|ARKHAM MANOR No. 5, April 2015|
Having previously brought his furtive scouring of Arkham Manor’s claustrophobic cavity wall corridors to an end, Batman is just all battling brawn in this penultimate instalment of Gerry Duggan’s sinister storyline. But whilst duking it out with the mysterious Spider, the Dark Knight demonstrates a vicious physically punishing side to his nature which is rarely seen. For having peppered his silent opponent with bat-a-rangs, stabbed him with a bat-blade and even burned him facially upon one of the old house’s radiators, the Caped Crusader still strikes his now defeated opponent hard enough to knock him through an upper storey exterior wall.
Admittedly the cowled vigilante is angry, and towards the end of the eleven-page sequence starts to purposely pull his punches so his adversary will “eat solids again… someday.” But Bruce Wayne is also out “to make an example” of this murderer for desecrating his house and chillingly does just that.
Unfortunately such a pulse-pounding pacy series of panels inevitably runs out of steam once the contest concludes, and Batman spends the rest of the book simply swapping dialogue with Jeremiah Arkham whilst the homicidal day labourer is officially incarcerated and confined within a cell. Especially disappointing however is the writer’s absurd inclusion of a smiling child-like Mister Freeze, who gleefully starts throwing snowballs at the Batmobile for fun. Hardly the behaviour of a villainous cryogenic expert who is both haunted and tormented by the fate of his terminally-sick wife.
Equally as disheartening is the artwork of Shawn Crystal, who depressingly fails to live up to Duggan’s praise of “really turning in the finest work of his career.” The Dark Knight’s clash with the bloodthirsty builder is extremely well drawn, with the sinewy hero really ‘socking it’ to the claw hammer-wielding psychopath. But as soon as the action comes to end with an awkward-looking double-splash of Batman gliding to the ground from atop Wayne Manor, the American penciller’s illustrations seems to lose any semblance of dynamism or energy and rather uninspiringly simply ‘do a job’.
Indeed it isn’t until the hero once again finds himself surrounded by sinister shadows and becomes cloaked in the darkness of Seth Wickham’s home, that the artist once again ‘picks up his game’ and delivers a wonderful page-sized cliff-hanger depicting the detective entering a potential murder scene.
|Writer: Gerry Duggan, Artist: Shawn Crystal, and Colors: Dave McCaig|