New series writer Karen Traviss provides the video game inspired comic with an all new voice and a new direction.
This is a very different Arkham Unhinged than you’re used to and I’d say it’s definitely something worth checking out if you’re a fan of police procedural and enjoy a slow burn. Issue #16 is very, very slow. Not really bad slow, but the emphasis is definitely on the words rather than the artwork. It’s a plot-driven narrative revolving around a new rogue who comes to Gotham soon after construction of Arkham City begins (this is a prequel comic after all).
The villain’s name is “Bookbinder” and he/she is an awful lot like the latest incarnation of Prankster from the Nightwing series. Like Prankster and the villain from the SAW movies, the Bookbinder has a perverted sense of justice only instead of hunting down criminals or individuals who don’t appreciate life, the Bookbinder is after the ignorant and annoying. At first I thought that Bookbinder would be a bit more like Anarchy because there was so much discussion in the book’s opening pages about social structure and really interesting discussion on displacement. Until now there hasn’t been any focus on how the creation of Arkham City impacted the rest of Gotham in that all of the former inhabitants of the slums get displaced and much of that crime gets pushed deeper into the city. No, instead Bookbinder wants to kidnap and torture a “Gotham’s Got Talent” sort of judge.
Whereas former writer Derek Fridolfs used as much of the rogues gallery as possible and often told stories that took place within the video game’s time-frame in short one-and-done adventures, Traviss is telling extra long stories (this is only part 1), making her own baddies (except for Calender Man, who makes a brief appearance), and hardly even focusing on Batman. In fact, most of our time is spent watching Gordon and a fully functioning Gotham Police Department scramble to find ways of dealing with the displaced Gothamites and Bookbinder’s clues.
It’s an interesting setup but there was never a “wow” moment. Since I read Nightwing regularly, the Prankster-like villain’s activity all felt much too familiar and the complete lack of action will likely bore the series’ usual fans to tears, but it’s definitely a smarter book with better dialogue to boot. It just needs to pick up the pace a little bit.
As for the artwork, Riccardo Burchielli has his moments. The environments, the perspectives used in all of the panels, and Batman (there’s a shot of Batman clutching a thug’s throat that was very cool looking) and Gordon all look terrific, but the average people could use better eyes. Everyone seems to be wearing the same French Stewart (well, his character from 3rd Rock from the Sun, which also starred Joseph Gordon Levitt from TDKR– it’s all connected! I just thought I should clarify that since I went to Google Image and there were all these pics of a wide eyed Stewart. I almost didn’t recognize him with open eyes.) expression on their face.
I say flip through it at the comic shop. You’ll know by page 3 or 4 if it’s for you. The new writer’s style is completely different from Derek Fridolf’s so if you’re up for something much slower that doesn’t use the usual rogues gallery then this is worth checking out. For me, I think it has a lot of potential, but until I see what awaits in part 2 I’m not so sure that this richly written but snail-paced issue was fully worth $3.99.