There comes a time when you have to wonder who operates Arkham Asylum more often: the inmates or the staff?

Part 2 of “Gothtopia” begins with a sizeable portion of recap for those who didn’t pick up the pricey Detective Comics #27 75th Anniversary Special, but really I think everyone picked that one up, didn’t they? Batman has been locked away in Arkham after realizing that the perfect world around him is nothing more than a drug-induced hallucination created by The Scarecrow. The inmates run the asylum once again and Batman will have to escape imprisonment if he wants to stand a chance at putting an end to this madness. The problem is that he only has a few hours left. The other doctors advising Crane, Mr. Freeze, Merrymaker, Harley Quinn, and Professory Pyg, are all suggesting “treatments” that would destroy Batman’s mind or even kill him.

I was really excited for this issue, but my enjoyment hinged on there being a good excuse for how every citizen in Gotham was seeing the same thing AND how the outside world wasn’t aware that Gotham had gone totally bonkers. The reason given in Part 2 failed to satisfy and on both accounts. It’s really nothing more than another city-wide gassing only this time the gas makes everyone think happy thoughts. How does that end up with Selina Kyle imagining herself as “Catbird” and living with Bruce and Alfred? And how does that explain why the rest of the world hasn’t intervened? It’s not like Gotham is totally closed off from the rest of the world. All it takes is one citizen’s phone call from grandma to draw attention to the situation and the whole thing falls apart.

Grandma
Hi darling, whatcha doing?
Granddaughter
Oh nothing, Nanna! Just enjoying a delicious Joker Brand ice cream and watching the parade for Batman and Catbird
Grandma
The **** did you just say?

See what I mean? The whole scenario writer John Layman created for this arc doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny. But if you can ignore all that– it’s a fun thought. And the alternate “Gothtopia” world that he created is definitely different than any other fake Gotham we’ve seen before. But now that part 2 is segwaying into the usual Batman escapes an Arkham controlled by the inmates story that we’ve seen multiple times before? Well, that bit is a lot more familiar.

The supporting cast is large, as you can imagine. There are cameos by a wide variety of Bat-villains, but some aren’t characterized properly. It seems like nobody but Morrison himself can give Professor Pyg the jittery, unhinged voice he needs and Flamingo I don’t think is supposed to have a voice at all. Wasn’t he mute? On the plus side, Poison Ivy shines as Batman’s reluctant partner and the one person who was the voice of reason from the start. Seeing Scarecrow pull off such an enormous crime should make him seem more formidable, but he has yet to be used to his fullest in this story so far.

Spoiler
I was a little bugged when I saw Poison Ivy deck Batman. Very few people should be able to punch Batman. The guy… well, I don’t need to tell you– he’s Batman. He should be able to dodge 99.9% of the population in a one-on-one confrontation.

Another positive I’ll bring up is how nicely paced it all is. We’re not wasting any time here and the story keeps moving and keeps the reader interested. I hope Layman keeps it up and delivers a great ending with his goodbye issue next month.

Spoiler

I was aggravated at how the final page showed Talon leading the hallucinating bat-allies. If you read Tynion’s last issue of Talon then you know that he’s supposed to be a member of the globe-trotting Batman Inc. now… but seeing as how Tynion himself (and the editor) screwed up by not taking note that Batman Incorporated was dissolved at the end of Grant Morrison’s run– who knows? Maybe Batman only pretended to end Batman Incorporated? Maybe this story takes place before the ending of Talon? Maybe Talon was just in Batman Inc. but just so happened to be in town at the same moment that Gothtopia happened.

Aaron Lopresti fills in for Jason Fabok on art and he does an okay job with his 2-page spread of Batman being wheeled in on a cart by Killer Croc being my favorite image of the comic. None of his work really compares to the richly detailed surroundings and imposing Dark Knight that Fabok gave us, but it fits this story nicely. I was a little caught off guard by two panels where we see the real world juxtaposed against the illusion. Both panels showed Catwoman in identical “Catbird” regalia whereas I would’ve thought that the real-world equivalent would appear at least a little different.

Recommended If…

  • Scarecrow is your favorite villain
  • You would like to see Batman team-up with Poison Ivy
  • You’re alright with letting go of the “Perchance to Dream” material and instead going for something more Batman: Arkham Asylum

Overall

The story is nicely plotted and going at a nice pace, but the flimsy excuse for how Gotham is under Scarecrow’s influence hurt this one a lot for me. If you can ignore that then I think you’ll enjoy it quite a bit. Granted, we’ve seen Batman try to escape from a villain-controlled Arkham Asylum before but having him partner with Pamela Isley is a rare sight.

SCORE: 6.5/10