Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight Annual #1 Review and *SPOILERS*

Written By: Peter J. Tomasi
Art By: Art Thibert, Stephen Segovia
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: September 29, 2015

Feed Your Head

*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

“…And the Arkham Knight is talking backwards! And the Red Robin screams ‘Off with his heaad!’ Re-mem-berr—what the Scarecrow saaaaiiiid! Feed your heaaaad! Feed your heeeaaaaaaad!” I thought a little Jefferson Airplane parody would be appropriate for this special issue of Batman: Arkham Knight that has our pal Jason Todd taking a trip of the chemical variety, one that forces him to face his innermost fears. Does he “break on through to the other side” and “kiss the sky,” or does he die in a bathroom like the artists who sung those songs? Read on and find out! I promise there won’t be any more puns on 1960s music. Okay maybe a couple.

Explain It!:

This book is full of some of the most awesome splash pages and big action panels that I have seen in a while. Art Thibert and the rest of the team have done a spectacular job in making an action-packed visual tale that plays with the form of comic book storytelling a little but is still plainly easy to read. Our epic begins with Firefly, everyone’s favorite arrogant punching bag, who has knocked over an armored car and is taunting the guards. After torching one, the Arkham “Jason Todd” Knight drops in on him and takes all the money away. The remaining guard and Firefly have mistaken him for Batman, and he informs them that he’s not by setting Firefly ablaze with his own weapon. I guess we know how he got all scarred up in the video game.

Jason drives a van to an abandoned warehouse in Gotham’s Chinatown, and once he arrives he exits the van by kicking the fucking back doors out and completely off their hinges, exclaiming “I’m back!” to seemingly no one. This is one of his most insane acts as far as I’m concerned, to completely wreck his van for no reason other than to be a complete asshole. Jason Todd speaks aloud about how he’s ready to set the plan in motion, that plan being the military coup and total lockdown he and Scarecrow employ in the events of the corresponding video game. Scarecrow slithers from above and is ready to watch Netflix and chill with Jason, when it turns out he dosed the poor guy! This is why you should never leave your drink unattended, folks.

This is when Jason starts tripping balls and goes through his life’s great regrets and mistakes. It’s basically a drug that makes you feel like a shitty person, and yet I bet you could still sell it for twenty-five bucks a gram on the black market. He sees the Joker, who is actually holding the “J” brand that was used to sear the letter “J” on Jason’s face as seen in the game, hanging out with our current Robin, Tim Drake. Arkham Knight has some issues with Drake, being that he succeeded Jason in the chain of Robins, so of course they begin fighting. Red Robin fairly well kicks the snot out of Jason and sends him to the next level of his Faustian shame spiral, Wayne Manor.

Things get really wacky here, as evinced by both the tweaked layout and the fact that Alfred blows his own head off with two automatic pistols, then the cloud of blood reveals him to be the Joker. They go into the Manor to get some aspring and happen upon Bruce staring at a picture of his parents’ corpses. Jason turns around and there’s this great scene where thirty versions of Batman show up and start to fight Jason Todd. He handles his Bat-tormentors, but has more trouble being emotionally broken down by Bruce Wayne, who, when his mask is pulled off, turns out to be Jason himself! Jason’s been to therapy, he knows how to handle this: he shoots his doppelganger in the face and wakes up back at the warehouse with the Scarecrow, resigned more than ever to humiliate the Batman.

What I couldn’t really convey in this review was the tremendous dialogue and characterization throughout and for every character. There are so many little bits, like when Jason tells Tim that he’s “just the third try at a bad idea,” that come across perfectly consistent with the characters in the video game. Because Jason Todd is arrogant but ultimately craves only approval, and this really comes across through Tomasi’s writing and Thibert’s artwork. All that being said, this wasn’t so amazing of a story that I would call it a must-read—and actually might have fit better with the Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis digital comic that details Jason Todd’s earliest days. In any case, this is a solid comic about which I’ve got no major complaints, but it’s also a fairly typical story with better-than-average art. Still, I think Tomasi writes for the Bat-verse better than almost anyone, I can’t wait for his run on Detective Comics.

Bits and Pieces:

This is a solid comic that details the Arkham Knight’s motivations and personal fears in ways that really support his characterization in the game. The art is phenomenal, and there are lots of really cool scenes, but it’s not so vital or great that I would beat down a door to get at it. I will suggest giving this series a try in general, and this could be an okay place to hop on. This is a good Batman book and I suggest you take a look.

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