Saturday, February 2, 2013

Batman: Arkham City - End Game (Comic)

For my next Batman comic review, I'm going to take a look at Batman: Arkham City - End Game. The reason I'm doing this next and not Arkham Unhinged is because that comic is multiple issues and I plan on reviewing each of them separately, so I wanted to get the later released one-shot out of the way. While the tie-in comics reviewed on this blog are either prequels or transition between two games, End Game, the comic I'm going to review here, is actually an epilogue, taking place after the events of the Arkham City video game. This was my first time reading a comic that's meant to be placed in that part of a game's continuity, so it was a rather unique experience to see how it goes beyond the ending. Suffice it to say, I have mixed feelings on the book.

First, I'd like to get the premise out of the way. Due to the absolutely spoileriffic nature of it, I'll try to be brief and avoid discussing the ending as much as I can, but I'm still going to put that information in white text in case someone still hasn't played the game yet. After The Joker's death in Arkham City, Batman and Commissioner Gordon discuss the aftermath as they look over the body, wondering if that which is before them is truly the end. In the meantime, Harley Quinn is captured by a detective and taken to Arkham City, only to end up taking the doctors hostage and take over the steel mill once again. Batman goes to investigate, but finds out that the nightmare in Arkham City isn't quite over yet.

As for the execution, I think that Derek Fridolfs is able to showcase his writing ability rather well, since he has some creative freedom. However, there are a couple of limitations that create a couple of hiccups. For one thing, he's held back anyway by the potential for another Arkham game, so he can't go too far with his plans. The ideas that he has for an epilogue are actually really interesting and have a lot of potential, but it seems that he couldn't make that entirely work over the course of 64 pages (yes, this book is 64 pages long). He spends a good part of it recapping the ending of its parent game and when he gets the ball rolling, it just feels like there's something missing, as though he could have put some more meat on the bones. Certain sections feel a little rushed, and though that doesn't detract from the overall work, I do know that the story isn't perfect. Perhaps balancing the recap with the new material better would have made the story a little stronger.

Then there's the artwork by Jason Shawn Alexander, with colors by Lee Loughridge. Jason Alexander clearly has talent when it comes to art and I really mean that. He knows how to set up the mood and keep it consistent throughout and even makes The Joker look really creepy. However, the style that he employs in this book doesn't work the whole way. It starts out looking pretty interesting, even if it doesn't completely match the style of Arkham City that closely. In some areas though, like placing a weird effect on Harley's nose line and the very stylized approaches made to display The Joker's psychotic nature on the outside, the art seems to fall apart a little. This is also due in part to the coloring, which makes the city look more dismal than it ought to thanks to the dingy colors and gratuitous use of the color brown. If anything, I'd say this duo is suited well to illustrate a horror comic, but I'll take what I can get here and at least they did a consistent job of it. In the end, I'd say they weren't that bad as choices anyway.

Overall, Batman: Arkham City - End Game is a rather interesting comic. Its approach to detailing an epilogue of a video game is rather unique, at least from my own experience, and there's a very interesting idea here. However, it's marred a little by story limitations and somewhat unfitting artwork. Newcomers are advised to stay away from this comic, since playing the game is an absolute necessity and fans of Arkham City will definitely need to check it out. On the other hand, its asking price of $6.99 (seriously) is a little steep for what you get, even if being 64 pages long justifies a higher than normal price point (for comparison, an average DC comic is priced at $2.99 unless it's a popular title like Batman or Superman, in which case it's $3.99). Though I would recommend this to fans of Arkham City, you should also consider for a moment whether or not you feel it would be worth spending seven dollars on this book.

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