Thursday, 12 March 2015

Arkham Manor #4 [The New 52] - DC Comics

ARKHAM MANOR No. 4, March 2015
There are times when the Dark Knight must remove his signature cape and cowl, and adopt the guise of the World’s Greatest Detective, using all of his vast analytical skills in order to discover, determine and decipher clues. Gerry Duggan’s storyline for the previous issues in this series have shown just such a need as a heavily disguised Batman, arguably at his methodical best, has stealthily secreted himself away within the shadows of Wayne Manor in order to identify a murderous serial killer.

“Out Of The Cold” however clearly portrays a time for the clandestine Caped Crusader to forgo any semblance of furtiveness as he must openly combat the threat of Clownface before the malleable menace murders both the staff and its fellow “Arkham Manor” inmates. Fortunately ‘Jack Straw’ is not alone in recognizing the “Clayface fragment” as a terrifying threat, and is joined in his endeavors to incarcerate the monster by the frosty internee Doctor Victor Fries. What follows is a reasonably straightforward team-up between the billionaire’s undercover alter-ego and Mister Freeze, but one in which for a change, the American author has the Bat playing the role of a lure and the molecular biologist as ‘the brains’.

Interestingly, this semi-mad dash through his ancestral home, also see the Dark Knight permitting some of the less dangerous Arkham inmates, such as Sybil Silverlock, to escape the prison rather than distract him from his more immediate task of stopping the potentially ‘Jokerized’ shape-shifter. This logical rationalisation and rather cold calculatingly prioritisation of threats even extends later to Fries himself, as rather than ‘burn’ “the Jack Shaw mask” Bruce allows the supervillain to depart Arkham with a ‘friendly’ “Nice working with you." This “lesser of two evils” also allows Bob Kane and Bill Fingers’ co-creation to return to the Batcave and once again don the ‘Mantle of the Bat’ just in time for one final confrontation with the homicidal “spider inside the Manor.”

The majority of this fast-paced action-orientated issue is drawn by Shawn Crystal with his usual competent, though kookily awkward-looking pencils. In fact the Atlanta artist’s odd and angular illustrations really convey a sense of the dramatic to the proceedings, especially when depicting Jack Straw racing through the corridors and rooms of the reformatory. Only occasionally does his work appear misshapen enough to jar with the sensibilities, such as when a female prisoner is being squashed to death by Clownface at the book’s beginning or Freeze’s robot is wantonly destroyed.
Writers: Gerry Duggan, Artist: Shawn Crystal, and Colors: Dave McCaig

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