Batman: Arkham Knight Annual #1: “Fear City”

Written by Peter J. Tomasi

Illustrated by Stephen Segovia

Inked by Art Thibert

Colored by Kelsey

Lettered by Deron Bennett

“There are no heroes and there are no villains.  There are just opposing points of view.”

So says Jason Todd, alias Arkham Knight, to the Scarecrow.

Which, coincidentally, sounds exactly like something a villain would totally say, but whatever.

For its first annual, the Arkham Knight series shines a spotlight on the one character who’s needed it from the beginning: the Arkham Knight himself.

Granted, the Genesis title has had the focus exclusively on Jason, and even without anything more than a cameo the main series is just plain fun, a full issue devoted to understanding Jason’s mindset and motivation has been a long time coming.

After an opening heist involving Firefly, Arkham Knight heads “home” to have words with his partner/possible superior: Scarecrow.  From the beginning this relationship is actually pretty interesting, as the up until this point meticulous and stoic Jason seems almost aloof while dealing with Crane, who takes on a more stoic role and spouts aphorisms about fear and what have you.

This is also how Jason arrives on the scene, which I found absolutely hysterical:

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Dude just straight up rolls up in a van and kicks the door in.  Amazing.

The two have an exchange regarding heroes, villains, and history, which is where the above quote comes from, which leads to Scarecrow drugging Jason with his fear toxin.

From here, the story hits some familiar, even predictable beats: Jason’s anger towards Batman, hints at his history with the Joker, and his disgust with Tim Drake and, ultimately, himself.  While all of this is to be expected, there are quite a few elements that elevate it.

The script, to begin with, is much better than it needs to be.  There are quite a few great lines here, including a particularly brutal quip from the Joker.

Ice cold.
Ice cold.

It’s not all gold, as some of the lines about history and truth have an air of grandeur that’s maybe a tad too self-important, but by and large the dialogue is fine. Tomasi once again proves that he has a great handle on this universe, and he finally makes Jason sympathetic on his own terms rather than just his tragedy.

Up to this point, Jason has come off as angry for its own sake at best, obnoxiously whiny at worst.  Under the influence of the fear toxin, though, you get a better idea about his mentality and inner struggles: he’s mad, yes, but he’s also insecure, sad, and heartbreakingly lonely.

Stephen Segovia’s pencils and layouts help to illustrate his fractured psyche, and to do so he uses some of the coolest page layouts this side of Grayson.

Those are literally pages from earlier in the issue.
Those are literally pages from earlier in the issue.

My personal favorite, though, is when Jason confronts Bruce in his altered state.  This leads to a fight with what I can only describe as every unlockable alternate skin DLC:

Try to name them all!
Try to name them all!

Not gonna lie, the ensuing fight is pretty sweet.

As dramatic as it can get, there’s also a fair share of humor, though some of it may be unintentional.  There’s not a lot of action for a 40-page book, but what there is can get shockingly, hilariously violent.

Spoiler
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That’s kind of become characteristic of the series, but it’s still a tad extreme.

I’m sad to say, too, that for the third time in as many weeks a book I review has a typo:

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That at least reads like they wrote “getting other people to do” and wanted to change it to “letting other people do,” or vice versa, but it’s still distracting and disappointing to keep coming across these.

In the end, this is an enjoyable read.  You could probably understand all the other tie-ins and the game itself without reading a panel, but there’s enough to enjoy that it makes it worth the effort.

I mean, seriously, all of the Batmans.

…Batmen.

Bat… you know what I mean.

Recommended if:

  • You like the games.
  • You’ve been reading the other tie-ins.
  • You like Jason Todd.
  • You’ve wanted to see the Batsuit with trunks make a comeback.  And don’t pretend that you didn’t.

Overall: If the main Arkham Knight book were the plot of a video game (again, you know what I mean), Genesis would be the narrative cutscenes, Riddler’s Gambit (I promise, review forthcoming) would be a Riddler challenge, and this annual would be a side mission: helpful to understand things better, but not outright necessary to complete on its own.  With a solid script and fantastic illustrations all around, though, it’s well worth taking on.

SCORE: 7/10