Last issue promised us the showdown between the Arkham Manor murderer and the Dark Knight Detective and that’s the bulk of what we get here: Batman swooping in to put an end to the the predator haunting the manor from within its walls. This book, titled “These Walls Must Hold”, is heavy on action but that doesn’t keep the plot from moving forward. Now that Batman has shed his Jack Shaw persona, he’s able to move about more freely and he’ll be getting to the bottom of some of the many questions this short series has raised, and which it seems like it might actually address now before it wraps up with its final chapter in issue no. 6.

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The ghost of the Joker still haunts Meek

The Good

Gerry Duggan has kept the energy of this book up despite all the competition from other Batbooks (particularly Batman: Endgame). I have looked forward to and enjoyed each new issue and this one was no exception.  I’ve had all my quibbles about the management of the Manor and some plot mush here and there (this book is inclined to convenient storytelling–like bringing Clayface’s germ into the Manor even though he wasn’t even crazy, or a staff made up of entirely incompetent neanderthals), but at the end of the day this book is fun to read and I prize that over strict adherence to continuity, logic, or reason, so long as the lack of those things isn’t too distracting.

Shawn Crystal does some fun things with the fight sequences throughout this book. This is the big encounter with Batman and the man in the walls and Crystal spares no ink with some big flashy combat shots. One of the things I found especially interesting is that whereas in the previous books the two were always fighting in such close quarters that it was hard to get a sense of the size and shape of Batman’s enemy, here we finally see the murderer in relative light and his power of imposition diminishes panel by panel until

Spoiler
he is simply reduced to a thin bald lunatic, easily dispatched from an upper floor of the manor.

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Get ‘im, Bats!

Other great bits and bobs:

  • Jeremiah Arkham seems quite suddenly like an entirely different character here. I’m not complaining: on the contrary, he needed a spine transplant. Not sure that he got one, but at least he’s not whimpering in the corner and peeing himself.
  • Dr. Arkham rattles off the escapees and Batman rattles off how easily they will be accounted for. It’s a great moment because we know Jack Shaw is not actually missing and Mr. Freeze is out making snow angels on the lawn. I expect we’ll pick up Sybil’s story in Gotham Academy, and that just leaves Seth Wickham to track down.
  • Mr. Freeze gets all the best lines in this book. What a great character in the right hands.

The Bad

Remember Meek from Batman no. 34? He’s still incarcerated at Arkham, placed in a room with the Joker’s cell number on it (deliberately, I’m assuming, though it’s obviously not the Joker’s cell since that went into the sinkhole with the rest of the original asylum). While I liked that we’ve circled back to Meek and some lingering intimation that the Joker is still minding the loonies, the fact that this is Arkham Manor and not the old asylum took the power out of that early scene for me; in fact, it didn’t make any sense unless Meek is so far gone that he really thinks that putting numbers on a cell imbue it with the spirit of what came before.

Some may be disappointed at the “big reveal” of the monster in the walls, but by the time he was pulling a stunt almost as gross as Fish’s eyeball business on Monday night’s episode of Gotham, I was reconciled to the fact that it kind of doesn’t matter who he is since the murder mystery was a red herring all along. This series is really about closing out business from Batman Eternal. With just the Endgame tie-in and one more issue to go, there’s not much left to do but empty the manor and restore it to Bruce.

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And to be honest, I liked that the wall-crawler was “Crazy Dude with Beard #5” because I’m always saying I wish Batman would fight some ordinary crime once in a while and this was about as ordinary as you get.

The cover of this issue seems to telegraph events to come. Whatever’s going on there doesn’t happen in this issue. It’s too bad because with a story this short you’d think the editors would maximize the immediate content and this is a book that has plenty of excitement that could have translated well for a cover tease. Overall, I feel like the covers for Arkham Manor haven’t been great or really done a strong job of selling the story.

The Ugly

Did I mention there’s a scene in this book to rival Gotham’s gore? If you’re squeamish, consider yourself forewarned.

Recommended If…

  • You’ve been buying it all along; may as well see it to the end!
  • You want to see a well-executed fight in an unusual style between Batman and a foe who will likely never make the formal rogues list.

Overall

It’s too bad that just as all the elements of Arkham Manor are pulling together into something coherent and interesting with really compelling potential, that we will soon have to say goodbye to this mini-series. With the addition of the Endgame tie-in, we get a bonus and that’s a small consolation.  In spite of (or perhaps because of) its quirkiness, this book has been a real treat: one of those rare bridges between other books (Eternal and Endgame) that actually works for the most part. If you’ve been skipping it month-to-month, you might want to pick it up in the trade eventually; but I’ll let know its overall value once it’s finally done!

SCORE: 8/10