Batman: Arkham Knight #7: “Safe House/Who  Wants to Kill a Billionaire?”

Written by Peter J. Tomasi

Illustrated by Viktor Bogdanovic

Inked by Art Thibert and Richard Friend

Colored by John Rauch

Lettered by Travis Lanham

It’s always nice to see Batman interact with the citizens of Gotham, especially when they respect and look up to him instead of turning away in fear.  That’s exactly what we’re treated with in “Safe House,” a one-shot tale that opens this issue, and it’s a nice breather in the middle of the ongoing story arcs.

After his run-in with Bane in the previous issue, Batman is found hiding out in a dumpster by a poor older man named Archie Freeman.  Freeman, dumpster diving in the hopes of finding something good to eat or some discarded valuables, takes a near unconscious Batman back to his apartment to recuperate.

#dadjoke
#dadjoke

Freeman recounts his life with his deceased wife, how Gotham used to be such a grand place and that no matter how bad it gets, his history is here and he won’t move on.  That, and the hope that he and other citizens hold onto that the Batman really is a force for good and will bring true, better change to the city visibly moves Bruce.  While some of the dialogue is maybe a tad corny and a little too pat, it’s still nice to see Batman appreciated by a common citizen, especially somebody as down on his luck as Archie.  With so many stories exploring the (tired) trope of “Batman creates villains/villains created Batman,” it’s nice to see someone who doesn’t blame the circumstances on one man in particular, instead holding on to the good memories of his past and holding out hope for the future.

There’s a bit of conflict, with some “collectors” coming by to rough Archie up and get payment for his rent.  At first insistent that Bats is in no condition to fight them, Archie hides him under the floorboards.  Naturally, Batman gets fed up with the poor treatment this man faces, so of course he takes them down with the over the top but incredible line “If I see you here again… you’ll see me again.

Peter Tomasi, you are my favorite.

The story ends on a low-key, hopeful note, and again, it’s nice to see a Batman who is driven to end crime in his city, but not so much as to ignore the very citizens he’s protecting.

The next arc kicks off with “Who Wants to Kill a Billionaire?”, which is notable for a few reasons.

First, it’s the first appearance of the All-New Suicide Squad (which they insist on calling themselves every chance they get), consisting of Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and… maybe Killer Croc?  I don’t know.  They spring him from a transport truck, but he isn’t seen again.

Every chance they get.
Every chance they get.

Also, if my math is correct, this is the first story-arc that has begun since the release of the Arkham Knight video game. (Last month’s print issue released a week or so after the game was released, but the issues collected in it premiered digitally about a month before.)  As such, some references to events in the game are dropped here, for better or worse.  It’s becoming increasingly obvious who Arkham Knight is, even if his actual plan is pretty unclear in these pages, and there’s another line of dialogue that hints at one of the more controversial aspects of the game’s ending.

Spoiler
After Bruce, Tim, and Barbara meet with Jim Gordon to convince him yet again to run for mayor (which, like in previous issues, has some great interplay between all of the characters, so kudos to Tomasi yet again for that), Bruce mentions to Tim that he should ask out Barbara again.  Now, I’ve yet to play the game, but I know that Tim and Babs apparently get married at the end, which is apparently as out of the blue as this line is here in the issue.  I don’t know their motive behind it, but based on fan reaction it almost seems like Rocksteady twisted the Batgirl/Robin relationship just to have a twist that nobody would see coming.  And, not to get on my #DickandBabs4Eva soap-box, but there’s at least a history of attraction, flirtation, and outright love between those two.  Oracle even wore that widely circulated “Flying Graysons” pendant in Arkham City, so the Easter Eggs even pointed at their connection and attraction.

Tim and Barbara care for each other, of course, but other than maybe a reference here or there about Tim thinking she’s attractive or something, they have never had any sort of romantic link.  If you want them together in the end, ok, great, but at least develop it.  Gamers, correct me if I’m wrong, but if their nuptials are as out of the blue as Bruce’s line here then there’s no wonder it’s received backlash.

But I digress.

This is a four-part digital-first story, only the first two of which are collected here, so it feels more like set up than a full story.  It’s all perfectly serviceable, with some nice moments of Bruce helping a construction crew set girders for a new building, and some more great interactions between him and Alfred.

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Even though the Squad is introduced, they’re not given much to do other than being tasked by the Penguin to kill Bruce Wayne, so we’ll have to wait until next month to see the payoff of this story.

As demonstrated above, Tomasi’s script is as good as ever, and so are Bogdanovic’s pencils.  The latter isn’t given a lot to do on the action front, as most of the issue is pretty low-key, but his panels still flow smoothly and he throws in some nice sight gags too, like that image of Bruce with the weight on his back.  Series mainstay inker Art Thibert only contributed to “Safe House,” with Richard Friend handling inking duties on “Who Wants to Kill a Billionaire?”  His work is still good, but there are some panels that look a little rough and a tad muddier due to his slightly heavier hand.  It’s not bad by any means, but it was noticeable enough that I could tell it was someone different just by looking at it.

In the end, this is another solid issue.  I’ve greatly enjoyed this series so far, and the introduction of new elements like the (All-New) Suicide Squad and an upcoming issue featuring Metamorpho keep things fresh even though the endgame is so well known at this point.  Hopefully, if they want to continue this series for the long-run, even after the events lead right into the intro of the game they can still find some fresh, fun stories to tell in this universe.

Recommended if:

  • You’ve been reading thus far.
  • You like the Arkham games.
  • You like nice, lower-key stories featuring Batman interacting with ordinary citizens.
  • You’ve been looking forward to the introduction of the (All-New) Suicide Squad.

Overall: Another solid entry, if not outright phenomenal.  The script is solid, the individual stories are engaging, and the character interactions are as great as ever.  The book is beginning to be colored by the knowledge of what happens in the game, and some of the more controversial elements are almost being shoe-horned in, but it’s still a highly enjoyable book that’s worth the time of gaming fans, casual readers, or even die-hard Batman devotees.

SCORE: 8/10