Arkham Knight: Genesis #1
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Illustrated by Alisson Borges
Colored by Dave McCaig
Lettered by Deron Bennett

Go big or go home, right?

The Arkham Knight saga continues in this new six-issue miniseries, with the ever reliable Peter Tomasi maintaining scripting duties while working with the new art team of Alisson Borges and Dave McCaig.  As you can probably tell from the title, this series will recount the origin of the titular thorn in Batman’s side, showing who he is and how he came to be.  If you haven’t played the game yet, have somehow avoided spoilers on the internet, or just don’t care to know who the Knight is, then this review will not be for you.  I won’t spoil anything earth shattering in the book itself, but discussing the events without first disclosing his identity will be a frustrating, fruitless endeavor.

Still with me?

Fantastic.

Arkham Knight is, of course, Jason Todd, and this series seeks to explain how he fits into this world, what made him become the Knight, and why exactly he hates Batman so much.

Don't worry, I won't be getting a "J" face tattoo any time soon.
Don’t worry, I won’t be getting a “J” face tattoo any time soon.

The broad strokes of his origin are relatively intact: he’s effectively a street urchin, born to parents on the wrong side of the law, left to his own devices when they are tragically taken from him.  Like everything else in the Arkham continuity, there are changes here and there, but the character is still recognizably Jason.  He’s tough, indignant, and smart, qualities that draw the Batman to him in an attempt to shape him into something more.

I haven’t played the game yet, so I don’t know if this makes it over or not, but Jason and Hush are acting as allies.  Credit to Tomasi for making their scenes and chemistry so engaging, because I am not a fan of either character.  Together, though, they have an uneasy alliance, a relationship that borders on symbiotic: Jason has something that Thomas needs, while Thomas serves as manpower that Jason needs to fulfill his plan.  Considering I find Hush to be boring and think the best thing that Jason ever did was die (so I don’t just sound like I’m trying to be flippant or shocking, acting as Batman’s greatest failure did more for the universe than would have happened had he lived, and it led the way for the best character to wear the Robin suit), I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed their banter.

Also surprising?  This book is violent.  Like, stupid violent, and it’s that way pretty much from the beginning.  The opening scene involves a man (whom we later discover to be Hush) running from a swarm of rats being controlled by the Ratcatcher.  And man, let me tell you, this guy has one of the more… unpleasant character designs to come out of the Arkham franchise.

This is not his grossest look this issue.
This is not his grossest look this issue.

Being a C-list villain at the very best and most generous definition of the term, he doesn’t last long.  And it’s pretty grodie.

Borges’ pencils are actually quite nice, fitting with the aesthetic of this universe, and McCaig has a nice color pallette, but there’s so much gore and blood flying everywhere that it’s almost a parody.  In fact, until I’m proven wrong, that’s how I’m going to treat it, which I’m thinking is ok considering how they reimagined some of the characters.  Not a criticism, just an observation.

After their encounter with the Ratcatcher, AK and Hush make their way to Jason’s hideout where Hush is patched up while Jason recounts his origin.  He goes through his birth and early childhood, and like the violence everything is so over-the-top tragic that it’s almost hilarious.

Spoiler
There’s a moment where Jason’s dad tries to exchange him, a newborn baby, as payment against his debt toward Carmine Falcone.  They don’t accept, of course, which just makes his parents’ bitterness toward him grow, and it would be tragic if it wasn’t so insanely goofy.  But I can get behind insanely goofy, so it’s alright.

By the time he’s in his teens, Jason is living on the streets as an orphan, until the day he has his fateful first encounter with Batman.  And the Joker.

The latter of whom is in this:

image

Side note: I loved Asylum and City as much as just about everyone else, but even I can admit that some of the boss fights were lacking.  Now we have the Joker in a personalized work loader from Aliens?  I want to play that game.

This part of Jason’s tale continues about how you’d expect it to: he eventually winds up in a boarding school, thanks to a sponsorship from Bruce Wayne, gets recruited as Robin on a “one night tryout” basis, and at some point winds up with a deep hatred toward Batman.

Not having played the game, I don’t exactly know where this is going, and the other Arkham Knight book hasn’t been giving many answers, so I’m actually intrigued about where this can go.  Some of the dialogue is a little more hardboiled and gritty than it needs to be, but it fits with the over-the-top tone that’s being set here.  I mean, Jason has that scar on his face, so I doubt subtlety is one of their top priorities, and that’s perfectly acceptable.  Time will tell how much this series matters, but if this team can make me care about two characters I usually don’t, I say bring it on.

Recommended if:

  • You like Jason Todd.
  • You’ve enjoyed the Arkham series of games and tie-in works.
  • My son loves the Joker, so I want a toy of that work loader for me us him.  Yeah, him.  That’s it.

Overall: I don’t know where this is going to go or if reading it will really make any difference, but the sheer ridiculousness of everything and surprising pathos of Jason and Hush made me enjoy this much more than I thought I would.  I’m tentatively intrigued, and I hope the best for this story.

SCORE: 7/10