Field Notes: The Riddler’s Gambit

Spoilers for several properties of the Batman Arkham universe follow

Know this: Batman Arkham Knight: The Riddler’s Gambit is a fantastic read and a fantastic Batman story. It fits in with the Arkham universe well and gets you ready for Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Knight.

I need to add here that it was AMAZING to finally be moving forward in the Batman Arkham Universe. I’ve spent so much time exploring the past that the newness I found here was a joy to read.

Reading through the book it’s hard to put it down; author Alex Irvine keeping things moving at a fast clip while still giving all the main players a chance to have their moments of reflection.

The story takes place about four months after the conclusion of Batman: Arkham City; the void left by the death of the Joker in the criminal underworld is begging to be filed and the Riddler sees this as his chance to step up.

I enjoyed how the book gave him a chance to be center stage; Riddler has always been a side player in the games and it was fun to have the character realize this as well.

Riddler art 3

Getting his due

The clues and puzzles throughout the book are well done in that they are tricky yet believable, with our heroes coming off as just clever as the Riddler for figuring things out despite the deadly situations he puts them in.

Format and the Option to Leave

The format of the book contains what I’ll call a Grapes-of-Wrath-type of interlude where the main action is broken up by a shorter chapters of a different type, giving us Continue reading →

Field Notes: The Road to Arkham

Reading The Road to Arkham drives you up to Arkham Asylum with the Joker in tow and drops you off right where the game Batman: Arkham Asylum begins.

It’s a short but good prequel to the game and there are several details that get us ready to the upcoming adventure:

  • Oracle is working with Batman right from the start and see how their relationship works, with each bouncing ideas off the other as to how all these villains could have been so “easily” captured
  • Black Mask is mentioned, someone we won’t met in-game as a major player until Batman: Arkham Origins. Nice name drop!
  • We see the Joker go after the current mayor of Gotham, pre-Quincy Sharp. Not a huge plot point but interesting after playing through the games that we get Mr. Sharp’s precursor
  • Zsasz makes an appearance, and it’s pretty clear you’ll be seeing him again soon

The Dark Knight’s instinct tells him that something’s off, that this was all a little too convenient as we arrive at the Asylum where his instinct will be proven to be dead on …

Road to Arkham 1

Good call

Field Notes: Batman Arkham City (Comic)

Spoilers for the Batman: Arkham City comic follow

The Batman: Arkham City prequel comic is a great direct lead-in to the game. Like Road to Arkham walked you right up to the start of Batman: Arkham Asylum, the City comic does a fantastic job of getting you ready to dive into the game that shares its name.

The strongest point of this work is how Dr. Hugo Strange is set up to be an intellectually equal opponent to Batman. Using both mayor Quincy Sharp and the Trask brother and sister to push Gotham to not only accept martial law but the building of Arkham City shows Strange as a master of getting events to head in the direction he wants them to go.

Strange’s machinations almost wipe out the Dark Knight, but thanks to Catwoman’s unlooked-for rescue he’s able to survive. Here again we see Dr. Strange’s obsession and study of Batman, almost catching him for the last time.

Arkham City Comic Cover

I enjoyed how Strange knew that Batman would come and search through Mayor Sharp’s files to try to find out more about him, then next simply observing Bruce’s movement as he infiltrated both Joker and Penguin’s gangs. Studying an opponent to find a weakness is something we’ve seen the Dark Knight do again and again, so here we see how Hugo’s methods stack up – they stack up well.

There are other details that add to the story; Harley Quinn saving the Joker from guards who wanted revenge, the perspective of the Joker that they “got in” to Arkham first and could set up a new criminal enterprise unencumbered, etc. These points give us more insight into everyone’s head and where things are headed.

Strange gets the final word in the last issue (“Exposure”) however, and it’s fitting as he lays out his strategy and the current state of the Arkham-verse going through each of the other players in the drama, how their goals (and indeed their persons) are inferior to his, and how Batman is his only real opponent:

Only you are capable of comprehending the true stakes of this life and death game.

Hugo Strange’s summation is the perfect send-off for this story and setup for the next one. Well done.

 

Field Notes: Batman Arkham City, End Game

Spoilers for Batman: Arkham City End Game follow

Batman: Arkham City End Game has been the most rewarding of the extended storied around the Arkham-verse that I’ve read. The art style and story shine and add to the overall Arkham experience by not just giving you more to know about the characters, but by making you feel more for them as well.

With how many twists Arkham City had and how devious the Joker had been set up to be this comic had to be written in order to show that the he was actually gone. And how is that final end portrayed?

End Game page

Image courtesy of IGN

There’s only one way to go to make sure someone’s really dead – incinerator.

The art style – more than the other Arkham comics I’ve read – has an impact on the mood of the story, giving it a mystical and solemn vibe. Continue reading →

Field Notes: Assault on Arkham

The Batman Arkham Universe includes Batman: Assault on Arkham, the direct-to-video release from 2014.

Batman Assault on Arkham banner

I didn’t know what to expect and but I enjoyed the movie – the characters and the setting were Arkham through and through and it added more life to the universe, seeing Continue reading →

Field Notes: Arkham Unhinged

I’m marching towards Batman: Arkham Knight and before playing it I want to wrap up any extended lore from the previous games. First up, the Arkham Unhinged comic book series.

Batman Arkham Unhinged Cover 1

There are 58 issues is all and the canonization is a bit fuzzy as things don’t always match up with the games but I think there are elements that can be mined to enhance one’s experience of the Batman Arkham series.

Unhinged has been described as a prequel but it goes all over the all place. While this makes it Continue reading →

Field Notes: Batman Arkham City, Page 6

This is the sixth and final entry on my play through of Batman: Arkham City. Be ye warned that there will be spoilers for as far as I’ve played and please avoid spoilers for me if you have any comments concerning future segments of the game

Since the Joker’s death at the end of Arkham City, Harley Quinn has been grieving in her own way by taking over the gang and planning a trap for the Dark Knight.

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Grieving her own way

While being even more silent then usual at the conclusion of City proper, neither Robin or Oracle has heard from Batman since he went into the Joker’s recent haunts to stop whatever Quinn was up to. Continue reading →

Field Notes: Batman Arkham City, Page 5

This is the fifth entry on my play through of Batman: Arkham City. Be ye warned that there will be spoilers for as far as I’ve played and please avoid spoilers for me if you have any comments concerning future segments of the game

It was a battle to get here but this is it – I’ve faced countless thugs and the bitter cold in a city run by madmen, to find myself here at the end of this adventure. Let’s talk about it!

Strange Days

Confronting Dr. Hugo Strange was epic, but the man behind the madness of Wonder Tower disappointed me in his motivations.

hugo-strange-in-arkham-city

Black gloves continue to get a bad reputation

The prequel comics and game did a good job of presenting Strange as the mastermind, so when he mentioned a “master” just before his climactic last stand I didn’t know where things would go. However having Ra’s al Ghul be that puppet master was a let down, and it’s my own fault.

Continue reading →

Field Notes, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (theatrical version) last night and did so with the understanding that it was not reviewed well.

But that’s a good thing – when you go in with low expectations, the movie almost always turns out better then you thought it would.

Unfortunately that’s not the case (for me) with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – I’m interested to see where the DC Extended Universe goes from here, but this movie was a rough ride.

Biggest Issue

The biggest issue I had with the movie was the realization of Lex Luthor. I could not get on board with how they portrayed the character, and this is coming from someone who’s not steeped in DC lore. It wasn’t a “he-doesn’t-match-with-who-I-thought-he-should-be” thing, it’s a “he’s-more-annoying-than-evil” thing. Continue reading →

Field Notes, Batman: Arkham City, Page 4

This is the fourth entry on my play through of Batman: Arkham City. Be ye warned that there will be spoilers for as far as I’ve played and please avoid spoilers for me if you have any comments concerning future segments of the game

Nine Lives

Catwoman’s portion of the game continues to be fun to play; the fact that the game lets you choose whether to help Batman or not was a nice touch.

Breaking into the vault was a nice set piece and I laughed when she destroyed Poison Ivy’s plant – I didn’t expect it, and score another point for Rocksteady when it comes to letting these character’s personalities shine through.

The Two-Face battle at the end took me longer then it should have since I didn’t realize the guards kept repopulating; it seems not matter how many games I play I usually miss the obvious.

Catwoman’s music also offers a nice change of page and I feel reflects her character’s playfulness. In Batman you’ve all the brooding you can take, so the light notes that play during her sequences remind you that there’s another way to look at the events unfolding around you.

catwoman

a different perspective, and fun to play

Story-Behind-The-Story

Joker’s speech in the TV – he talks again of hiding a secret, something right in front of the Dark Knight. What is it?

Continue reading →