When Karen Traviss initially took over Arkham Unhinged I was intrigued. She was shaping a smarter story and a more fully-realized Gotham City. She was even approaching the concept of Arkham City from a new angle– that of the average Gothamite who was been displaced by the construction of the super prison. She dug deep into the legality of such an event and took us inside various city council meetings and on the streets with the folks being affected. It wasn’t all that fun or action-packed, but it was thought provoking and it felt fresh since Gotham’s institutions are never given much attention at all in any other ongoing series. But then she started to move the story further and further away from the video game by featuring a brand new villain, The Bookbinder, who thought himself an avenger by attacking a corrupt Gotham food industry and the host of Gotham’s most popular and most mind-numbing reality TV show. It felt like something that belonged in Legends of the Dark Knight rather than as a prequel/tie-in to the Arkham games. And then the really awful thing happened that ruined the arc’s every chance of being good– it didn’t end.
This is the 4th of 5 parts! There’s no reason for this story to drag on this long. And while I appreciated the little glimpses into Gotham’s government, I’m here to read a Batman comic first and foremost and there’s nothing at all fun to be found in issue #19. At first it looked as though we were going to bring elements of Arkham City back into play what with Catwoman, Penguin, and Calendar Man all making brief appearances, but they did nothing and their scenes added zero to the overall plot. In fact, not much of anything in this issue contributed to the larger story being told.
While it’s great to see Batman and Gordon facing a case that’s a real challenge to solve (the Bookbinder’s identity) and actually watch the two of them do some detective work we’re missing some very important ingredients: a villain/threat that’s engaging and a sense of forward momentum. I’ve seen Batman and Gordon struggle to put the pieces together for 3 issues straight now and to watch them totally spin their wheels and get nowhere in this issue? I’m done. This no longer feels like a story, it feels like we’re stalling for time. It’s as if someone had their heart set on ending the series with 20 issues so they stretched the last tale out as far as possible.
The book’s saving grace is Alfred. The moments shared between Bruce and Alfred in the cave were the only source of what could be called entertainment in the issue. I particularly liked Bruce’s pensive moment where he thought to himself while frustrated over the Bookbinder case, “Maybe I’m so used to dealing with insane criminals that I can’t think like a rational one.”
When it comes to the artwork, I found Tony Shasteen to be rather inconsistent. Faces often had a strange quality to them or looked downright bad such as one panel of a detective climbing underneath some crime scene tape. The derp-face was quite strong in that page. So no, unfortunately the artwork wasn’t even able to elevate the quality of this issue.
This is forgettable and completely skippable. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already bought issues 1-3 of this storyline, just cut your losses.
- You desperately want to see this Bookbinder arc through to the end
- You’re just looking to complete your collection of Arkham Unhinged books
- You want to see one of the dullest final pages in any comic this year
There are a couple of good lines here or there, but in the end almost nothing happened in this issue. It’s boring. The Bookbinder storyline AND the Arkham Unhinged series has dragged on too long. It’s well past time to end all of this and thankfully next month’s issue will be the series’ last.