Batman: Arkham Knight #3– “You Can Fight City Hall”
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Illustrated by Ig Guara
Inks by Julio Ferreira
Colored by Andrew Dalhouse
Letters by Travis Lanham

Three issues in and I’m ready to read about this Batman every month for as long as I can.  Peter J. Tomasi writes a Bruce Wayne who is smart, suave, and funny, and a Batman who’s driven without being morose.  It’s refreshing to see our favorite hero smiling even in the midst of chaos, and the fact that it comes from a licensed tie-in makes it all the more impressive.

Like the previous issue, the events that occur here seem like set-up for what’s to come.  Unlike last issue, everything flows together really well.  I loved “The Last Will and Testament of the Joker,” and the rest of the issue was fine too, but it felt like two great stories chopped up and condensed into one pretty okay one.  Here, though, the actions of the characters have consequences and lead well from one set piece to the next.

We open in Gotham’s Stone Ridge Penitentiary for a framing story that will run through the issue.  At first I thought the mysterious character found here was Azrael and we were going to get an origin for him in the Arkhamverse, but the character it ends up being is kind of disappointing.  It probably makes more sense, but it’s disappointing just the same.

[Spoiler]It’s Bane.  I like Bane quite a bit, but he’s already been used to great effect in the two games, not to mention his appearances in the comics lately.  It would have been nice to see a different character get the spotlight, but here we are.[/spoiler]

The actual plot of the book revolves around Bruce vowing to devote more time and resources to the restoration of Gotham after the Arkham City mishap and the escalating crime wave in the city.  It’s not so much a plot as a sequence of events building off of each other, but it’s gripping and well paced writing that almost flies by too quickly.  This book has been entertaining so far, but this is the first installment that made me excited for the next and wishing they had more pages to fill.  And even though we know nothing will come of it, panels like this almost make you want to do all of the push-ups they’ll pump you up so much.

"Three, sir."l
“Three, sir.”

Tomasi really has a great grasp on the characters and their interactions with each other, and as such the dialogue is the real shining star this issue.  Bruce has conversations and interactions with Alfred, Gordon, Lucius Fox, and a welcome Tim Drake that all ring remarkably true and have their own beats and nuances that make them sound like conversation between old friends, not just dialogue written on a page.

SPOILER ALERT: There will not be a better written line this month, perhaps even this year.
SPOILER ALERT: There will not be a better written line this month, perhaps even this year.

Late in the issue, there’s even a quiet moment in the cave involving deleting a file that is honestly kind of heartbreaking, even though it shouldn’t be.  There’s no telling if there’s any foreshadowing to be found in it, and I know there’s absolutely zero love lost between Batman and the Joker, but there’s a moment of hesitation in Bruce that seems he’s not quite ready to admit the Joker is dead.  Not out of love or fondness, mind you, but almost out of fear.  It’s a great moment in the middle of a fun scene with so much that could be read into, but time will tell if there’s anything more to this than meets the eye.

For comics fans, there’s also an appearance by Simon Stagg which completely took me by surprise but was completely welcome.  It opens up the world more, showing that even with its already large cast of characters the Arkhamverse isn’t its own microcosm.  If someone like Stagg can show up, who knows what other heroes and villains will make an appearance in the future?

We also see the Arkham Knight in action again, and he’s just as ruthless as he was in his previous appearances.  I still don’t have any idea who he really is under that mask, but with those camo pants my guess is Tad Ryerstad.

Also: I may or may not have just now noticed he's wearing camo pants.
Also: I may or may not have just now noticed he’s wearing camo pants.

Great writing can only go so far, though, but Ig Guara’s pencils, Julio Ferreira’s inks and Andrew Dalhouse’s colors are a nice compliment to the work of Bogdanovic, Thibert and Rauch, respectively.  In fact, the style is so similar that had I not paid attention to the title page credits I probably would have gotten halfway through the issue before noticing that the art team was different.  That’s not a knock in the slightest; in fact, it’s a compliment that a group of completely different artists can keep a consistent look between each other.

There are a few problems I had with this issue, great as it was.  Harley steals an item from Lucius along with an item that’s more… personal to him, and it was a moment of grotesquerie that didn’t sit well with me.  I wouldn’t have put it past Harley to do it, and the problems I have with that kind of action are mine alone, but the way that thread is dismissed so quickly and off-handedly made it seem pointless.

That’s a minor quibble, though.  With the Penguin and Harley’s fragile partnership, Scarecrow’s clandestine plans, and the Arkham Knight poised to make Batman’s life much more difficult than it already is, Arkham Knight is proving to be an entertaining book that could stand on its own even if it wasn’t part of an already beloved video game universe.

Oh, they also finally gave Robin some fingers on his gloves.

image

So that’s nice.

Recommended if:

  • You like the Arkham games.
  • You like great dialogue and characterization.
  • Dour storytelling has taken its toll on you and you want a serious take on Batman that’s not afraid to be fun and funny.

Overall: A very solid issue, this series is proving to be better than a video game tie-in has any right to be.  The spot-on interactions between all of the characters are reason enough to recommend it, but with great action and pacing, along with several compelling mysteries brewing beneath the surface, Arkham Knight is increasingly becoming one of the best Batman titles on the stands.

SCORE: 9/10