Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Arkham Manor #6 [The New 52] - DC Comics

ARKHAM MANOR No. 6, May 2015
It is hard to imagine a more dramatic decline in the quality of a comic’s content and sales figures than “Arkham Manor” by “DC Comics”. The ongoing Bat-family title debuted to great critical response and seemed to have a respectable steady circulation figure of approximately 28,000 copies per month. But in December 2014, just as its third instalment hit the shelves and despite the book’s dark tone obtaining rave reviews, its publisher surprisingly announced that the title was soon going to be cancelled.

Whether the series was so abruptly terminated because writer Gerry Duggan suddenly signed an exclusive contract with arch-rivals “Marvel Worldwide”, or that the magazine was always likely to just ‘enjoy’ a short run due to its plot tightly tying into the current “Batman Eternal” storyline, is a moot argument. For sadly within the space of three issues the periodical was selling ten thousand less magazines per month, and the claustrophobic edgy adventure concerning a deeply undercover Dark Knight stalking the corridors of his former home had been replaced with an increasingly uninspiring tale of Bruce Wayne once again donning the Mantle of the Bat and simply fighting homicidal villains in exactly the same manner as the superhero does in all of his other comic books.

Unfortunately “The Sacrifice” is the most disappointing instalment of the series and dishearteningly brings the curtain down upon a title which frankly appears a pale shadow of its former self. Indeed it would be interesting to discover whether Duggan and artist Shawn Crystal produced this issue already knowing the book’s fate. As very little happens within its twenty pages except a seemingly endless series of poorly written demoralisingly drawn superfluous scenes depicting the mental hospital’s inmates declaring their loathing for Batman.

The billionaire doesn’t even attempt to win his house back, despite his butler Alfred making it clear to him that he has uncovered the grounds for a legal challenge concerning its seizure by Gotham City’s mayor. Instead readers are treated to watching Mister Freeze merrily enjoying a barbeque on the frozen front lawn of Wayne Manor, Pennyworth munching upon a plate of chocolate chip cookies and Jeremiah Arkham hosting another therapy session with the likes of the Scarecrow’s alter-ego Doctor Crane.

Such a sedentary script doesn’t really give Crystal much opportunity to flourish with his quirky style of pencilling. But from the issue’s somewhat ‘wanting’ cover illustration, through to the comic’s final page of a heavily shadowed Batman conducting surveillance from within the blackness of the Batcave, there is little to no dynamism on show within the artwork and a good deal of the pages genuinely suggest that the Atlantan artist was disappointingly simply going through the motions with his drawings.
Writer: Gerry Duggan, Artist: Shawn Crystal, and Colors: Dave McCaig

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