Monday, September 14, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis #1 Review and *SPOILERS*

Written By: Peter J. Tomasi
Art By: Alison Borges and Dave McCaig
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: August 26, 2015

Under the Dead Hood

*Non Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

Those of us who have played Batman: Arkham Knight by Rocksteady Games probably know that the identity of the Arkham Knight is former Robin and assumed corpse Jason Todd. I mean, the video game has been out since June 23rd, for crying out loud, if you hadn’t found out until this intro to a review of Batman: Arkham Knight then you either didn’t care or you have just emerged from a cryogenic chamber. This digital-first comic details Jason Todd’s origin—his genesis, if you will—so if you hadn’t discovered the Arkham Knight’s identity and decided to read this comic, then you screwed yourself anyway. Should you even bother checking this out in the first place? Read on and see!

Explain It!:


Our story begins with Tommy “Hush” Elliot being chased by a bunch of rats dispatched by Ratcatcher. Right away, this story had me, because Ratcatcher was the villain in one of the first Batman comics I ever read and his Rocksteady-inspired version looks absolutely awesome. Ratcatcher is annoyed at Tommy for pretending to be Bruce Wayne in some capacity—we saw him assume Wayne’s identity in the comics, but also in the game Batman: Arkham City where you track gruesome clues to find out that Hush has had reconstructive surgery. As Tommy gets devoured by rats, Jason “Arkham Knight” Todd shows up on the scene and isn’t very nice to Ratcatcher. As in he electrocutes Ratcatcher and turns him into a smoldering skeleton.

Then Jason invites Hush to a sleepover at his super-cool clubhouse and they head to the rooftop of Gotham City radio station KGOT. They jump down a chute and grab on to a fireman’s pole, likely a clever nod to the 1966 Batman television show and a cool way to reach your secret base anyway. Since they’re BFFs, Jason Todd decides to tell Tommy his origin, which is pretty dreary. He was born on the roof of KGOT to drug-addicted criminal parents Cathy and Willis Todd. Willis contacts crime boss Moroni and offers his newborn baby as payment for an outstanding debt to mafia don Falcone. This disgusts even career criminal Moroni, who pummels Willis and gives him a couple of days to come through on the debt. Cathy Todd wins the mother of the year award and…wait, no, she holds her newborn baby disgustedly and spits an epithet at it.

Later, lil Jason Todd grows to be thirteen and makes a deal to keep Moroni off his turf. In the deal, he gives up his parents and they are exterminated. I really liked this stuff about Jason’s background because it shows a side of the character that we never really saw in the comic, and didn’t have the obvious luxury to see in the video game: despite the fact that Jason Todd was Robin, there was always this secret, murderous side to him that Bruce Wayne clearly took for granted. We see that illustrated when Batman comes to Jason’s side of town in pursuit of the Joker, who is walking around in one of those crazy robot suits like Ripley had at the end of Aliens. Batman saves Jason and saves the day, then has Jason sent to a Wayne-sponsored juvenile detention center where Jason excels.

One night, Batman shows up at Jason’s dorm and hands him a Robin suit, and then there’s a tremendous splash page of Batman and Robin swooping on their lines high above Gotham that just looked so triumphant and fun that I forgave the fact that it looks like Jason’s left hand has exploded. At this point, Jason is done sewing up Elliot’s wounds from Ratcatcher’s rats and ends the story…for now.

I really enjoyed this comic a lot, it worked perfectly well within the context of the video games and expanded Jason Todd’s character quite a bit. Peter Tomasi proves again why he is one of the great Batman writers, and the artwork by Alison Borges is just wonderful. There’s a page showing a montage of Jason’s young life that is set up in fractured panels, arranged in such a way to evoke the mask of Arkham Knight that you’ve got to see to believe. It was masterfully done. I’m not normally a digital comics reader, but this was some serious quality work and I’m certainly interested to read it going forward.

Bits and Pieces:

This is a really solid comic by some great talent, took me back to Tomasi’s classic run on Detective Comics some years ago. It’s straightforward Batman stuff with a lot of the familiar trappings tweaked just enough to pique your interest. The art is top-notch and the colors and executed nicely. If you’re a fan of the video game or you’re just looking for a classic Batman story, you should check this out.


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