Out with the Old, In with the Wacky-in-the-Wikky-Woo

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While the Battle for the Cowl rages among Batman’s children (frankly, I’m pulling for Cassandra to become the new Batman), the house of cards that is Arkham Asylum has fallen down again, but this time it looks permanent.  The big names have escaped and are running amuck with Black Mask, but what of those inmates hidden deep within the bowels of the Asylum?  Oh yeah, you didn’t know about those guys, did you?

arkhamasylum1cover.jpgThe Arkham Asylum one-shot features a lot of the inner monologue of Dr. Arkham as he returns to the shattered remains of the asylum recently blown up by Black Mask.  While he wanders the broken halls, he flashes back to the problems of the institute, and how his uncle wanted to build something completely different.

Along the way, readers are introduced to three new inmates we’ve never been exposed to before.  First up is Alessio Morandi, who had his face ripped off by an angry father, and who now expresses himself to the world by painting his featureless face.  Next up is the Mirror Man who stumbled out of the forest years ago, and once he caught a look of himself in the mirror, can’t live without seeing himself from every angle. Finally, there is the Hamburger Lady, who has such a horribly disfigured face, that it is believed anyone who looks at her will die from fright.  All of these inmates are kept in “the Hole”, an off-limits maximum security area of the asylum, that only Dr. Arkham has access to.  Kind of strange that these three would make it into the off limits area, but loons like Clayface, Scarecrow, and the Joker never made it into the big leagues.

As Dr. Arkham explains how he came to deal with these three, he suddenly comes to the conclusion that he needs to follow his uncle’s dream of making the asylum a place to embrace the idiosyncrasies of the inmates and let this be a haven for those who truly need a sanctuary to express diversity.  In other words, Dr. Arkham has embraced his inmates to the point where the line between patient and doctor is completely blurred.

While this sounds like an interesting take on a new improved Arkham, I have a feeling we are being set up for another giant graphic novel that delves into the madness of the institute featuring the new Batman against an army of crazies.  I know, sounds really familiar, doesn’t it?  That would be shades of morrison ala 1989, and remember kiddies, he is returning to the Bat title this summer.  In a sense the three new characters could easily be replacements for The Joker, Two Face, and Clayface (or Scarecrow).  It’s almost like DC is cleaning house and introducing a whole new group of villains for Dick to fight once he puts on the cape and cowl.

The biggest problem with the story is David Hine weaves the tale so it slips in and out of the past and present, causing the reader to momentarily wonder if there really are big name inmates still locked up in the nut-house.  It works to show how Arkham’s mind is working, but it causes the reader to invest even more mental powers into deciphering what is going on.  What I did like about Hine’s writing is in the very beginning of the issue he is giving off a Lovecraft vibe, that it had me really excited about the rest of the issue.  Unfortunately, all of that disappeared until the closing page when the Lovecraft style made a reappearance.

Jeremy Haun’s art works in a way, but strangely it doesn’t quite jive with narration, as I expected a darker tone with high contrasts ala a dark horror movie, but instead readers are presented with a two tone color scheme of browns and greens.

Why all these one-shots and specials?  Could DC be hinting at a new direction for the Batman universe, and are prepping us for the coming shake-up, or could it be a way writers who might not normally get the chance, to work on some Batman related books?    The answer of course is C) They’re in it for the money.  In any case, Arkham Asylum #1 is an issue that I think most readers could pass on and not miss a single story beat later.  Sadly, Arkham Asylum gets a very meh rating of 2.5 Stars.

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The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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8 Comments

  1. duckface
    April 26, 2009 at 11:24 pm — Reply

    I actually kind of like the idea that Dick (or whoever… but if it ain’t Dick I ain’t buying it) will have his own array of villains. Especially given the fact that for the last few years he’s pretty much been stuck with Bruce’s (and when he hasn’t, they’ve been utterly forgettable). Granted, it seems a tad forced and as you mention strange that Joker & co. have never been deemed mad enough to make it to the big leagues, and even stranger that Bruce never encountered them. But on the other hand I think there is plenty of room for new villains, and these 3 sound interesting. To be honest, I’m actually pretty excited based on the review. Maybe the new Batman will be around for longer than we think. I certainly hope so; 3 years of build-up for 1 year of a replacement? I don’t think so.

  2. Lalo
    April 26, 2009 at 11:57 pm — Reply

    i thought this issue was great it was a surprise to me how good it was especially after reading the manbat issue. those three new villains seem really cool and like thay can hang with the best of them at the least they can use these guys to spread bats good rough though what i hope would be more than just a year of a replacement after finishing this kinda made me want to read Grants Arkham Asylum again

  3. Salieri
    April 27, 2009 at 3:08 am — Reply

    I’m not sure Morrison would be relying on everyone to have read this one obscure tie-in to know the villains in his new B & R series – I’m thinking it’s more likely he’ll just use those wacky foes from Batman #666, like the Flamingo or Jackanapes.

  4. nu
    April 27, 2009 at 9:32 am — Reply

    they were in the hole not because they are monsters, it is just the opposite. they are insane and need help, but dr arkham even says something to the affect that they are removed from the general populace because they would be torn apart by the baddies

  5. crood
    April 27, 2009 at 9:35 am — Reply

    So, considering one off break outs occur daily at this place and giant mass breakouts occur for nearly every “event”, how is this guy still running the place?

  6. ~wyntermute~
    April 27, 2009 at 2:14 pm — Reply

    “I’m not sure Morrison would be relying on everyone to have read this one obscure tie-in to know the villains in his new B & R series – I’m thinking it’s more likely he’ll just use those wacky foes from Batman #666, like the Flamingo or Jackanapes.”

    Yup. g-mo wants everybody else to respect _his_ ideas, and will ultimately pooh-pooh anything that doesn’t fit into _his_ grand vision. :) Prepare for the reign of Le Bossu!!! El Sombrero returns~! Dr. Hurt is not dead!

    Yikes. If any of that actually proves true, I’m sorry for even suggesting it!

  7. Salieri
    April 27, 2009 at 2:31 pm — Reply

    In all seriousness, Grant claims his ultimate goal is to have Five TPBs – Batman & Son, Black Glove, RIP, Batman & Robin, and…er…Return of Bruce Wayne?, that can be read in sequence, and all the rest of the tie-ins as completely optional reading.

    Really, “Battle For The Cowl” is basically DC using forceps to squeeze three issues into the close confines of a caption box that reads “A Few Months Later…”

  8. ~wyntermute~
    April 28, 2009 at 3:00 pm — Reply

    Again in all seriousness, “Grant” has claimed a lot of things in the past… I will just wait and see what ACTUALLY occurs. Please, don’t take these as fighting-words, Salieri. :) If they are, it’s a fight with g-mo I’m itching for. But he could probably take me out one-handed, so maybe notsomuch. :D

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