually so it’s pretty lame that they would leave these final 2 skins out of the free bundle included with this book. PS3 and Wii owners will find nothing of use here.
$22.99 seems kind of steep even with the downloadable content code and the stylish hardcover. It’s just not a good enough read to warrant paying full price. One of the advantages of buying a graphic novel is that it’s usually cheaper than buying the single issues and that’s not the case here. These five issues would’ve been $3.00 a comic. Amazon is offering it for $13.75 which seems more reasonable but even at that price I have to say that there are other books in that same price range that would give you far more bang for your buck. This is something that will only appeal to real die-hard fans of the video game who feel the need to collect everything.
It’s has a really good looking hardcover presentation and there’s some good artwork inside but you really only get a couple of stories that are worth reading. The code for playable skins is a great added incentive for Xbox gamers, but it’s worthless to everyone else. If you’re an Xbox owner who hasn’t downloaded these skins yet and has been curious about this series then I suppose it might be worth the Amazon price but anyone else can skip it. Nothing here enhances the story of the Arkham City video game in any profound way.