Arkham Manor is a standalone Batman graphic novel told in 6 issues. It tells the tale of Gotham after the events that transpire in Batman: Eternal. Arkham Asylum has been destroyed and the inmates are being housed in the Gotham Stadium for the time being. A motion is made to house them in the old Wayne Manor, and Bruce Wayne doesn’t stand in the way as he believes it’s the right thing to do. Plus with all the baddies in one place, Bats doesn’t have to go far when things start to go wrong, and of course - go wrong they do. Almost immediately inmates are killed off and Batman, being the world’s greatest detective, goes undercover as an inmate to uncover the truth about who has been murdering the residents of Arkham Manor.
Along the way we see many familiar faces, Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, Clayface, Mad Hatter and Joker all make appearances as well as other some other villains. What’s interesting is that Arkham Manor also introduces us to some fresh faces. Seth Wickham and The Spider are two new characters who, I hope, will be used further down the road.
- “World’s Greatest Detective,” version of Batman. This isn’t Batman facing off against an intergalactic threat or Superman like in Injustice. This is Batman facing off against a killer that hides within the walls of Arkham Manor. In order to catch the killer he assumes the role of Shaw - a deceased military vet. He is thrown into Arkham and must catch the killer using his intellect and knowledge of the house. He doesn’t have his money, his gadgets, or his batmobile.
- Mr Freeze steals the show. I’ve always loved Mr. Freeze. He’s my favorite batman villain. I don’t know why exactly, maybe because he seems more a victim of circumstance than an actual villain. Maybe it’s because we’re both scientists. Luckily for me, he is the star of Arkham Manor in my eyes. Every panel he’s in the story is better for.
- The story is well paced and proceeds nicely from issue to issue. There could have been 12 issues of just Bruce Wayne battling for control of his house, but the whole issue is resolved organically and rapidly and most importantly, in a way that makes sense. This means that we are able to start getting to the meat of the story quickly, and the pace doesn’t let up. Duggan does an admirable job of juggling several different characters while ensuring motivations are established without the story suffering for it.
- Art is clean and well drawn. This is a bit of a departure of the Batman of late. Here he is more, scruffy. More rough around the edges. This is a bit of a love it or hate it style but I felt it worked really well for the story.
- No Joker. That’s not to say that Joker is not here. More, that Joker doesn’t play a central role in the overarching plot. For me that’s a win, I’d almost have preferred that he not show up at all, but then his inclusion is interesting - in one scene he actually saves the life of another inmate.
- Loose ends. Just why was Jeremiah Arkham acting so strangely? Where did Joker come from and why was he there beyond the obvious repercussions of his visit? Who is the Spider? What became of the escaped inmates? None of these questions are answered over the course of six issues, and while some are to be expected, I wish there hadn’t been quite so many.
- The Premise. All right, while I appreciate that this was dealt with swiftly, I’m not entire sold on the idea that Batman would really lease out his house to the city to house the inmates. At the end it seems he is going to allow it to carry on when obviously....it hasn’t been such a great idea so far.
- The Villain. I liked Spider as a villain, he was new and interesting, rather than having an unmasking of...gasp! Joker! He brought a new angle but unfortunately he has literally no motivation here. He has no backstory, no fingerprints, and in one of the final scenes shows that he’s not likely to divulge much information to the police/Batman.
- Seth Wickham. This was kind of a cool origin story for Seth. I’m hoping that they use him further or that he gets some sort of ability out of this whole ordeal otherwise he was kind of a wasted character.
- Chins. While overall I liked the art, sometimes there were some weird chins going on.
Batman Arkham Manor is a highly entertaining installment in the Batman franchise. It’s good to see him back to fighting crime using his intellect vs......more recent iterations of him (“DO YOU BLEED?”) It was also fun to see Arkham Manor from the perspective of an inmate, usually we see the villains on the outside of Arkham causing mayhem so to see them engaged in group therapy sessions was a nice twist.