Batman: Arkham Knight #12: “Scare Tactics/Epilogue”

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 Deron Bennett

It has to be a tricky business, writing a book like this.  As a prequel/lead-in to an existing/forthcoming property, you don’t want to fall into redundancy by having stories that have very little stakes and don’t actually effect anything narratively, but you want your stories to stand on their own well and be worth reading while bringing something new to the table.  Too often, no matter how good a book like Arkham Knight is, it ultimately feels adequate at best, superfluous at worst.

With the final chapter, Peter Tomasi and team have their strengths on full display, but a mostly enjoyable read ends on a pretty frustrating note.

But we’ll get to that.

The two main threads of “Scare Tactics” pick right up where they were left off last issue.  First, Bane and Batman have an airborne battle that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen since the Joker’s mech-suit, and is therefore the greatest thing I’ve seen since then.

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Yes, Bane gets frozen against the side of a building.  Merry Christmas to me.

Bane is still under the influence of the Scarecrow’s new toxin, and while some of his earlier ramblings about being a prophet of Santa Prisca were a little too silly for me, his righteous crusade and toxin-induced hallucinations coupled with his already impressive strength actually make him that much more threatening.  One of the things that makes Bane a formidable foe is that he’s as smart as he is strong, and if he doesn’t have his full faculties his all brawn and no brain.

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It’s an interesting dynamic, and the fact that the fight lasts for so long allows for some pretty fun set-pieces.  Batman in particular has to use his brain just as much as his fists, which is always refreshing to see in a fight, and he gets pretty creative with some of his gadgets.

Running concurrently is a meeting with the various villains left in play.

Help me out: dude with the weird chest tattoo below the Riddler? Who is that supposed to be?
Help me out: dude with the weird chest tattoo below the Riddler? Who is that supposed to be?  Never mind, Deacon Blackfire.  I looked it up.

I liked the way Tomasi handled these scenes because it’s not so much a team-up as a begrudging partnership.  Nobody trusts anyone else, but their mutual desire to take Batman down trumps any sort of personal misgivings they have with each other.

Still not buying that someone like Deathstroke would be his lackey, but hey, suspension of disbelief.

These two threads, the Batman/Bane fight and congregating of the rogues, converge when the Arkham Knight puts on a display of strength to prove that he’s worthy to be followed.

Spoiler
He kills Bane, which by itself might be a stretch, but he’s apparently alive in the video game.  This is one of those maddening continuity errors that makes it feel like nobody involved in plotting this book knew what was actually going to happen in the game.  Even worse, if they’re going to treat this whole series as non-canon, then why bother writing it to begin with?  It relies too much on the existing universe to stand on its own, and then the ending is obviously supposed to lead right into the final game.

Like I said, maddening.

This issue is pretty much pure momentum, and as such there really aren’t that many small moments, but what’s there is really good.  Harley has a nice scene of vulnerability in particular where she laments that she can’t get over the Joker.

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Whether or not she’s sincere is up for debate, of course, but it adds a nice dimension to her character beyond just identifying as “the Joker’s girlfriend.”

Also great is a scene between Batman, Gordon, and one of GCPD’s patrolmen.  Gordon mentions that if he’s actually elected mayor, Batman will need some friends on the force, and Owens is a good man to have at his side.

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I don’t know what would blow my mind more: meeting Batman, or having Jim Gordon say I’m worthy of meeting Batman.

Series regulars Ig Guara and Viktor Bogdanovic once again swap art duties, with Guara handling the opening “Scare Tactics” installment and the Epilogue and Bogdanovic covering the middle half.  Their styles complement each other well, and I’ve said before that at times they can be almost indistinguishable, but I tended to like Guara’s work a little more this issue.  His lines seemed a little cleaner, and Andrew Dalhouse’s colors were a little more textured than John Rauch’s, but both teams were solid which is a good problem to have.

Guara did give us this rather… handsome Poison Ivy, however:

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Then again, Bogdanovic and Rauch made Harley’s costume and hair magically change colors over the course of a page, so it’s a wash.

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All of that aside, every strength this series has had is on display here: the action is exciting, the quieter moments are nice and impactful, and overall it’s a nice book to look at.  What makes the book less than satisfying is that there’s no closure; the issue, and by extension the series, does not stand on its own.  You have to play the game to get the ending of the story, which was to be expected.  What’s frustrating is that for the longest time, the quality of the writing on this title was so good that even if it were to end on an inevitable lead-in to the game (which it does), it could have had its own ending.  Rather than an open ending, a period to end the story, we have a comma.

In the end, though, the series as a whole was better on average than it really had any right to be, and in a year without Batman in the main DC universe, it was a nice reminder of who really belongs under the mask.

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Recommended if:

  • You’ve been reading this series thus far.
  • In fact, do not read this if it’s your first issue.  Go back and pick up the other installments.
  • You like the Arkham games.
  • Ridiculous fight scenes are your cup of tea.

Overall: I really wish I could have rated this higher, as it’s more fun than the past few issues.  Realistically though, it’s hard to be over the moon about a book that, as solid as it is, doesn’t really have an ending.  From the moment it was announced I expected the series to end the way it did, but once I got into it and realized it was actually written well I was hoping for a little more closure.  With that and the myriad continuity errors that have popped up all over the place, though, it’s difficult to recommend the series as anything more than an interesting diversion.  The highs are high, though, and even the lows aren’t absolutely dreadful, so even ending with a whimper I still enjoyed the ride overall.

SCORE: 6.5/10