The problem with Batman is that, as one of DC Comics’ perennially popular characters, he can sometimes be used as a blunt marketing tool. Arkham City is a case in point. This book bridges the gap between two computer games: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. The former was a highly acclaimed action adventure, which saw Batman roaming the corridors of Gotham’s institute for the criminally insane, beating up a healthy roster of villains. The sequel may be just as good, though the “let’s make this even bigger” rule of computer game sequels means that the outer walls of the asylum have been pushed out, giving Batman and his foes an extended urban playground to fight through.
This can’t happen without a backstory, which is where this book falls in to line. A malleable mayor is manipulated into creating the necessary infrastructure by a crazed psychiatrist, the usual villains are wheeled into position, and the key characters are put into place.
The trouble with a bridging story like this is that very little happens. After all, if something exciting were to happen, they’d probably have included it in the game. Then the book would be even less necessary than it is now.
The art is very attractive and Carlos D’Anda has a good line in balancing the cartoon elements of Batman’s grotesque array of villains with a bone-crunching solidity. We quickly fall into full page splash panels though, which make their mark on the design and set the stage for the game, but don’t offer much more than pretty posters for comic readers.
This is the ultimate issue with the book as a whole. It feels like a bit of a rip-off; a game mechanic shoe-horned into Gotham City to create a sequel to a computer game, then spawning a book as if to justify its existence.
If you’re so enamoured with Gotham’s finest and his digital escapades, then perhaps you’ll get a continuity kick out of this. But for fans of the comics alone, there’s very little for you here, and there are far better bat-titles you could be spending your money on.