There has been a lot of murmuring and outright grousing that the Endgame tie-ins aren’t so much tie-ins as just excuses to put more paper on the stands. There was also some chatter last week about whether Arkham Manor would come to some greater resolution through the Endgame tie-in since the mini-series ended with a lot of questions still lingering.
Let me put the suspense to rest by telling you up front that this book is kind of a mess both story and continuity-wise. Presuming that this occurs just immediately before or during Batman: Endgame and then trying to extrapolate where Batman Eternal takes place, you’ll find yourself doing a little tail-chasing particularly with regard to the disposition of a number of Arkham’s more famous inmates. Believe it or not, it all does dovetail in the end thanks to some plot calisthenics that must have been the result of some actual planning, but expect some whiplash on the journey.
Does Arkham Manor: Endgame contribute anything of particular interest to Endgame? No. We remain largely at status quo by the end of the book insofar as the Batverse is concerned. Who’s in Arkham and who’s out is really the only major impact here and most of that has already been established in the others books.
Does Arkham Manor: Endgame contribute anything of particular interest to Arkham Manor? While it does attempt to address one lingering oddity from the mini-series, namely the disposition of Jeremiah Arkham, it doesn’t really have time to develop that story into anything interesting and even comes off as pretty nonsensical. I have the feeling there was an arc that should have made sense of this fallout that just didn’t have time to happen before Convergence and the closure of the mini-series. There are definitely clues that were set up throughout Arkham Manor to suggest the direction this went in (and yes, I’m being deliberately vague so as not to spoil anything), but overall, I feel like the “revelation” was rushed and messy and even a bit of an eye roll.
Is Arkham Manor: Endgame nonetheless an entertaining read? Sure. Absolutely entertaining in the broadest sense, with a large team of artists who do a great job capturing a noir tone and matching one another’s styles.
Writer Frank Tieri tells the story of how Arkham’s prime inmates get back on the street between being incarcerated by Batman in the round-up after the collapse of Old Arkham, and more recent events of Batman Eternal. We don’t really need this story as everyone at this point has just shrugged and decided they escaped at some point, but Tieri keeps it engaging by bringing the Clown Prince of Crime into the mix as instigator of the fracas.
A big bravo to the large art team who worked on this book. Felix Ruiz did most of the pages, but artists Roberto Viacava and Walden Wong contributed two pages, and Christian Duce contributed three. Acknowledgement, also, to Assistant Editor Matt Humphries (and for whatever part Mark Doyle might have contributed here), for matching up a group of artists who managed to put together a nearly seamless reading experience. The jagged, deeply shadowed figures lend an appropriate unhinged quality to atmosphere.
Some interesting moments:
- Bane is especially impressive: he looks large and menacing and comports himself more in line with what we would expect (as opposed to some of his more questionable behavior in other recent outings).
- Bullock makes a tentative tie between the events at Arkham and recent events at Blackgate, linking Oswald Cobblepot. Does it pan out? You be the judge.
- Oh look, it’s Gordon? Does that help clarify the timeline or just muddy the waters?
- And oh look: the upside-down Batsignal. Again, more indications of this book’s place in the continuity. I wouldn’t read more into it than that.
The book is rendered in a style very different from what Shawn Crystal brought to the mini-series (in fact, the only returning contributor from the original book is letterer Travis Lanham). While I admit I miss Dave McCaig’s pallette, Nick Filardi makes good use of contrasting Gotham GCPD blues with Arkham oranges.
Lastly, a fun cover from Rafael Albuquerque captures the tone of this book perfectly even if the featured “cast” isn’t entirely accurate (we don’t see Hatter at all and Bane actually plays a large part in the action without being featured on the cover). But this is villain’s book full of shadows and terrors nonetheless, so you definitely get what you see for the most part.
They couldn’t find a uniform large enough to fit Bane
There’s a lot of convenient storytelling going on here. Joker “jokerizes” the asylum/manor, but who is affected by the gas is very convenient. You can try to rationalize that there was a plan that determined who would be affected and who wouldn’t, but if that’s so, the case is never made in these pages.
Other problems and questions best left unexamined too closely:
- The Manor barely looks like a manor in this rendition. Whereas Crystal generally tried to keep the place looking like the converted house that it is, aside from the grand staircase, this environment looks like your standard prison cell-block.
- Would have been nice to have known some of these Arkham workers as more regular characters; their fates would then have had more impact. A missed opportunity there.
- Bullock says our unnamed narrator is “clean”, but the story probably reads better if you assume he’s a liar or deluded. There’s some hint of that when Bullock says he’s “traumatized”, but the ambiguity either works to the story’s advantage by fudging details or is just, again, a convenient device to get us to the end.
- That’s Clownface on the staircase. He was shipped off to S.T.A.R. Labs at the end of Arkham Manor no. 6. Oops.
- Mr. Freeze is no longer hilarious.
There’s just not enough development on the Jeremiah Arkham storyline to explain or justify the bizarre stunt he pulls in this. I don’t think I was surprised or disappointed–just mostly had a sense that his resolution was inorganic at best, tossed in like a last-minute pop-tart at worst.
- You enjoy Arkham in all of its lunacy. This book can stand alone as yet another random “breakout” plot even despite its placement straddling three other books in terms of continuity.
This book could have gone in so many directions to try to tie-up or spackle over questions or holes throughout Arkham Manor, Batman Eternal, and Batman: Endgame. Instead it took a path of telling a fairly generic escape from Arkham story that was probably more satisfying than if it had attempted anything more ambitious. While not a must-buy, it can boast of strong artwork, plenty of action, and a storyline that, while pretty standard fare, is nonetheless entertaining. I even bumped it an extra half point just because I enjoyed it in spite of itself.