Today, Mikyzptlk and Drew are discussing Forever Evil: Arkham War 1 , originally released October 9th, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: Giant line-wide crossover events like Forever Evil can be exhausting. Suddenly, a story crops up that seemingly takes over the narrative of the entire “universe,” while sidelining the stories you might rather be following instead. Not only that, these events usually bring with them a slew of additional material in the form of tie-in miniseries. These minis can be very hit or miss, but the best ones tend to expand upon the main event by showing us the effects it’s having on the rest of the word, and characters, around it. This is where Arkham War comes in. The only problem is, I’m not sure who to root for.
Bane has arrived at Gotham City. More specifically, he’s arrived at Blackgate Penitentiary, where the inmates have been running loose for a while already. Bane takes over, basically, by being Bane, and is quickly given the keys to the castle. Oh, he’s also told that Blackgate has a number of Talons on ice. I’m sure those’ll come in handy at some point. Meanwhile, Scarecrow is freaking out because he’s heard of Bane’s desire to take over Gotham. You see, the newly appointed Mayor, Oswald Cobblepot, has recently given divisions of the city to the various Batman rogues, and Scarecrow is worried about losing his newly acquired “slice” to Bane. Penguin reassures Scarecrow that he knows exactly what these new “civic leaders” need, and with that, the lines of war have been drawn.
Those talking legs up there belong to Bane, and as you can imagine from the title of next month’s issue, things probably aren’t going to go too well for him. Speaking about this issue though, and the series in general, it could more specifically be titled Forever Evil: Bane vs. A Ton of Batman Rogues. As far as premises go, this ain’t a bad one. This issue sets things up quite nicely for the rivalry of villains vs. villains. Bane swoops in to upset the new status quo in Gotham just as some of Batman’s nastiest foes were getting settled in.
One of the things that I was looking forward to in Villain’s Month was getting to see what the effects of the Crime Syndicate’s global takeover. While we’ve gotten a taste of that in Forever Evil, I’ve wanted a closer look at the consequences of the villains inheriting the Earth. Writer Peter Tomasi, of the Batman and… series, is quite used to Gotham City by now, as well as picking up on threads left by Geoff Johns. He’s getting the chance to explore what happens to Gotham when “there is no Batman,” and, so far, he’s doing a great job at showing us just how terrifying a prospect that can be. Take a look at one of my favorite examples.
First of all, it’s Dollman! Hooray for the return of Dollman! Second of all, it’s Dollman! Run for your lives, it’s Dollman! Dollman doesn’t have any dialogue in this issue, something that I hope will change in the issues to come, but, come on, with a scene like this, does anything really need to be said? Tomasi gives us some other examples as well as to the terrifying shenanigans going on in Gotham these days including that of Professor Pyg.
It looks as if Bane is going to have Pyg deliver the message of “There is only Bane” to other Gothamites. I’m sure that none of this is going to go over very well consider the characters involved and, oh, the title of the book. While that is all well and good, I’m just happy to be seeing the consequences of the Crime Syndicate takeover as a truly expansive thing.
Drew, while I enjoyed this issue for the reasons that I’ve detailed above, I think I’ve discovered a glaring problem. Namely, I’m not sure who to root for here. Not only that, but I’m not even sure who the protagonist is supposed to be. I feel like it’s supposed to be Bane since he’s featured on the first page and is a major point of focus. On the other hand, since this is about a war, the Penguin, on the other side of the war, could be the protagonist as well. The bigger problem I see here is that, regardless of who the protagonist is, I don’t really care who wins. Hmm…I wonder if that’ll hurt my enjoyment of this series. Drew, where do you stand on this?
Drew: Mik, I think you nailed it: I don’t care who wins, either. There’s going to be hell to pay when Batman returns to Gotham (and there’s not even tension on that point — Forever Evil 1 revealed that he is, in fact, alive), and I don’t think who wins this war is going to matter much to him. The Arkhamites are going back to Arkham, and the Blackgaters are going back to Blackgate. I hate to dismiss a comic book story with “obviously the hero is going to win,” but it’s impossible for me to get invested in one of these teams winning, when I know (and want) Batman to be the real winner.
That’s not to say the issue is devoid of any merit. I was particularly interested in Scarecrow’s difficulty in convincing his peers that Bane is a threat — apparently, his history of creating and manipulating fear has made everyone suspicious of his fear-mongering. It’s a classic boy-who-cried-wolf scenario, but blown up to a scale big enough to comment on the way fear is used in politics.
Unfortunately, even this point is undercut by how evil everything needs to be. Pyg is eventually convinced to listen to Crane simply because Pyg is a psychopath who likes death. None of his suspicions mattered in the face of the opportunity to kill and maim. It moves the plot along (sort of), but at the cost of any of the tension Tomasi managed to amass.
The only other scene that stood out to me found Gordon on the roof of GCPD, chain-smoking next to the smashed bat-signal. One of his detectives is giving him an update, but Gordon seems to have lost hope — or at least, he’s lost his steely resolve to never be surprised at what Gotham throws at him. Gotham without Batman is an interesting idea to explore, but I think most would agree that No Man’s Land did it better — where Gotham was central to the story, not simply collateral damage from a bigger event happening elsewhere.
I didn’t hate this as much as I thought I might, which is about as high of praise as I would ever expect from a crossover tie-in. Tomasi has a few interesting ideas, but it’s going to be hard to turn those into a story we care about in spite of knowing the ending. I’m not entirely sure I have the patience to see if he can.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?