Of the 21 issues from the Arkham Unhinged series there was only one that really mattered and it’s included in this collection.
I can’t for the life of me see why this series has gotten such beautiful hardcovers, but DC did again with volume 3. Pull away the dust jacket and you’ll find this glossy image:
Batman: Arkham Unhinged features issues #11-15 (#29-43 if you follow the digital numbering) plus the special “Batman–Arkham City: End Game” comic and surprisingly it’s only $2 more than the previous two volumes despite End Game originally going on sale for $7 bucks.
There is no over-arcing story to be found here, instead the writer, Derek Fridolfs, used each issue to write a stand alone tale within the Arkham City universe. Volume 3 starts out rather strong with “Clown Court,” a story that has Harvey Dent putting Joker on trial before all the inmates of Arkham City. It’s beautifully illustrated by Mico Suayan, who did all of those phenomenal Red Hood and The Outlaws covers in 2013 and there are some funny moments here and there, but ultimately the fun concept runs out of time and wraps up in a rather unsatisfying way.
We follow that villain-centric short story with one that focuses on the origins of a hero who many gamers were unfamiliar, Azrael, who I’m sure many gamers were unfamiliar with when they played Arkham City. His backstory had to be abbreviated in order to fit a 20 page comic, but Fridolfs does a decent job of hitting all the highlights so readers will gain a better understanding of Michale Lane by the time their through, even if it won’t do you much good seeing as how Lane has only ever had one appearance in comics in the past 3 years. The artwork by Injustice: Gods Among Us’ Jheremy Raapack is a fine recreation of the game’s unique atmosphere.
Next up is a Black Mask story that’s nicely illustrated by Eric Nguyen, who delivers a few panels that even reminded me of the work of Jock. Since Black Mask was more of an Easter Egg for comic fans to find than a worthwhile supporting character in the video game, it was great to see Fridolfs flesh the character out some. Here you’ll get some back story behind the Robin DLC that featured the side-scrolling train combat. This is the sort of material I liked to see most from the Arkham Unhinged series, but it’s few and far between.
Issue #14, “Beloved,” is a retelling of Bruce and Talia’s first meeting and it’s not much different from what happened in the original comic continuity, the New 52, or Batman: The Animated Series so even though it’s fairly well put-together, it’s also quite redundant to well-versed Bat-fans.
Finally, the regular issues in this collection wrap up on an unfortuante note with “Uninvited Guests,” which sounds like an amazing idea for a short story in this universe, but ultimately disappoints. Hard. The idea of watching Nightwing and Robin fend off Tyger Guards from breaking into Wayne Manor and the Batcave would be a blast, but the first half of the comic is devoted to Hugo Strange alone and the other half of the comic features poorly drawn action scenes and an overuse of one-liners. There’s no gravity to the situation whatsoever and if the action isn’t fun either then there just isn’t much of value to be found.
End Game, which rounds out this hardcover, is not another prequel or retread of missions from the game itself, Arkham End Game actually serves as an epilogue to the Arkham City video game. If you haven’t beaten Arkham City, you’ll want to do that first. In fact, if you haven’t beaten the game, you should stop reading this review right now. End Game is about, as the dust jacket states, “The Joker’s Final Fate.” Joker may be dead, but his body remains and Batman and Jim Gordon are scrambling to figure out what they should do with it. Harley Quinn wants her Puddin’ back and she’s put a bounty on him. Whoever can bring the body to her will get a 100 million dollars, and as you can imagine that brings out the worst kind of people! It’s a fantastic idea, but 1/3 of the comic isn’t devoted to it. Instead we get a brief episode of what things were like between Joker and Batman back in the early days, which is unnecessary since we have 75 years worth of other comics featuring that sort of thing. I would’ve preferred it if Fridolfs had stayed on task and given a pure epilogue. Still, it’s far and away the most important issue of Unhinged, despite the artist failing to capture the look of the game, and, as I said, it’s the one issue that really matters.
Full reviews of each individual issue in this graphic novel can be found at the following links:
- Arkham Unhinged #11
- Arkham Unhinged #12
- Arkham Unhinged #13
- Arkham Unhinged #14
- Arkham Unhinged #15
- Arkham End Game
Value: Sale Price
Volume 3 costs $25 bucks, but honestly it’s just not worth that much. Maybe $10? I could recommend it for $10. Really, the Arkham City: End Game story is the only story that’s definitely worth an Arkham City fan’s time and would be worth re-reading. You might even be able to find a copy of that particular issue for cheap on eBay or in the back of your local comic shop. I know that my local comic shop has a bi-annual 25-cent sale and I saw a whole longbox full of leftover copies of Arkham City: End Game.
This is not only the least disappointing volume you’ll find from the Batman: Arkham Unhinged series, but it features one story that fans of the Arkham City video game might even find themselves re-reading again some day. It’s not worth the full $24.99 cover price by a long-shot and the other comics in this collection vary in quality, but if you simply must give Arkham Unhinged a try, this hardcover offers the best experience. I can tell you right here and now that Volume 4 should be avoided entirely.