You can’t blame DC for trying. They had a breakout hit on their hands with Arkham Asylum, and things got even better with the release of Arkham City. With all the undiluted Batman love floating around, how could they pass up the chance to create a comic to compliment the game? With a little luck, some of those video game Batman fans would pick up the issues, realize just how awesome the comic medium can be, and become lifelong comic book fans.
Alongside the release of Arkham Asylum, DC released “The Road to Arkham” which chronicled Batman’s capture of several of the game’s villains. The book was well received, and thus the Arkhamverse was born. DC followed up on this success somewhat bizarrely by releasing two separate Arkhamverse miniseries simultaneously, one digital and one physical, leading up to the release of the second game. These series were received well but less enthusiastically. Always willing to embrace a negative trend, DC immediately launched an ongoing Arkhamverse comic to go along with the game, Arkham Unhinged, and it has been in digital first publication ever since.
The Problem Is…
The problem is…Arkham Unhinged sucks.
Arkham Unhinged has a rotating cast of contributors, so it differs in quality from month to month, but as a whole, it has been crap.
Here is what you usually get from Arkham Unhinged:
- Stories which expand small events of the game and turn them into large events without adding significant substance to warrant the tale leading to a hollow, soulless story
- Horrible representations of both hero and villain characters
- Bargain bin art
- Stories which explain things already experienced in the game
- Stories which break continuity with the game
What you do not get from Arkham Unhinged:
- Good stories focused on the games underutilized characters
- Any glimpse of what happens after the end of Arkham City.
What kills me about this is that these comics will be the first that many young kids will ever read a comic about Batman, and they are simply not that good. Most kids will not know the difference, but in a few years, those youngsters will have more discriminating tastes, and instead of embracing the comic medium and becoming lifelong fans, they will leave comics behind thinking they are silly and immature kid's stuff. What could be a win/win for DC is instead becoming a cheap cash grab.
Karen Traviss has been doing an excellent story in the pages of Arkham Unhinged for nearly three months now which is a really long time for a weekly series, and though I do not love every aspect of her story, “Welcome to the Slough of Despond,” it is an overall great story fully worthy of the name of Batman. Her story takes place while Arkham City is being constructed, and she has created a fascinating new villain named Bookbinder who seems intent on exposing the corruption and laziness of society by means which are truly unpredictable. This central conflict takes place with the backdrop of Arkham City’s construction where Traviss addresses the real (or rather, semi-real) political and sociological fallout that would accompany such a penitentiary project.
It is fully possible that Traviss’ epic story might end with an epic fail, but so far, she has been the best thing to happen to Arkham Unhinged. I can only hope that DC continues this trend of hiring writers with quality stories to tell in effort to convert new Batman followers.
DC has a chance to make some lifelong Batman fans. Please, do not waste this chance, DC!