By Marty Mulrooney
Batman: Arkham City is a graphic novel written by Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series) and illustrated by Carlos D’Anda (Deathblow), bridging the gap between the critically acclaimed 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum and its recently released sequel, Batman: Arkham City (reviewed here).
Serving as a prequel to Batman: Arkham City, this graphic novel of the same name explores the creation of the immense open-air prison, taking place six months after the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Arkham Asylum administrator Quincy Sharp has taken full credit for Batman’s work during that fateful night and is now the elected mayor of Gotham City. Arkham City – walling off half of the city as an open-air detention area – is supposedly Sharp’s idea, but Batman soon discovers that he is actually being manipulated, and is merely a puppet in a much larger game.
Originally released as a limited five-issue monthly comic series, Batman: Arkham City (The Graphic Novel) sees Batman infiltrating Arkham City whilst avoiding the private military company known as Tyger Security – who claim to take orders from Mayor Sharp, but instead seem to be following the commands of the mysterious Hugo Strange. Meanwhile, the Joker and Penguin – two of Batman’s greatest foes – are busy recruiting members to their gangs and claiming as much turf in Arkham City as possible.
The illustrations by Carlos D’Anda are highly detailed and vividly coloured – it’s truly wonderful to see the unique graphical style of the hit video games being translated back to the comic book page. However the writing itself, although penned by veteran comic book author Paul Dini (who also scripted the games), is somewhat lacking overall. The dialogue is solid and each character stays true to their established personality. Rather, the story itself is extremely thin and becomes stretched even more so as it continues onward, despite the brevity of the book itself. There are no major revelations and those who skip this graphic novel and dive straight into the video game of the same name will miss little.
It does seem a shame, as the universe of the games is certainly ripe for exploration. Sadly, the scope of Batman: Arkham City (The Graphic Novel) is far too limited and, despite looking the part, has very little to say. The included ‘Digital Chapters’ at the back of the book, along with a concept art gallery for the game itself, are all welcome additions that certainly improve the book as a whole. However, whilst still a good read for fans of the games, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an essential one.
7 OUT OF 10