Thursday, October 22, 2015
Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis #3 Review and *SPOILERS*
Written By: Peter J. Tomasi
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: October 21, 2015
*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*
Remember when you saw Batman as a kid—in the comic books, or in animated cartoon form, or (if you happen to be unlucky enough to have been born during the final two decades of the twentieth century and therefore their marketing would have seemed relevant to you) Joel Schumacher’s terrible adaptive films—you probably thought, “Gee, wouldn’t it be swell to be Batman’s sidekick, Robin? To swing around Gotham’s rooftops and crack wise with the ol’ so n’ so?” Well this comic will disabuse you of that particular want, because it turns out being Batman’s Robin can be just about the shittiest job, even worse than working in a cardboard box factory. Just how bad does it get for Jason Todd in the third installment of his Arkham Knight-derived origin story? Put the kids to bed. It gets real gross.
If you’ve been following Peter Tomasi’s telling of how Jason Todd changed from Robin to the murderous Arkham Knight, you know it’s been pretty brutal so far. Things ain’t sweet in Gotham, and here in the Rated MA territory there’s no reason to pull any punches. And believe me, none will get pulled here. We get a little present day introduction to the issue: Jason is going to a mostly rebuilt Arkham Asylum because that’s one of the top places to visit while in Gotham City. He breaks through the floor to a secret room, which triggers the requisite flashback: Batman and Robin Todd are in pursuit of the Joker, and without heeding Batman’s warning, Jason rushes into Arkham Asylum to greet the grinning ghoul only to get caught in a massive explosion that destroys the place. If you’ve played the video game, you know that Batman presumed Jason dead after this. But as you’ll come to find out in the comic book, he didn’t quite die. You’ll also find this out in the video game, since he is a titular character, but give me a break. This will flesh it out a little more, okay?
So Joker and Jason fall through the floor of Arkham Asylum into the very room we see Todd has infiltrated in the first scene of the book. There, Joker takes advantage of Robin’s prone form and ties him to a chair, and then he tortures him. Brutally. For six months. He pays a guard at the Asylum to grant access to other prisoners, and we see a cool montage illustrated across a two-page spread of Batman’s rogues gallery just beating the ever-loving shit out of Jason Todd. Even Calendar Man gets a piece! It’s really kind of disturbing, and it made me think of the way Jason’s murder is portrayed in the late 80s Batman series A Death in the Family in a new light: while the Joker smashing a crowbar on Robin over and over is not measurably better than having villains beat the snot out of him, in the comic we see the Joker, his maniacal face swinging the increasingly bloodied crowbar. Later, we do see Jason’s bloodied form, but he is able enough to crawl…anyway I’m getting off-topic. In Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis, you are practically watching a snuff film in comic form. So I guess that would be a snuff comic. Not to be confused with Snuffy Smith.
Eventually, Jason is completely broken and Joker films one of his trademark vlogs where he makes a bound Jason Todd (with the “J” branded into his cheek) pledge allegiance to the Clown Prince. It’s sort of weird because if he’d really broken Robin’s mind, shouldn’t he be untied and standing free? Anyway, Joker takes this opportunity to shoot Jason on camera, which frankly is sort of an overplayed punchline at this point. We end the flashback with Jason lying motionless on the floor of this Arkham Asylum dungeon, and then back to the present where he blows up the new asylum with that cool explosive gel Batman uses throughout the Rocksteady video games.
This issue was a little tough to swallow, though I suppose that was the point. Dexter Soy does a fine job on art, and in some beginning sepia-toned flashbacks to the original Arkham Asylum I thought it was cool that they did look like the first video game in the series. The two-page spread of Jason’s months-long beatdown is really well-rendered and cleverly couched within a Bat-symbol, even if it is pretty gross. I suppose if you’ve played the game, then you’ve broken enough digital limbs and shattered enough virtual vertebrae that the violence in this comic is par for the course. But I was a little surprised by it, and I am a broken shell of a human being since having seen Last House On the Left when I was nine years old. So if something like that bothers you, steer clear.
Bits and Pieces:
Peter Tomasi continues to weave an interesting origin story for the Arkham Knight, blending it seamlessly with what we know from the video game while paying some homage to the original Death In the Family comic book story. This issue reads a little thin since so much of it is given over to stark depictions of violence and torture, which to be fair isn’t something you really want to cover with a “Meanwhile” caption box. It was just a surprise; even though there has been violence in the first two issues of this comic, this was a little over-the-top. Still a good issue, and it definitely makes you feel a little more sympathy for that shrill asshole that plagues you for three-quarters of the video game.