There hasn’t been much of a change when it comes to Batman for a very long time. This is partly because the New 52 kept all that Grant Morrison built, but also because of the old adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” So, they changed it up. Did they break it, and by extension, is it good?
Arkham Manor #1 (DC Comics)
A couple things to note before diving into this issue. The first is that Arkham Asylum is no more. The loonies have been collected, but there’s no place for them. Bruce Wayne no longer lives at Wayne Manor, he lost his family fortune, and the Gotham mayor has decided to retrofit the manor into the new place to house the inmates. Lazy as they are, they decide to chip off the sides of the ‘W’ to create an ‘A’ and leave ‘Manor’ on all the sides. Voila, Arkham Manor is born. Keep in mind the cave is still operational. Man, does this series need House Hunters!
Now that’s being cheap.
Writer Gerry Duggan gets a couple of things very right. There’s a very strong tie made to Bruce’s father and how he would have let the inmates in because he always thought the mentally ill should be treated better. Fair enough, and this creates an emotional rationale behind Batman being cool with the change. There’s also a bit of interesting introspection as Batman admits his emotional attachment to the manor is a weakness. A bit obsessive, but I’ll buy it. Much of this issue is spent setting up this premise, establishing Bruce’s familiarity with the manor and setting up the emotional tone. There are many memories in the manor so to stick his worst enemies there is a very dangerous thing for Bruce, at least emotionally. Clearly Duggan is going to be playing around with Bruce and his days growing up in this series by plopping his enemies right there where he grew up.
Now as far as Bruce admitting he once thought of creating a prison in the manor for the worst of the worst enemies…that’s a bit out of character isn’t it? Batman was always about stopping a crime, not serving the punishment and it comes off as sort of sick and twisted rather than heroic. Batman’s choice at the end is a bit of a confusing one, partly because there’s no reason given as to why he must solve the mystery in this way, but also because it seems rather rash and not thought out. Maybe on some level he’s rushing to save his home, but there’s no indication this is a real thing he’s feeling.
So I guess them finding the cave won’t be a plot point.
The pencils by Shawn Crystal are great with some interesting and moody scenes throughout. If the emotional attachment to Wayne Manor needed an extra pop in the art department, Crystal delivers. I particularly liked the way he drew the workers outside Wayne Manor as the color pops and the design is very workmanly. Batman does have two very odd panels, one where he’s skulking in a chair looking particularly evil and another where his chin is stupidly enlarged.
Is It Good?
Most will cry foul when it comes to this issue due to it being mostly setup, but it nails the emotional tether Bruce has for his old home even if he keeps telling himself filling it with villains is the best thing to do.