It used to be graphics or gameplay that sold a video game, but nowadays it’s all about the story. One of the reasons the recent Batman video games have worked so well is because they’ve created a slightly different version of Batman that’s close, but still different enough to intrigue all types of fans. That said, Akrham Knight wasn’t without its story problems and had a cliffhanger reveal everyone saw coming. If you’re one of the folks who hasn’t played the game, and don’t know the Arkham Knight’s true identity, steer clear of the review below!
For everyone else, here’s five ways Batman: Arkham Knight Genesis improves on the game.
Batman: Arkham Knight Genesis (DC Comics)
Before we get started: spoilers below!
1. The Arkham Knight gets a full backstory.
This book goes in quite in depth in Arkham Knight, aka Jason Todd’s, childhood. Writer Peter J. Tomasi introduces us to his childhood quite quickly after he saves Hush’s butt and says he was “Born ready.” From there the story breaks down his life starting as a baby with drug addict parents, rising up as a master thief and eventually how his life intersected with Batman. The fact that it involves Joker makes it all the sweeter. Tomasi strongly establishes Jason as an angry young man with a lot of reasons to eventually crack.
Alisson Borges draws this issue, and her thin line and fun layouts add to the experience. That includes a doozy with eight panels breaking into shards as a robin flies towards us gives the first chapter a lighter feel. This page helps convey how close Jason is to cracking, but also his life, which is very much in shambles, being brought together by Bruce Wayne. She has art duty for the first half of the book and it has a very Æon Flux feel.
Ouch that looks painful.
2. You find out how Arkham Knight got his name.
While this is relatively minor in retrospect, the character that gives him the name is unexpected. The book actually has Jason Todd say another character entirely named him, but maybe that’s an oversight. Or maybe he meant it in a symbolic way. Tomasi weaves this character into his ultimate rise later on too which raises the emotional stakes.
3. You see how Joker captured and broke Arkham Knight’s will.
Not only do we get the full breakdown of how Joker captures Jason Todd, but we also see the torture he put him through. If you’ve played the game you get to see some of that as he recorded himself–as he does here–torturing Jason Todd to show Batman later. This book doesn’t skimp on the hell Joker puts him through which includes letting many of Batman’s rogues gallery have their turn to inflict damage. Trapped for months, it’s quite clear the angry boy inside Jason Todd was let loose and the once proud and confident kid Bruce Wayne fostered was removed forever.
Much of this portion takes place in the second half of the book with art by Dexter Soy. His style puts a lot of detail in faces and their emotions which helps quite a bit in the torture scenes. Joker is incredibly insane looking and scary, putting you right there with Jason Todd. There’s one full page with 12 panels, seven of them comprising a bat symbol. Not only is this two page spread fun to look at but does a fantastic job reminding us Jason blames this all on Batman.
Soy draws a freaky Joker.
4. Arkham Knight is a master manipulator.
More than once this book shows us moments where the Arkham Knight manipulates others to get his way. From Deadshot to Hush to Harley Quinn, the Arkham Knight plays them all to help him get the money and resources he needs to destroy Batman. This is largely due to his street smarts and Tomasi establishes those well early on.
5. His rise as a hero wasn’t perfect and was rife with guilt and anger.
A recurring theme in this book is Jason Todd’s anger, frustration and inability to give himself entirely to Batman’s training. Bruce Wayne fosters him and gets him the education the streets can’t give him, but he’s hard on him and that might not be the kind of training he needs. Tomasi writes one sequence where in a sense Batman dupes Jason and makes him feel like an outsider. This of course helps him along his way of anger and frustration that builds to the Arkham Knight video game.
These five elements go a long way in giving the Arkham Knight very good reasons to want Batman dead and buried, which is one of the major flaws of the game. His motivation was touched on sure, but the exposition and backstory in this book will without a doubt make your enjoyment of the story all the better.
Will you completely believe the Arkham Knight has every right to hate Batman? I’m not so sure. He certainly went through hell and one key scene showing Batman manipulating him early on helps show their relationship was at least at times rocky. More scenes like this would have strengthened this story and ultimately the purpose of this book.