Arkham Knight: Genesis #2
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Illustrated by Alisson Borges
Colored by Dave McCaig
Lettered by Deron Bennet

It’s always nice to gain sympathy for a character you’ve never really felt attached to. As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of Jason Todd as a character, but appreciate and respect has legacy and place in lore.

Sadly for him, that legacy necessitates his death, but so much good storytelling came from it that it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t needed: Bruce’s despair and subsequent refusal of another Robin, and then the introduction of Tim Drake and reinforcement of the need for a Batfamily.

But enough of that.  Even if I don’t like the character, I still like seeing characters being used well, and… well, it’s a mixed bag.

A formula is becoming apparent this month, with how the story is structured and the action occurs: Jason observes a villain he has hired to fight Batman, Robin, and/or Nightwing (this month, it’s Deathstroke), he muses in flashback on just why he hates Batman so much, then dismisses his accomplice so he can deliver a final dramatic line.  It’s all fine and workmanlike, and there’s nothing inherently bad about the structure or storytelling methods, but already you can start to tell that unless there are some huge revelations or shakeups in presentation, this is going to wear thin.

And Robin's staff seems to be watching too much Battlestar Galactica.
And Robin’s staff seems to be watching too much Battlestar Galactica, if there is such a thing.

As it stands, though, there were quite a few moments in this issue that struck me emotionally.  Backing up a bit, I read A Death in the Family a few months ago for the first time in what had to have been eighteen years, and even though I had little attachment to Jason and knew exactly what was coming, the story is still incredibly tense and wrenching to this day.  A lot of that has to do with the all-star lineup of Jim Starlin, Mike DeCarlo, Adrienne Roy, and one of my personal top ten artists Jim Aparo handling the story, but the sense of dread and devastation is high the entire time.  Even now, turning that one last page to see Batman cradling Jason’s dead body is heartbreaking.

There’s a moment here, too, that carries a lot of weight and struck me pretty hard, making me sympathize with Jason even in the midst of his scheme: as he watches Nightwing and Robin, the two Robins that didn’t fail, he lambastes Batmans war and the people he draws in to his personal vendetta.  “It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” Jason says.

“I was supposed to be all he needed.”

With that one line, Jason’s struggle and plan are elevated from outright revenge and petty anger to something that almost borders on grieving.  It really hit me hard, and I felt for the guy more than I think I have since his death in the aforementioned story.

Granted, pretty much everything he says from this point comes off as petty, “I hate Batman because he ruined my life!” whining, but that one scene there was golden.

Tomasi’s done a great job in the regular Arkham Knight series with writing natural, fun dialogue and having believeable interactions between all of the characters.  That’s kind of missing here, but there are some great moments still.  We see Jason’s early days as Robin, trying to talk smack to Scarecrow only to be reprimanded by Bruce for letting him know that he is, indeed, a new Robin, followed by another great scene: Bruce being granted custody of Jason as a ward of the state.  You can see even then that, while he was relieved to have a home, he still had an independent, rebellious streak to him, but he’s genuinely thankful to Bruce and Alfred for taking him under their care.

We then see Jason fighting Deathstroke, thinking that he had killed Batman, in a scene that starts off kind of confusing from a flashback standpoint.  Jason gets angry and reckless, only to have Batman appear to take down Slade before he can kill Jason (or vice versa).  It’s confusing in that we flashback to “Then” from “Now,” where all the characters look pretty much the same.   It’s not too bad, but I was taken aback for just a second.

There's also a cameo from the dreaded Typo, truly the most feared of all comic villains.
There’s also a cameo from the dreaded Typo, truly the most feared of all comic villains.

This plays out for the rest of the issue, as Jason is relegated to minimizing civilian casualties and damage control instead of joining Batman in the fray.  It comes to a head during a confrontation with the Joker, and, guys…

image

Allison Borges is a national treasure.  The right fist is a mouth with huge teeth.  That’s amazing.

I’ll assume it’s not spoilery to say that there is indeed a scene reminiscent of A Death in the Family, with Jason running after the Joker only for tragedy to strike.  It will be interesting to see in the coming months how that plays out.

This issue seemed like a case of taking two steps forward and then one back: for every good thing that happens, there’s something that kind of drags it down a bit in quality.  There’s never anything truly disastrous or outright bad, but time will tell if this series has something genuinely necessary to say or if it’s just another way to make a buck.  Hoping for the former, of course, but even if the latter is the case, you can do far worse.

Recommended if: 

  • You like the Arkham games.
  • You’re a fan of Jason Todd
  • You’re not a fan of Jason Todd but are willing to become one.
  • You like ridiculous Joker mech suits.

Overall:
Shades of an interesting psychological profile and some genuinely affecting moments elevate the issue, but forays into formula and more of Jason’s whining brings it down a bit.  This may have worked better as part of the regular comic series, and time will tell if it is even necessary at all, but what it does wrong never drags it down low enough to completely negate what it does right.  A soft recommendation with hope that the coming months bring something truly memorable.

SCORE: 6/10