Saturday, 29 November 2014

Arkham Manor #2 [The New 52] - DC Comics

ARKHAM MANOR No. 2, January 2015
There’s a seriously claustrophobic treat waiting in store for any reader who can somehow get past the appallingly bad Shawn Crystal cover to Issue 2 of “Arkham Manor” and actually take a ‘step inside’ the comic book. Even then writer Gerry Duggan’s tense and nervy thriller isn’t immediately obvious, as the first few pages of the plot primarily focus’ upon an inmate discussion group held by Doctor Arkham.

However once the banter-like dialogue between the mansion’s Administrator, the Scarecrow and Mister Freeze has come to an end, all attention turns to the machinations of the prisoner, Jack Straw… also known as The Batman. It is at this point that Duggan’s promise of depicting the Dark knight wearing an altogether different mask really starts to materialise and the speed of the plot to “A Home For The Criminally Insane” begins to move at an increasingly frantic pace.

There’s a killer lose amongst the killers, and a heavily disguised Bruce Wayne needs to move undetected between both his ‘fellow’ inmates and the security staff who now patrol his former home. Ever confident, Batman believes the murderer to be the missing serial-killer Zsasz. But all his well-laid plans for solving the deaths using stealth and subterfuge quickly unravel and have to be cast aside as ‘Jack Straw’ witnesses another attack and has to rush to the scene if he is to save the victim’s life. Thus follows a headlong dash through Wayne Manor’s corridors as the ‘apparent escapee’ battles both asylum guards as well as the shadowy mutilator himself.

Fortunately, having presumably shaken off their woes with their terrible sketchy cover illustration, Shawn Crystal and colorist Dave McCaig appear increasingly on form as the tension mounts. The former ‘exclusive’ “Marvel Comics” artist’s pencilling is still not the best there is, but the composition of his panels and the viewpoints of the action he provides the reader with, are simply second to none when it comes to creating a dark tense and atmospheric world full of sudden dangers and the promise of a truly horrible death. A hand-held power-drill boring into the forehead of a tightly bound prisoner being one such example.
The variant cover art of "ARKHAM MANOR" No. 2 by Chris Brunner & Rico Renzi

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