Arkham Knight: Genesis #4
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Illustrated by Dexter Soy
Colored by Dave McCaig
Lettered by Deron Bennet

The Joker is a master manipulator. He’s one of the greatest villains of all time, no question about that, but he shouldn’t be fun to read. Not to say that stories with the Joker can’t be great or entertaining; that’s just a silly notion, and hopefully my tenure here has disproven the very idea.

He is at his best when he’s at his worst, a violent monster made even more chilling because he thinks it’s all a joke. He’s the perfect chaotic foil to Batman, and if Genesis here has given us nothing else it’s given us a great Joker.

But we’ll come back to that.

Continuing from the brutal torment Jason was subjected to, we get a bit more of a look into the events that shaped him into the Arkham Knight while also, finally, progressing the plot in the present. For the first time in a long while Harley Quinn is featured heavily, which is good because I thought Tomasi had all but forgotten her subplot with the Penguin.

Granted, this is all referenced in a few bits of throwaway dialogue, but it’s always good to see Harley, even when she’s making awful, awful jokes.

Especially when she's making awful jokes.
Especially when she’s making awful jokes.

Harley, it turns out, is the one who “named” Jason’s new persona, in one of the more on-the-nose moments in this book. As such, he has special plans for her, the extent of which I assume we’ll see later. That’s a feeling I’ve been having with an increasing number of Arkham Knight stories of late, but at least this issue uses pieces that are already in play rather than introducing new players and elements this late in the game. It’s not ideal, but at least the narrative is starting to feel like it’s going somewhere.

In spite of that, most of this issue feels like filler. The stuff with Harley could and probably should have been told in the main title, and the flashbacks consist of more of the torture and humiliation that Jason received last issue.  While it’s all handled well, I have a feeling that in the end this series will feel any issue or two too long.

Jason’s mistreatment by the Joker is, in its way, the best part of the issue.  Much like last month, it’s not easy or enjoyable to read, but it’s solidly told and incredibly brutal.

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BONUS: the Batmen there are Catman and Blockbuster. Neat.

His treatment of Harley isn’t much better, as he tells her that nobody cares about her but him in a well-written, horrible exchange.  It’s harsh, but in line with his manipulative skills, and reinforces her sad dependence on his approval.  It’s an interesting proposition, too, two people damaged in different ways by the same person ultimately working together, but while it scarcely scratches the surface here the door is left open to explore such a tense partnership in the future.

Dexter Soy renders all of this well, and I particularly liked Dave McCaig’s use of color throughout, especially the explosion from above.  There aren’t any iconic shots or great action scenes, as the plot is fairly low-key, but the artistic team does the job just fine.

Sadly, like too many books lately, there’s at least one typo here.

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It’s made even more frustrating that the proper usage of “you’re” is found in the next panel.  I don’t know what’s going on with letterers or editors lately, but it’s pretty aggravating.

In the end, this feels like a bridge between the first half of the series and the latter issues to come, which in turn makes it feel padded out to get a graphic novel-length story.  Nothing here is bad, just a bit scattershot, but what’s good is at least consistent with the series’ existing strengths.

Recommend if:

  • You like the Arkham games.
  • You “love” the Joker being absolutely despicable.
  • Hey, Catman and Blockbuster.  That was kind of cool, right?
  • Right?

Overall: There were things I liked, and nothing I really hated, but this issue didn’t really connect with me.  Beyond a few bright spots, it felt like a collection of outtakes from other books rather than a cohesive issue on its own.  Genesis has been the stronger of the Arkham books, and a weak installment is a given every now and then no matter the series, so hopefully we’ll come back strong in December.

SCORE: 6/10