Friday, 24 April 2015

Arkham Manor: Endgame #1 - DC Comics

Despite being a Bat-title and forming part of the multi-issue “Endgame” story-arc which highlighted the return of the Dark Knight’s most memorable nemesis The Joker, this one-shot does not actually even contain a mention of the Caped Crusader, let along actually feature the character. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Frank Tieri’s storyline is a bad one. It isn’t. However his rather bizarre twenty-page ‘prison break’ plot is not a terribly good tale either.

Purportedly the ‘grand finale’ to the short-lived six-issue run of “Arkham Manor”, this comic has been officially described as answering the question “what do Batman’s villains do on the craziest night in Gotham City?” Disappointingly they apparently all simply ‘club together’ and follow an ex-con hospital guard in a somewhat surreal attempt to escape their incarceration within Bruce Wayne’s former home… and “make it to the stairs.”

Admittedly there may well be some semblance of logic to such a narrative. The former writer of “Grifter” manages to cram the vast majority of Batman’s Rogues Gallery into his yarn. With the likes of such notable villains as The Joker, Victor Zsasz, Bane, Mister Freeze, Clayface, Clownface, Poison Ivy and the Mad Hatter all potentially being ‘big draws’ for comic book fans. But in order to incorporate so many ‘familiar faces’ the American author has had to use them sparingly and certainly can’t afford for them to utilise their super-powers; otherwise Clayface would have simply smashed a route to freedom through the nearest brick wall.

Instead Tieri has to limit their roles to that of inconsequential ‘sidekicks’ and give the lion’s share of the story to former Blackgate inmate turned security officer Stone. Such an anaemic use of such recognisable classic criminals is rather disappointing and leads to some truly irksome scenes, such as where Bane, a man powerful enough to have actually ‘broken the Bat’, inauspiciously asks his gaoler to “get us out of here.”

Perhaps the biggest anti-climax however has to be this magazine’s final reveal that the white-faced green-haired lunatic responsible for shutting down the prison’s electrical power and releasing ‘Joker gas’ throughout the facility is not actually the Clown Prince of Crime but a mentally deranged Jeremiah Arkham. Whilst a somewhat interesting conclusion, the sudden spiral into insanity for the institution’s warden would perhaps have been something more worthy of a multi-issue story-arc than a humble one-shot.

Putting aside the inadequacies of this comic's writing, especially as the escapees headlong dash through Wayne Manor is actually quite entertaining at times, this periodical ultimately disappoints because it features the artwork of no less than four different illustrators. Just why Flexi Ruiz fails to illustrate the comic’s middle five pages is something of a mystery. But no more so than Editor Mark Doyle’s decision to utilise the drawing skills of Roberto Viacava and Walden Wong for just two of the missing sheets, and then Christian Duce for another three. To be brutally honest none of the artists are likely to ‘set the comic book world on fire’, but Duce’s manically smiling Joker and heavily lined faces do stand out as the better panels from the bunch; especially when they’re printed directly alongside the rather wanting pencils of Ruiz. In addition Nick Filardi’s consistent work as colorist also goes a long way to ensure that each transition is essentially unnoticeable.
Writer: Frank Tieri, and Artists: Felix Ruiz, Roberto Viacava with Walden Wong, and Christian Duce

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