Batman: Arkham Knight #8: “Who Wants to Kill a Billionaire?/Suicide Blues”

Written by Peter J. Tomasi

Illustrated by Ig Guara and Viktor Bogdanovic

Inked by Juan Ferreira and Richard Friend

Colored by Andrew Dalhouse and John Rauch

Lettered by Travis Lanham

I’m not going to lie: I think a bit of Arkham Knight fatigue is beginning to set in.  The series has been immensely enjoyable from the beginning, and by and large it still is, but with this, the Genesis miniseries, and The Riddler’s Gambit novel as well (a review of that is forthcoming), that’s an awful lot of Arkham Knight.  Thankfully they’re all fun reads, but like Josh has said in his Upcoming Comics posts, at times it feels like they’re treading water instead of diving into the bigger mysteries.

This month’s issue is no exception to this, as the titular Knight is still at best a side-character, and with every answer we get we’re given another two or three questions.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This month picks up immediately where the previous issue left off, with Batman ambushing the (All-New) Suicide Squad in their attempts to murder Bruce Wayne.  Alfred gets off a few good lines, acting as a hostage whom Batman “tied up” and “threatened to kill” if he talked.  It’s a fun reminder of Alfred’s past as an actor, and it leads to one of the few truly great moments of the issue.

image

Bats then makes quick work of the rest of the Squad, but instead of the fight being cool and creative it just feels rushed.  In fact, this whole issue feels that way: an awful lot of stuff happens, but there’s very little room to breathe.  The haste with which Batman takes down the Squad could have been really cool, using different techniques to dispatch each member, yet it almost feels like Tomasi felt the need to rush through it so they could start the next story arc sooner.  This is even more disappointing considering the quality storytelling in this book in the past, so maybe it’s just a one month hiccup.

The art doesn’t help matters, as Ig Guara’s pencils feel really rough and incomplete.  He’s proven to be a more than adequate substitute when Bogdanovic isn’t handling penciling duties, but like the writing it feels like he was just in a rush to finish everything.  There are panels where characters’ arms almost disappear into the background, and the action isn’t very engaging or fluid.  Dalhouse and Ferreira are great at their jobs too, but you wouldn’t exactly be able to tell if this issue were your introduction to them.

Also surprising is the way a certain character was written.  At one point, Killer Croc shows up and speaks in broken sentences, with a single-minded focus on killing Batman.  The latter isn’t entirely out of character, but Jones has always at least been intelligible, if not overly intelligent.  It may turn out that he’s under the influence of some fear toxin or something, but as of right now it just feels like bad writing and characterization.

Once his fellow Task Force X members are dispatched, Deadshot reveals his true purpose: he’s working with Waller to find out what the Penguin is actually up to.  That makes the inclusion of Harley on the Squad make some sense, which is nice, other than just “well, she’s in the main book, so might as well put her in it here too.”

It turns out Cobblepot is after something at Stagg Industries, and if you know anything about that name you can probably guess where this is going.

I get it!
I get it!

And I personally couldn’t be happier.

This leads into the next arc, “Suicide Blues,” which opens with one of two appearances of Arkham Knight in this book, the second of which barely even counts.  I’m not keeping track, but that’s, what, fourteen panels he’s appeared in so far, without any real advancement in his story?  I get slow builds, but other than getting that he obviously hates Batman there is almost nothing to his scenes that gives any hint as to why he’s involved, let alone why the book is named after him.  This is even more problematic given that at this point, the game has already been released.  You’d think by now they would at least give some idea as to what his overall plan is, but instead anything with the Knight feels tacked on at best.  That’s not a good sign when the guy whose name is on the cover is the least interesting thing about a book.

Thankfully, the issue does get better from here.  Bats and Deadshot make their way to Stagg Industries to investigate whatever it is that’s going on there.  There’s a pretty fun fight between the two and some armed guards, including this guy who has what I can only describe as an… unfortunate mustache:

image

The artwork, this time from series mainstays Viktor Bogdanovic and John Rauch, fares a little better than in the earlier two-thirds, but there are still a few rough spots.  I’m going to guess that these installments were pushed out in a hurry, hence the dip in quality on all fronts, which is disappointing but not at all unheard of in the industry.

With the guards dispatched, they make their way to a lab to find a bunch of stasis tubes being guarded by my new favorite character:

image

Side note: for the past week or so I’ve been Tweeting (mostly) goofy books that I’d write for DC if given the chance.  This guy just made the top of my list.  An armed scientist with horrible aim hurling Thirties-era insults at Batman?  I’d write that and buy it.

Anyway, this leads to an encounter with a mostly shadowed form who turns out to be Metamorpho, here an experiment in trying to reanimate a sample of Clayface’s leftover debris with additional organic material.  We don’t find out much more beyond that, though, as Batman is attacked by the creature while trying to leave the facility.  End of Act One.

In addition to the main story and the two(ish) scenes of Arkham Knight, there’s also a scene with Gordon throwing a fundraiser for his bid as mayor, and bits here and there with Nightwing.  Other than Nightwing headed to Stagg, neither really adds a whole lot to the issue, but it’s nice to finally see Dick in this book, and Gordon’s interaction with Barbara is pretty refreshing as well.  Either way, though, it just adds to the disjointed nature of the issue, which will hopefully be remedied next month.  I love this book, I genuinely do, but this issue was a pretty big disappointment.  It isn’t an outright disaster, but compared to the quality of previous installments this is a major letdown.

I don’t want the book to end per se, but I hope there’s an endgame some time in the future, especially considering this is a prequel to a game that’s been released.  Hopefully things will start to come together soon, we can find out what all of this has to do with anything, and the Arkham Knight can become an actual threat and presence as opposed to a cameo here and there.

Recommended if: 

  • You like the Arkham games.
  • You’ve been reading thus far.
  • You don’t like Captain Boomerang.
  • Hey, Metamorpho is always great to see.

Overall: A rare outright misfire for this book, which has always been good for at least a few good bits of dialogue and engaging action set-pieces.  Instead we get a bunch of good ideas that are half-baked at best, executed poorly at worst.  Hopefully this is just a temporary lull and Tomasi and team can bounce back next month, and also drive the central story of the Arkham Knight more.

SCORE: 5.5/10