Batman: Arkham Unhinged #17 review

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New series writer Karen Traviss is delivering a bigger Arkham story than we’re used to seeing and giving Gordon some much deserved attention, but does is that enough to make a prequel to a 2 year old video game worth your $3.99?

Last month saw the start of a new arc based around the idea of Gotham’s citizens who were displaced in order for Arkham City to be built. It’s definitely one of the best questions that a prequel series like this could answer, but I must admit that writer Karen Traviss is taking too long to answer it and things could be a bit more fun. She’s delivering better dialogue and a sharper story but we won’t see an ending to the Bookbinder arc until next month. In fact, that new villain barely makes an appearance at all in this issue and the majority of the story is centered around Gotham protests, which admittedly should be much larger than this.

Traviss is showing us just how difficult it would be to move that many people out of their homes and how much of a stranglehold Mayor Sharp would have to take on the city in order to achieve these goals. However, I think she’s failing to illustrate just how furious this would make a city and, most of all, Batman. Here we see normal citizens getting arrested for committing no crime at all and tossed into Arkham City without any trial whatsoever. That’s a pretty horrifying scenario and I don’t think it’s being played to its full potential. Gordon and Batman are clearly upset by all of this, but they aren’t angry enough.

So while the plot has its moments, I do wish it had been pushed much further. However, the thing about this issue that pleases me the most is the use of Jim Gordon and the fact that Traviss is paying any attention to the inner workings of Gotham politics at all. Something that’s always bugged me about many Batman comics is that Jim Gordon hardly ever acts like a police commissioner. He’s always portrayed like any other detective only he’s the guy who gets to hold the megaphone and flip the light switch on the bat signal. Traviss not only addresses why Gordon is so hands-on, but she gives us scenes that properly show how much extra responsibility Gordon has to take on with such a position. We see him holding conferences with his police department, meeting one-on-one with the mayor, visiting the morgue to perform his own investigation, and he bemoans the fact that he needs to go to so many committee meetings in addition to everything else. She makes it evident that Gordon is swamped all the time. He’s not just waiting for a case to come to his desk just so he can pass the buck to the Dark Knight. He’s trying just as hard as Batman is to keep this city from falling apart.

While I enjoyed all of these more political moments, it’s definitely a change in tone from what we have been reading in Arkham Unhinged. Until now, it’s been mostly an action comic that kids could pick up and see Batman fighting a classic rogue in every issue but what Traviss brings to the table is missing most of the mythology’s sexier aspects. There aren’t any colorful bad guys (except the Penguin I guess who shows up on page 1 and that’s it), there’s very little Batman at all, it’s plot and dialogue driven rather than depending on the visuals, and there’s not much action to speak of.

Sure, Batman gets in a scrap with some street thugs but it’ll hardly put you on the edge of your seat and I must admit that I find Batman’s voice to be off. He had way too many wise-cracks during his nightly patrol and I found him to sound more like the Dick Grayson version of Batman than Bruce.

Still, it’s a much stronger comic than what it has been for the past year or so and the artwork by Christian Duce is also much improved. There’s no page that you’ll marvel over or want to save as your desktop background or anything (most of the comic is made up of old men sitting behind desks), but it’s good, consistent work that captures the look and feel of the Arkham City world and its characters.

Overall

It’s getting better, but not enough that I recommend you spend $4 bucks on it. Most of the story is Also, unlike every other Arkham Unhinged storyline before it, you can’t really enjoy this issue without reading last month’s installment and even then you’ll need to wait until next month to get the finale.

SCORE: 6.5/10

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