Super Types

November 17, 2011

The Comics Console: Batman: Arkham City: The Digital Chapters

If you haven’t downloaded the Nightwing pack for Batman: Arkham City, I highly recommend it. It’s fantastic. The Robin pack releases next week, and the costume bundle in December, but the Arkham City DLC doesn’t end with just the video game. The Batman: Arkham City prequel comic book series, by Paul Dini and Carlos D’Anda, also has its share of extra content with special downloadable chapters, adding even more to Arkham City‘s rich story. At $1 each, all seven shorts are available at DC’s digital store, and though some of them are worth the cheap price tag, others are really great reads.

While the main Batman: Arkham City comic follows Batman dealing with the early beginnings of Arkham City‘s opening, the eight-page digital chapters fill in the cracks, adding more detail to Arkham City‘s many supporting characters. Each story comes from the man behind the Arkham City narrative himself, Paul Dini, along with Derek Fridolfs, but each also features art from a different artists, and DC wasn’t afraid to use some some of their most recognizable talents for these extras.

Chapter 1: “Hugo Strange”
Writers: Paul Dini & Derek Fridolfs
Artists: Dustin Nguyen

We’ve known of Quincey Sharp and Hugo Strange’s personal police force, Tyger, since the first Arkham City teaser trailer, but have learned next to nothing about them. Dini and Nguyen give us the chilling origins of of Arkham City’s guard, and though it’s a satisfying eight pages, these expert Batman collaborators leave you wanting so much more. This one is definitely worth taking a game break for.

Chapter 2: “Cut and Run”
Writers:
Paul Dini & Derek Fridolfs
Artist:
Ben Herrera

One of Paul Dini’s more unique characters, Jenna Duffy, a.k.a. the Carpenter, like the rest of Gotham’s underbelly, is trying to avoid Sharp and Strange’s weird new prison initiative. If you’ve never seen the Carpenter’s exploits in Batman: Streets of Gotham or Gotham City Sirens, then this short is a great introduction to the character. In addition to learning more about the shady nature of Arkham City’s management, the story has some heart to it. Though I was a bit turned off by Ben Herrera’s big lipped and blocky framed character designs.

Chapter 3: “Riddle Me”
Writers:
Paul Dini & Derek Fridolfs
Artists:
Ted Naifeh

The Riddler’s role in the game is arguably the most entertaining, which made his story — preparing for his entry into Arkham City — all the more interesting. Securing a secret hideout filled with top surveillance technology in a prison city is no easy feat, so Nigma turns to another of Dini’s original characters, the Broker. Riddler is ever the arrogant genius in the story, and this is the digital chapter I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. I would gladly have bought a full length comic to read more of Nigma’s Arkham City experience.

Chapter 4: “Guardian Angel”
Writers: Paul Dini & Derek Fridolfs
Artist: Roger Robinson

Ever since Rocksteady announced their version of Robin, I’ve been most curious about his role in the Arkham universe. In this chapter, Robin finds his own way inside the walls of Arkham City, and it doesn’t take long for him to come across trouble with one of Arkham’s most infamous inmates: Harley Quinn. I’m a big Robin fan, and I’m glad Rocksteady decided not to leave him out, but I’m still getting use to this bulky, blonde Boy Wonder with his Damian-like hood. Character wise, we didn’t get much out of this Robin other than a typical angsty side kick attitude, but Roger Robinson’s art is very interesting, especially the way he captures the city.

Chapter 5: “Fall of the Titan”
Writer: Derek Fridolfs
Artists: Adam Archer

Bane and the Titan formula made from Bane’s venom play a big part in all the events and outcomes from both Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, and this chapter gives us some much needed insight on the big man’s personal stake in Arkham City. I don’t remember the last time we’ve delved inside this villain’s heart and mind, and it was very refreshing to see a deeper, more tragic side of Bane. Each page is filled with action as Bane takes on Titan fueled thugs, and it’s all illustrated superbly by Adam Archer.

Chapter 6: “Three’s a Crowd”
Writers: Paul Dini & Derek Fridolfs
Artisit: Al Barrionuevo

One of the best parts about Rocksteady’s Batman games is how packed they both are with our favorite supervillains. Even Scarface (minus Arnold Wesker) had a role in Arkham Asylum with the Joker as his puppeteer, and while he’s merely locked away in Penguin’s museum base in Arkham City, “Three’s a Crowd” shows us just how big an impact the small wooden gangster had on Joker and Harley’s relationship. Only the Joker (and maybe Jeff Dunham) could have so much amazing chemistry with an old puppet. Seeing Joker treat the little bad guy as if he’s his most precious pet is hysterical, and seeing Harley actually get jealous over it is even better.

What I really loved about this chapter — even more than Al Barrionuevo’s fantastic pencils — and what I love about all Scareface stories, is how by the end of it you’re not quite sure if the doll actually has his own mind, or if it’s all in your head.

Chapter 7: “Moving at a Glacial Pace”
Writers: Paul Dini & Derek Fridolfs
Artist: Jimbo Salgado

Ever since I saw Paul Dini’s “Heart of Ice” from Batman: The Animated Series so many years ago, anytime I see anything featuring Mr. Freeze, I pay attention, as should you. Case in point with “Moving at a Glacial Pace.” The only bit of warmth in Freeze’s heart comes from his diseased wife, Nora, and Dr. Strange has kidnapped her to use her as a bargaining chip for Mr. Freeze’s scientific services. This story comes full circle with the first digital chapter, “Hugo Strange,” setting up all the parts of the beast that is Arkham City for Batman to destroy.

This is, in my opinion, the best of the digital chapters in both art and story. Jimbo Salgado is an artist I would love to see on one of the regular ongoing Bat-titles in the future.

All seven of the digital chapters are included with the regular five-part series in the Batman: Arkham City collected edition. Whether you’re a gamer hooked on Arkham City or just a longtime Batman fan, the Batman: Arkham City comics are worth checking out, regardless of if you aren’t a fan of video games.

For more of The Comics Console, click here!

Andrew Hurst
andrewhurst@comicattack.net
@andrewEhurst

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