Arkham City: The Order of the World is the kind of comic series that walks the line on the edge of something truly different. That makes it great, especially for superhero comics. The first issue introduced readers to a psychiatrist attempting to help a city heal after some of its sickest citizens — including the absolutely bonkers Ten-Eyed Man — escaped the Arkham Asylum explosion. In the second issue, more Arkham escapees are explored and Azrael enters the story.
The identity of this book seems to be defined by Dani’s unique art that simplifies yet somehow comes off as purely atmospheric even with the mundane. As we read Dr. Jacosta Joy’s notes, the world around her is made flat due to the intentional lack of details and the flatness of Dave Stewart’s colors. This simplification makes the identity of these characters seem raw, and yet the lack of detail makes the world feel ominous and dangerous. It’s a work that could be studied to better identify what it does to the reader as they soak in its unnerving nature.
The story opens with a slow build towards the victimization of one of the Arkham inmates who is now being used to get people high. It’s a wild notion that feels somehow true to the spirit of humanity’s cruelty. Meanwhile, Azrael is introduced, who comes off as a bit insane and an overly zealous religious nut. He speaks out loud to his lord who is literally on his knees at one point admitting his defeat. Similar to the opening, writer Dan Watters is showing an outlandish scenario and characters somehow fitting in a believable albeit dark world.
The Ten-Eyed Man gets much more time in this issue as well. Again, this character looks and talks in an unrealistic sort of way, but there’s some humanity still there on the page, be it a kindness he shows Dr. Joy when he unhands her, or a revelation he has uncovered. There’s an interesting juxtaposition between the Ten-Eyed Man and Azrael as well — both seem to think they know things or are much more than just flesh and blood, but Azrael is more of a doer and the Ten-Eyed Man is more of an observer. It’s unclear at this point, but one could see these two coming to blows, or maybe even working together at some point.
If you haven’t guessed yet, this is a very unconventional comic story. There is action, of course; Azrael does some beating, but even then that is done in a more emotionally charged way rather than glorifying it. There’s a dreamlike quality to the way characters speak and act, as if we’re taking in a fever dream. It can make the reading experience almost too obtuse and strange, but it also feels deep and complex. Your interest may vary depending on how invested you are in these characters.
Arkham City: The Order of the World #2 introduces new players and a strong sense that something quite dark is happening in Gotham. It’s a story that rewards readers who are seeking a complex and otherworldly feel in their superhero stories. I can’t say I know what is happening exactly, but regardless, this is a rewarding read all the same.
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