Arkham Manor #1 (DC Comics)

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – A Solid Read Whether You Love the Premise or Not.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

If you haven’t been following Batman Eternal, then you’re missing some important pieces to just how the premise of Arkham Manor came about. Reading this without any prior knowledge could feel as though it’s an Elseworlds book, but it is in fact “in continuity”. The Wayne Manor is no longer the home of Bruce Wayne and Alfred. It is now the new Arkham Asylum, the home of Batman’s and Gotham’s most dangerous and insane criminals. Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Shawn Crystal explore this new chapter in Batman’s life in this first issue of Arkham Manor.

Whether or not you like the premise of Wayne Manor becoming the new Arkham, there is still an entertaining and fascinating story here. This new series opens with the Mayor of Gotham deciding that the Wayne Mansion would be the best location to house Arkham’s inmates, and rather quickly becomes a murder mystery as two of those inmates have been murdered from within. We get to see a nice exploration of Bruce’s thoughts on why this idea would make sense, and since he’s Batman, how he’ll use this change of environment to his advantage. Although we get to see Bruce’s thoughts on the change, it would have been great to see more of the physical changes that affect Wayne Manor. Except for a small scene wonderfully drawn by Shawn Crystal, we don’t get to see much on just how Wayne Manor went through the transformation.

Crystal’s art is strong throughout this first issue using a stylized line that is heavy on  blacks and use of tiny Ben-Day dots. It gives his art a lot of depth and movement, while his panel layouts and storytelling flow wonderfully. In the scene mentioned above, Crystal wonderfully shows how the “W” crest above the door of Wayne Manor is chipped away, leaving only a simple “A” for Arkham. We get some hints throughout this issue of changes like this, but not enough to make me feel the impact. It would have been great to see the transformation of the library for example, but hopefully that’s material for future issues. The transformation of Wayne Manor is handled over the course of a couple pages, but it would have been great to have seen Crystal given more time to show the how.

Overall this first issue does what it needs to do to hook a new reader, it just does so rather quickly, and if you haven’t been reading Batman Eternal then these changes in Batman’s life and location will seem even more abrupt. This first issue sets up a murder mystery that will have Batman working in a familiar, but drastically different locale and just how this will affect him and those he’s closest too. The ending cliffhanger will be reminiscent of story lines that we’ve seen before in titles like Shadow of the Bat, but it’s still a solid setup that has a premise much like the one that this series has been built on for future stories.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
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