Batman: Arkham Knight #9: “Suicide Blues/Burning the Days”

Written by Peter J. Tomasi

Illustrated by Ig Guara and Viktor Bogdanovic

Inked by Julio Ferreira and Richard Friend

Colored by Andrew Dalhouse and John Rauch

Lettered by Travis Lanham

Are you as excited as I am to see Metamorpho, one of the coolest high-concept characters of all time, appear in the pages of Arkham Knight?!

I am so sorry.

Luckily, this issue is plenty of fun on its own, so it’s not a complete loss.

Batman and Deadshot, still on the same side as last time, are grappling with the amorphous blob with the subject name “Metamorph 0.”  I was really excited to see this character in this book, as he’s one of those characters that’s always nice to see pop up.  His concept is really cool, too: able to control the molecular structure of his body and transmute different elemental aspects.  In short, he can create pretty much any sort of element or compound.  Need to breathe fresh air in a hostile environment?  Good ol’ Rex has you covered.

Those cool powers, and the good-natured personality of his alter ego Rex Mason, make for a really interesting character; like the X-Men’s Nightcrawler, he has a monstrous appearance but chooses a life of joy and happiness.  That’s what make his appearance here disappointing: he’s literally nothing more than a science experiment gone wrong.  There’s not personality, as he’s just an almost mindless, practically unintelligible force.

Once I came to grips with that, though, it was still an enjoyable issue.  The fight between Batman, Deadshot, Metamorpho, and even the GCPD is pretty entertaining, with some genuinely laugh out loud funny aspects: Batman gets swallowed up in the monster and uses his grappling line to get out, which is a pretty funny visual, and Gordon is stunned that Bats and Deadshot would even be working together.

And come on, who hasn’t wanted to do this at least once?

Seriously. I like Lawton just fine, but more than once have I wanted to punch him in the face.
Seriously. I like Lawton just fine, but more than once have I wanted to punch him in the face.

Nightwing, who has been disappointingly absent from these pages, gets a bit more to do here.  Arkham Knight steals his motorcycle again, for one, which is played off as just a shade above “that guy took my lunch money!”

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Tomasi’s writing, especially his dialogue, is once again top-notch as he wraps up “Suicide Blues.”  There are plenty of great little moments between all of the principal characters (Alfred especially almost walks away with the book with just one or two lines), and the aftermath of the Stagg-plot culminates in a shouting match between Jim Gordon and Amanda Waller.  And folks, I would read this book every day.

Yikes.
Yikes.

Dick gets slightly more to do as he poses as Batman do deliver Bruce Wayne to Gordon (remember that this whole thing started with his assassination attempt?) and this leads into the next arc, “Burning the Days.”

But first, an explanation of the game’s obsession with tanks.

Remember those Batman: The Animated Series Happy Meal toy cars from the early Nineties? That's what this reminds me of.
Remember those Batman: The Animated Series Happy Meal toy cars from the early Nineties? That’s what this reminds me of.

Thank you Jason.

Calendar Man comes into focus in the final act of this book, as the police are on the hunt for him after a string of murders on Labor Day.  Julian Day was actually one of the more interesting aspects of Arkham City, as he was a villain whose presence was felt even though he didn’t do much of anything.  I don’t have a huge attachment to the character one way or the other, but it’s interesting to see him take center stage after his appearances in the games.

It’s difficult to judge how this arc is going based off one installment of four being collected here, but there are some notable events: Tim and Barbara go on a date, which at least fleshes out that relationship a little bit more and has some of the more memorable dialogue in the book (even though it’s still kind of out of left field and weird), and Batman interrogates a thug in an extended scene that is simultaneously gripping and hilarious.

Bats eventually finds Day, who has teamed up with Solomon Grundy.  Quite often, a partnership like this can seem out of the blue and contrived, but given Grundy’s “born on a Monday” nursery rhyme and Calendar Man’s obsession with dates, it actually makes quite a bit of sense.  Even more so since Day is portly and handicapped, so any extra muscle he can round up will be a great benefit.

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As you can see, the artwork is also par for the course for this book, but that’s ok.  Both Bogdanovic and Guarra have put their stamp on these characters, and their styles are unique enough to not be derivative but similar enough that the shifts between the two aren’t jarring.  Praise should be given to John Rauch as well, who gets to play with lighting in the latter half of the book and really makes use of color to make the images pop off the page.

Things are slowly moving forward, and while I’ve been saying that for months now, at least we’re finally getting a bit more from the title character.  Even without much from him here, though, there’s always the Genesis title, and what does happen in these pages is more often than not fun on its own.  It may not reach the heights that some other books do, but for a tie-in prequel it works plenty well.

Recommended if: 

  • You’ve played the games.
  • You like seeing slightly obscure characters, even in cameos.
  • You like good dialogue.  Better dialogue than you’d even think, to tell you the truth.

Overall: While not perfect, this was still a fun enough diversion.  The under-use of Metamorpho was a disappointment, but the sparring match between Waller and Gordon more than made up for it.  Hopefully this book comes to a head soon and starts to have a more focused plot, but as it is it’s still an enjoyable romp every month.

SCORE: 7.5/10