We bring Arkham Manor to a close with a mix of action and humor and a trail of questions left unanswered (possibly for exploration elsewhere?). In fact, this may not be the conclusion of Arkham Manor at all. The real final resolution may actually occur in Arkham Manor: Endgame, making that particular issue quite possibility the single “necessary” tie-in insofar as wrapping stories up.
Batman resolved the “monster” in the walls last issue, but now, the “The Sacrifice”, he’s after Seth Wickham. Wickham left the Manor more psychotic than when he arrived after having had his head drilled into by the aforementioned monster and subsequently falling into a sinkhole (from which he was ironically rescued by the Joker [as Eric Border]). Other loose ends like Sybil Silverlock, Jack Shaw, and the use and ownership of the Manor go unresolved. In an especially curious move, Dr. Arkham himself reveals a startling bit of behavior that is not only left unexplained, but has even Batman stumped as well. Meanwhile, the frozen Clownface creature is hauled off to S.T.A.R. Labs (wonder if we’ve seen the last of that atrocity?).
Bullock makes a guest appearance to do the cleanup
Most notably in this book Bruce undergoes an interesting transformation. I’m not 100% convinced of its execution, but I love the idea and applaud the writers for giving us a full-circle journey. You have to read the series from the start to really appreciate it because it’s easy to overlook or dismiss, but if you recall in issue no. 1, we were dealing with an angry and frustrated Batman: someone who thought nothing to bashing in people’s heads, who was bitter and crabby about the loss of the Manor and sundry other problems spilling over from Batman Eternal. Even to the final confrontation with the monster in the walls, he was not exactly sympathetic to the situation at Arkham or its inmates. But in this issue he has a turnaround. It’s not prompted well (there doesn’t seem to be a particular enough fulcrum for him to turn on, but perhaps the man biting off his own tongue in the last issue was sufficient horror for him to reflect). Now, in pursuit of Wickham, he’s downright compassionate. He tries not to hurt him and even says he wants to help. It’s a complete one-eighty from his previous behavior.
Bruce also basically gives up Wayne Manor without a fight. Presumably this is the sacrifice referred to in the title, though it could also refer to Jack Shaw. Bruce has the opportunity to make a motion to reclaim his property, but he tells Alfred that it will do more good serving the inmates at the moment, given the city’s inability to house them effectively elsewhere. While this raises big questions about where this is going as we head into Convergence, it’s strangely satisfying to not have some rushed, conveniently resolution.
Shawn Crystal’s art really found its level throughout this short series. The first couple of books had some strange compositions and even stranger character model. Here at issue no. 6, everything feels in synch: there is a consistency that was initially lacking. Other than the fact that Dr. Arkham and Bruce Wayne look like twins, all the characters have really come into their own.
Some other notable notes:
- A sequence of Batman jumping onto the rooftop of a school building has a wonderfully animated composition.
- Bruce’s retort to the hyena journalist about the disposition of the manor is priceless.
- Mr. Freeze is still hilarious.
The page that follows this one is a stunner!
The Less Than Good
We visit Meek again (originally from Batman Eternal no. 34), and he continues to kick it in his new home, though he’s making peace with knowing the Joker is aware of his presence there. No further developments, however, leaving one to wonder if this is a storyline that will get picked up elsewhere or just some strange darling of Duggan’s that he refuses to let die.
Getting Jack Shaw into the asylum was a convoluted bit of business in issue no. 1. Getting him clear of it now is every bit as convoluted. While I really liked the strange phone call Dr. Arkham references, I wasn’t sure why all that business of the funeral was really necessary. Perhaps as a passing mention, but it seemed odd to dedicate a whole page to it except to note that it’s part of Bruce’s whole reconciliation.
Is the Arkham: Endgame issue going to actually wrap this up or are we going to be left hanging until the summer. Or worse, is this really the way it ends and post-Convergence it’s all just going to somehow magically get resolved? So many uncertainties, but I know I’ll miss this book and I’m sorry it ended so soon.
- You want to wind down the series even if it doesn’t resolve all the plot threads.
- You want to see what a well-wrought book looks like. This team did a phenomenal job putting together a fun and satisfying sidestory. Everything from Dave McCaig’s colors to Travis Lanham’s letters contribute toward making this an enjoyable read.
Arkham Manor finishes stronger than it started both in terms of the writing and the art–so much that it’s a shame to see it go. We get one last dance with this slightly bizarre concept when Arkham Manor: Endgame hits the stands, but otherwise it’s time to say farewell to Gerry Duggan and Shawn Crystal’s stint with the Dark Knight Detective (and his alter ego Jack Shaw). Without having read the Endgame tie-in, it’s hard to judge whether the overall story is a success. It certainly leaves more questions than answers and a number of major things (like the ownership of the Manor itself) are still unresolved.