For some, Arkham Asylum is a treasured location in Gotham that has a complicated past. For others, it’s a prison for the criminally insane and they leave it at that. After the events of A-Day where Joker left it in ruin with most of the patients killed or missing, it’s all but been taken off the board. Until now. Dan Watters and Dani join forces once again after working together on the visceral Coffin Bound for a story, not about Batman, but the remaining criminals one shouldn’t forget and a focus on the Ten-Eyed Man.
This is a story that is steeped in mystery. Heck, even the title Arkham City: The Order of the World seems to hold some secrets. You’re dropped into a world that has been upended, it’s difficult to know if you can trust anyone, and there’s something going on that nobody seems to understand.
The lead character in this story is Dr. Joy, the only remaining psychologist left after A-Day. The story opens with her in a little girl’s bedroom with captions torn from her journal. Underneath the bed isn’t a monster — it’s Ratcatcher. There’s a struggle, but soon they subdue him and we learn Dr. Joy is working with the police to capture any remaining Arkham Asylum inmates yet to be recaptured. In a key moment, Dr. Joy says out loud he couldn’t have eaten the girl, unaware the little girl is listening. From that detail, Watters sets in motion a mystery of sorts as we attempt to understand Dr. Joy’s actions in the story.
There are other mysteries afoot too, like why Joker let her live since he never does anything by mistake, or how Dr. Joy and the Gotham police are finding villains like Mad Hatter and Professor Pyg. There is also the notion of who — or maybe even what — the Ten-Eyed Man is as they are introduced as a major player midway through the story. Something is going on in Gotham, a mystery that feels layered and complex, making this story immediately feel like a soon-to-be classic similar to Batman: Long Halloween.
That vibe is largely due to the art by Dani and color artist Dave Stewart, who give this book a moody, atmospheric, and unique look unlike the hyper-detailed superhero look Gotham is usually rendered under. There’s nothing like this out in comic shops and the visuals lead the way to help convey that.
There are striking moments in the book in part due to Dani’s stripped-down style which can make the Ten-Eyed Man even more disturbing as he’s practically a blotch of orange tights and a scary mask. Similarly, the destruction left behind by a villain of a burned-out body is disturbed with a striking red to convey the burned skin. Colors can be striking with only a silhouette of pipes, for example, cast in a bluish-gray to convey the darkness and disturbing moment.
Don’t expect Batman to show up, as this is not his story. While it’s nice to see a story stand on its own legs without a superhero, there does require some buy-in from the reader that casual superhero fans may not have. The entry point is for readers seeking a story set in the muck of Gotham that aims to explore the types of villains who are lesser known and hold potential to be explored further.
Arkham City: The Order of the World is the kind of story you read around a campfire to give you the chills. There’s an edge to it that only comes around every few years at DC Comics, showcasing the oddities of Gotham in a way that feels ethereal and pure, but its focus is the muck and disturbed nature of the people that come from it. Arkham City is a story that is filled with mystery and unease that Batman: The Long Halloween fans will gobble up with delight.
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