If you’re reading this, and haven’t played Arkham Asylum yet, then you have no business surfing the web and should promptly directed yourself toward the nearest video gaming outlet and purchase a copy of the game (and a game system too if you’re also without one of those).
Alright, so if you’re still here then you agree — Arkham Asylum was possibly the best thing ever coded on a digital versatile disc. I grew up playing all those atrocious beat ‘em up Batman games that were obligatory with the release of a major movie. You know the ones — where you punch, kick and Batarang your way eastward across a screen until you get a boss stage where you realize Penguin can only take damage when his hat falls off. Those games were entertaining relics for their era, but with the ever-increasing capability of the gaming world, the epic Bat-game we needed was only a matter of time.
The premise of Arkham City started in the ultra-hidden back office of Quincy Sharp in Asylum, and the trailers for the game have revealed some extremely promising and novel storylines about the Bat. The producers have claimed the game up to five times bigger than its predecessor so the scope of the story will surely be more involved than the already impressive Asylum. It goes without blabbing — this is going to be some real good shit. The scribe of both games and master of the DC Animated Universe, Paul Dini, offers the eagerly waiting a five-issue stop-gap for the meanwhile.
The first issue does not reveal any significant information about the game we didn’t yet know. Rather, its focuses on the organization of the info we do know. The appearances by Joker, Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Quincy Sharp and a shadowed figured who is presumably Hugo Strange establish the relationships between the many, many villains poised appear in the game. I was a fan of the pacing and dialogue of this first issue, but the story lacks a little forward momentum. If you told me this was a one-shot I wouldn’t be confused.
Still, the prelude has potential to be an interesting story. Being a video-game tie-in, limited series is stuck in a limbo of not being able to be too far-reaching with the source material, but the matieral is ripe with some of the best characters fiction has to offer. The addition of Strange as the game’s key antagonist is a brilliant move and fodder for a cool story. It is yet unclear what his motive, tactics, or overall role are, and we are told (via the producers and DC promotions) that he knows Batman’s identity from the outset of the game. His relationship to Quincy Sharp is explored in the first issue, and I hope Dini dwells into Sharp even deeper. Is the Spirit of Arkham as important at he seemed in Asylum? I would like this series to wrap up some stuff from the first game, as well as open up the next.
D’Anda was the concept artist for the game’s designs, and it’s apparent in Batman: Arkham City. Some panels look straight out of the game’s cutscenes, but others float more toward D’Anda’s animated style and away from the game’s trimmed-down, gritty, glossy tone. Overall, everything is money — I can’t complain about the artist’s vision of the city of Gotham.
Arkham City promises to be the best superhero game of all time. The comic adaptation is a not ground-breaking, but it’s a nice holdover until October 18, 2011. Until then, we can only dream of Scarecrows and Crocs.