ARKHAM MANOR #1 by Gerry Duggan, art by Shawn Crystal, colors by Dave McCraig, and lettering by Travis Lanham is an odd duck. No really this is an odd duck of a title. The question is should you pick it up? I’d say sure! Give it a shot.
To be honest I’m not quite sure anyone has been asking for this book, is this really an ongoing? Why can’t we have a Tim Drake book instead? Or like, I dunno, anything else but Bruce? Giving Bruce yet another book? God. What an attention hog.
Book lifespans have become so small I really do think DC (and Marvel) should be trying out the “season” system, the latter having done so a little. Essentially slightly oversized miniseries events set at around 10-12 issues, a full year or so. This, being so heavily connected to BATMAN ETERNAL is one of such books that I just don’t see lasting on. It’s not something like GOTHAM CENTRAL or GOTHAM UNDERGROUND that could survive outside of events that shape them. Is this an actual miniseries? Someone look into this I really can’t spend the energy.
Part of me dislikes this concept immensely; “Oh let’s put all the inmates in GOTHAM MANOR! Ohhohohoh so close how wacky and ironic is that hahaaa”; but it ultimately shows the entire issue with Gotham and Bruce as a really sucky benefactor to the city. With all his money, you’d think Bruce would be constantly building and improving the city but things always seem to be horrible and underfunded. Great for him to play Batman (if Gotham gets better we wouldn’t have him as Batman) and fight crime by punching it, not so great for hey literally having a functional society. I read somewhere that Batman is in a way a conservative wet dream and the plot holes or rather failings of Bruce (or rather inconsistency of portrayal in how much he’s helping) as a benefactor to the city is only highlighted here. After Arkham is destroyed they have nowhere to turn to accept the (largely empty) manor to convert into a new prison. Wouldn’t there be other abandoned manors from long gone upper crust Gotham? But then on the other hand it makes perfect sense. There’s just…too…many….plot holes….augh!
Surprisingly, besides the sort of eye rolling concept, the writing here is..pretty good and sort of retro? It feels retro. Like, DETECTIVE COMICS from 90’s and early 200o’s retro? The art, which is something people will either loathe or love (and I’m half and half with it) is similarly super retro. It’s conventional. But I don’t feel like you see this look on Batman much anymore. Story wise it’s also sort of cool and pulpy, DETECTIVE style; an inmate, who people have no idea who he actually is, is slain in the new digs and there’s scant evidence as to who, what, why and how. At least that’s what I can glean. It’s this element that actually is surprisingly strong and it’s retro detective side of Batman which we haven’t been getting quite as much is refreshing in a nostalgic way. Why must you do this to me?!
Ugh Arkham in Gotham Manor. Like how long is this really going to last? You already had the Club of whatsitwhosits infiltrate it in Batman RIP, like serious. Again, the art is something you’ll either love or hate. The coloring suits it and its by no means anything ground breaking in terms of style, but it’ stylish in the correct generic way. Definitely not of the Jim Lee school.
I’d say pick it up, it’s sorta pulpy and grizzled in a way that’s sort of different but sort of familiar but sort of retro and it better written than you’d think but I’m still really skeptical of the concept. This is actually a good score, since I had no expectations whatsoever. Give it a shot, this may be exactly what you’re looking for. How this can drag on, though, I’m not sure.