Here we are at chapter 3 of Karen Traviss’ Bookbinder saga, an arc that will close out the Arkham Unhinged series in November. If you didn’t like what you read in issues #17 or #18 then you won’t like what’s here or anything else left to come from this title and if you haven’t read #17 or #18 then you’ll definitely want to read those beforehand because this won’t be too friendly to new readers.
Issue #18 continues the slow burn and office politics we’ve seen in the previous two installments, but with maybe even less action than we’ve had before as all attention is turned toward contamination in Gotham’s food industry and the uproar that that causes among its citizens and businesses (not exactly a pitch that’ll get the kids excited, is it?). The concept of Arkham City’s construction disrupting the natural order by displacing countless underprivileged citizens is still discussed, but Batman himself often feels like an afterthought and when he is briefly featured in the comic his voice never sounds quite right. I mean, he calls a guy with a baseball bat “Sir.” at one point. I don’t think he’s ever even called Gordon “Sir.” And the gang he confronts shows no signs of fear toward Batman whatsoever and that definitely bugged me SHOW SPOILER ▼. But while it’s not so great at offering up the usual thrills that come with the Caped Crusader it does build an interesting mystery regarding our villain The Bookbinder and what exactly he has planned. It’s interesting watching Gordon, Bruce, Alfred (he has a good-sized role here), and the citizens of Gotham scramble to piece together the puzzle Bookbinder left behind at the conclusion of last month’s issue. It has something to do with food, but other than that the good guys are at a complete loss.
One of the greatest strengths of Traviss’ writing is that she makes Gotham feel alive. She never shies away from showing us exactly what everyone is up to. Crimes don’t merely affect Batman and the victims, she takes us deep inside of the GCPD to see how the cops react, into City Hall to see how the villain has disrupted politics and commerce, and she shows us the very streets of Gotham where its people actually have a voice and lives of their own that are impacted by these terrible events. If only she could find a balance between her believable portrayal of Gotham and a masked avenger and the fun and excitement that comes with it, well we’d have a pretty terrific book on our hands. But with all the emphasis being placed on gritty realism we’re coming up short in the imagination department.
Federico Dallocchio takes over art duties with this issue and I found him to be a really nice fit for the material. He serves up a terrific level of detail and is a big part of why Traviss’ Gotham feels so very much alive. He never shies away from making every character, car, and building look as distinctive as possible and he came up with some clever camera angles as well. And while there isn’t very much action, Federico did a fine job of making panel after panel of Gothamites munching fast food look as interesting as possible. However, I would have liked to have seen a more Arkhamverse-style Batmobile drawn instead of resorting to the 1989 Tim Burton Batmobile (even though that one is my favorite, sorry Tumbler. You’re super cool, Tumbler, but you’re ugly– and WAY smaller in real life than you looked in the movies, what’s up with that?).
- You like a slow burn
- You value detective work above action
- You want to see a believable, functioning Gotham City
- You’ve been following this story since it started in issue #16
- You’re an older reader, preferably one who has seen and enjoyed “The Wire.” This is a comic that will bore kids to tears
It’s being drawn out much too long and fails to capture the tone of the Arkhamverse, but it is still smartly written written and well-drawn. I just wish it felt more like a Batman story and felt more like something a reader who loved Arkham City would actually gravitate toward, otherwise this should have been a Legends of the Dark Knight piece. You’ll want to start reading from issue #16 before jumping right into this one.