Off the Shelf: Arkham Manor

Arkham Manor cover

Nutshell: A strange, compelling hybrid of Batman Detective Comics and “New 52” Batman, there’s plenty of tie-ins to the Bruce/Bat canon.  So much so that though it can be read as a stand-alone, it’s better if you know who’s who (or at least have your laptop close by to hit up Wiki when necessary.)  It’s a pity this series was cancelled, though this six-issue storyline does wind up nicely.  Grade: A-

Story: Arkham Asylum crumbles to the ground.  The inmates need a new place to stay.  Wayne Manor?  Why not?  But Wayne Arkham Manor has been transformed from a safe house to an asylum that is anything but safe; there’s a killer hiding in the walls.  And an even deadlier menace hiding in plain sight…

Best Lines:
“This house has terrible secrets!  It whispers them to me.”
“Men like this will never be tolerated. Especially not in my house.”

Goodies:  Variant covers, storyboards.  Love the Nathan Fox/Rico Renzi variant cover art for #3.  Bruce’s former home as a malevolent Jabba the Manor.  Groovy.

Thoughts:  I’ll say it; I picked up Arkham Manor because I wanted to know more about Sybil Silverlock, the mother of Olive in Gotham Academy.  But Manor is a fun ride all on its own, with plenty of twists, turns and dark spaces.  Oh, and spoiler: there’s not that much 411 o n Sybil, something that I hope will be rectified in future issues of GA.  Moving on…

Here in Manor, Bruce — after losing his familial wealth (or at least playing like he has) — lives in an apartment in the city with his trusty butler Alfred.  There’s no real fleshing out of why he’s lost the fortune (though I’m sure the events in Endgame didn’t help his situation), but I’m kinda digging The People’s Batman.  It’ll be interesting to see how Bruce/Batman deals with bad guys that became bad due to bad decisions/poverty/bum deals, now that Bruce himself is closer to the economic status quo.  Shawn Crystal’s art fits in nicely with the usual gritty Gotham vibe, but there’s a touch of realism, a feeling that Batman is on equal footing with the rest of the characters.  There’s no gussying up the lead here, everyone is literally painted with the same brush.  And it works.

But one thing; I’m not digging the scruffy Batman here.  It’s not a cool Fight Club scruff.  It’s a “wino under the bridge” scruff.  I get that he’s coming back from some incredibly rough times, but just no.  Especially when the next panel sees Bruce clean shaven.

And of course there’s the Gotham Academy and Endgame tie-ins.  Along with a mention of S.T.A.R. Labs, for you Flash fans.  Gotta love it when a universe comes together.

As Arkham Manor is one of the “New 52” titles that has been cancelled — probably to make way for Convergence titles? — I wish they’d included Arkham Manor: Endgame in this TPB.  But with plenty of dangling strings that other titles/writers can pick up and play with, Arkham Manor is a creepy-cool quick read that I’m sure will echo through many storylines in future.

Publication 411:  Collects the complete Arkham Manor (#1-6).  Hits shelves July 28th, 2015.

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