FOREVER EVIL: ARKHAM WAR #1
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Scot Eaton, Jaime Mendoza, Norm Rapmund and Mick Gray
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: October 9, 2013
Gotham has been splintered, the sun blocked in sky by a group of otherworldly super-villains, and the Batman is nowhere to be found. The Dark Knight’s villains thought they had a plan in place that would guarantee détente — each Arkham inmate would take a neighborhood and rule it, answerable only to a new mayor, The Penguin. They didn’t count on Bane returning to Gotham City to claim it as his own. Starting with liberating Blackgate Prison, the man who broke the Bat’s back will stop at nothing, including all-out war, to call this city his own, and neither police nor inmate will stand in his way.
The premise of Arkham War is pretty intriguing. What happens when Gotham City becomes a life-size game of Risk, with factions fighting against each other, colluding, and attempting to rule all in the process. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of strategic exposition or evidence in this first chapter to make what’s happening that interesting. Certainly, I get the sense that Bane is a force to be reckoned with, and his march across the city is fearsome, but as for what drives his plan? That’s not even hinted at, and it leaves the reader somewhat left without a point person with whom to relate. Tomasi certainly captures what makes each villain a good foil for the hero — like the Penguin’s bravado, Professor Pyg’s strange civility, and Bane’s own mammoth ferocity — but there are no heroes here. As a result, I don’t have anyone to really latch onto, and while I suspect it’s the Scarecrow, Penguin and others I’m supposed to cheer on, it’s really Bane I’m hoping to see accomplish his mission. If only his motivations were clearer, or the point of view shifted, this upcoming war might seem to have worrisome stakes.
Eaton’s art is well done, handling most of the characters competently, if not with much expression. The sole exception would be Bane, whose scale and presence are so overpowering with his appearance on the page that you really do understand how he could have broken the Batman. His costuming is well-detailed, and mask impressive, with eyes that have to do all the work of a complete facial expression. Eaton can definitely handle scenes with lots of characters thrown about without any of them losing their individuality, but overall the effect of the story isn’t that compelling.
As a first chapter in one of three spin-off mini-series to the Forever Evil main event, Arkham War falls short of the excitement generated by the mother book, and so far isn’t showing much sign of being more than a villain versus villain fight book. Here’s hoping the next chapter gives us a bit more of a peek into the mastermind that’s interested in overthrowing the lords of this city, and why. It could go a long way toward making this a book worthy of its place in the overall crossover.
The Verdict: 7.0/10