Batman: Arkham Unhinged, Vol. 2 review

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Arkham Unhinged is a series that’s meant to fill in the gaps between the video games Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. It’s written by Derek Fridolfs (Justice League Unlimited, Li’l Gotham) and features a new artist with every issue including such talented individuals as Darick Robertson, Jorge Jimenez, and Peter Nguyen.

Content

Volume 2 of Arkham Unhinged suffers from many of the same problems as the first volume and much like volume 1 it only features one really terrific story that’s truly memorable. Issues #6-10 are bound together here in an attractive hardcover that, when you remove the dust jacket looks like this:

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Which I think is pretty cool.

There’s no overarching story to be found in this series (at least not until Fridolfs left the title in its final issues), instead each installment stands on its own as a brief, untold tale of Arkham City. Here’s what each chapter is about and what I thought of it:

Theatre of Violence

Robin disguises himself as an inmate so he can investigate a fight club inside Arkham City’s walls. The story also features Bane and Solomon Grundy slugging it out, but ultimately nothing at all happens in this story and besides the artwork it felt like a waste of time. What’s most disappointing is Robin’s squandered potential because if any character deserves to have some stories told about him in this universe it’s the criminally under-utilized Tim Drake.

Arkham City Sirens

A Catwoman, Harley, and Ivy short that isn’t so much an “untold tale” of how Arkham City came to be as it is a story that completely contradicted the events that happened in the actual video game. Arkham City Sirens completely ignores the plot of the game at this particular point in time (when the helicopters should be raining hell down on the super-prison and Batman is in a race against the clock). The artwork also wasn’t very good since the character faces were inconsistent and all of the female characters were overly sexualized. I suppose if you really like drawings of big boobs then this chapter would be entertaining, but as much as I like boobs I was too aggravated by how nothing here fit into the video game’s storyline.

Crocodile Tears

This was alright. It has a rather clunky narrative structure and Fridolfs failed to capture the voice of the video game’s Killer Croc, but the actual story being told here is entertaining. What’s presented is the Arkhamverse origin of Killer Croc and Fridolfs did a fine job of combining elements from the video game and Batman: The Animated Series and it really felt like he had a good story to tell here, but it comes off as being a bit rushed. The first 1/3 of the chapter is wasted on anecdotes about henchmen and the Ratcatcher when those pages could’ve been spent elaborating on the past of Waylon Jones AKA Killer Croc. Still, it’s really well drawn and remains one of the better comics in the entire Arkham Unhinged series.

Vicki in Wonderland

Here is another story that doesn’t jive with the video game’s timeline. It’s not a prequel at all, but instead contradicts events much the way that Arkham City Sirens did. Even worse, it cheapens your achievements as Batman. In the game you overcome the hallucinations and destroy Tetch’s hat thus rendering him impotent. Batman doesn’t even bother handcuffing Tetch because he knows there is absolutely nothing else the psycho can do without his gadgets. However, Fridolfs tries to show that Tetch just dusted himself off and did everything all over again. What we get with Vicki in Wonderland is a story that repeats the same narrative beats as the game or outright contradicts them.

Operation: Kill Joker

Deadshot’s story is what I wish every chapter of this series was like. Operation: Kill Joker has some great surprises, a lot of references to events in the game, and it enhances the existing Arkham City story rather than contradict it. I actually recommend that everybody who loved the game check this one out. It and issue #2 from the first volume, a Gordon story, have been the very best examples of what Arkham Unhinged should have and could have been. This tale of Deadshot’s origin and Penguin and Joker’s rivalry ends the graphic novel with a bang.

Value:   Dirt Cheap

The Deadshot and Killer Croc stories might be worth revisiting again just because they are good character-driven shorts, but none of the other episodes included in this book add much to the Arkham City story so I must say it’s a pretty low re-read value for a $23 dollar book. You would have to be a really big Arkham City fan for this to be worth full price. Wait for it to be clearanced significantly or, better yet, just head on over to comixology and download the Deadshot and Killer Croc issues.

Bonus Material

None. I was really surprised by this since it’s the same price as the previous volume which came with a code for free XBOX 360 DLC. I’m really disappointed in the complete lack of supplemental material here.

Overall

There’s some really nice artwork on display here but I only found 2 or 3 of the stories entertaining and only 2 of those would be worth a re-read in the future. It’s also upsetting to see this book offered for the same price as the previous volume which actually came with free downloadable content for the game as an extra incentive.

SCORE: 4.5/10

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