15th Jan2014

Panel Discussion #29 – Titan Special

by Phil Wheat

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A new year and a new installment of Panel Discussion and this time round I’m taking the reigns to talk about two new comics from the folks at Titan Comics: Batman/Superman #1 and Batman: Arkham #1. As with many of Titan’s UK-released superhero comics, these two issues are made up of already-released DC Comics, in the case of Batman/Superman (obviously titled to cash in on interest in the forthcoming movie) it’s Batman/Superman: Cross World which was part of DC’s “The New 52″ last summer, and Injustice: Gods Among Us - the videogame tie-in that did very well for DC as a low-priced digital comic (here we get 4 chapters instead of the one chapter at a time you got digitally). Meanwhile Batman: Arkham features another digital comic as it mainstay, Batman: Arkham Unhinged, with back up stories taken from both Detective Comics and Batman: The Dark Knight.

Having already read some of the Injustice tie-in, which takes place before the video game and tells the story of how the Injustice “universe” came to be, the real appeal about Batman/Superman #1 was the chance to read Crossworld, the brand new take on the iconic first meeting between the two superhero giants. The plot is pretty simple: Wayne Enterprises employees start turning up murdered in Metropolis, Clark travels to Gotham City to ask Bruce Wayne’s thoughts on the matter. This leads to Batman travelling to Metropolis to investigate, and the first meeting between Batman and Superman. This take on the classic superheroes skews a little younger than the norm, with both characters feeling more like more naive versions of themselves. Of course any comic book that features DC two iconic heroes has to see the duo go head-to-head (no matter how cliched) and writer Greg Pak doesn’t disappoint. But it’s his writing on the rest of the book that will have you coming back for more.

Unlike Injustice: Gods Among Us, which I had read as budget-priced digital comics, Batman: Arkham Unhinged which is the back bone of Batman: Arkham #1, is an all-new title to me. Like Injustice: Gods Among Us, Batman: Arkham #1 collects multiple issues of the digital comic, in this case the first 3 issues of Arkham Unhinged and the “Inside Job” storyline; and once again it is based on a video game, in this case the critically-acclaimed and fan favourite “Arkham” series, in particular Arkham City – to which this is a prequel. Batman: Arkham Unhinged follows on from the original Arkham City mini series and tells further stories set in the Arkhamverse. “Inside Job” sees Hugo Strange in control of Arkham City, with Gotham’s many criminal locked away… However there are still some Gotham-ites that Strange hasn’t accounted for: Catwoman, Two-Face and Batman. All of whom Strange wants as his latest ‘patients’!

Comics based on video games are always tricking properties, and whilst the original Batman: Arkham City mini series was scripted by Paul Dini (creator of Batman: The Animated Series) who had also worked on the games, Batman: Arkham Unhinged sadly isn’t – and it shows. Very much standard Batman fare, this story is more filler than thriller – going a long way to explain how Two-Face and Catwoman come to be imprisoned by Hugo Strange. Yet whilst the story feels a little flat, there are some nice flourishes, none more so than the interplay between Catwoman and Batman who walk that fine love-hate line that they always have. Whilst there are problems with Batman: Arkham Unhinged it does successfully succeed in expanding the Arkhamverse and fans will no doubt appreciate what it brings to the franchise.

Batman/Superman #1 and Batman: Arkham #1 are both out now from Titan Comics.

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