The Arkham Knight arc has not gone the way one would expect. Particularly when it comes to the identity of Arkham Knight. Unlike the video game, the Arkham Knight is not Jason Todd or another well-known Batman related character. She instead turned out to be a brand new character who is the previously unknown daughter of Doctor Arkham, whose name is Astrid Arkham. This revelation’s impact will not be felt until Peter Tomasi truly develops Arkham Knight character outside of just trying to take down Batman. Will that be done with Detective Comics #1004? Let’s find out by checking out the new issue.
Writer: Peter Tomasi
Artist: Brad Walker
Inker: Andrew Hennessy
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Inside Arkham Asylum Batman and Robin look over the base of operation that the Arkham Knight set-up that looks like a shrine to Batman’s history. Batman asks Doctor Arkham to explain to him what Astrid Arkham’s (the Arkham Knight’s true identity) origin.
Doctor Arkham reveals that he fell in love with a woman named Ingrid Karlsson, who was a general care physician working at Arkham Asylum. He talks about their lives together and how during Ingrid’s pregnancy a riot broke out in Arkham Asylum. During the riot Ingrid gave birth while Joker, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Clayface and Solomon Grundy protected her.
As Ingrid was surrounded by the villains a batarang thrown by one of the rioting Arkham inmates hit Ingrid in the throat, killing her instantly. Grundy immediately killed the inmate and the villains walked away as Doctor Arkham broke down in tears while he held the newly born Astrid in his arms.
Doctor Arkham goes on to say he did his best to raise Astrid alone but she did end up interacting with villains like the Joker while visiting him at work. While she grew up she explored Arkham Asylum and found a secret passage where she saw Batman in action when there was trouble in the facility.
Doctor Arkham then explains how Astrid started seeing Batman as a boogeyman to fear so she trained to fight with the help of Clayface. Eventually Astrid found footage of her mother’s death and she blamed Batman because it was a batarang that killed her. This fueled Astrid to train harder and seek out masters to train her in every form of martial arts and science to take down Batman.
Batman asks Doctor Arkham if the footage showed that it was an inmate that killed Ingrid. Doctor Arkham said it didn’t and that he found it easier for her to blame Batman instead of him as her father for not being there.
Batman wonders why Astrid would abandon her base of operations so quickly. He then discovers a detailed map of Gotham City that shows the highest natural point outside the city that is the best place for defensive purposes.
Elsewhere Arkham Knight finds her “Citadel of Light” location and tells her soldiers to take their position. She then orders Anton Arcane to create Unmen to add to their defenses.
Arkham Knight is then handed the box containing the Sphere of Light item. She then tells Doctor Phosphorus to be ready in his position as she will give him orders soon.
Arkham Knight then sees that Batman and Robin are approaching their location. End of issue.
The Good: If Detective Comics #1004 took place in the pre-New 52 continuity then the origin of Arkham Knight would’ve easily fit into Batman’s history. Unfortunately because of the current DC Universe continuity there are a lot of questions to the time that has passed when it comes to the Arkham Knight and Batman. Those questions hurt the overall impact of the villains origin story.
The expansion of Doctor Arkham’s history answered the question as to why he would turn a blind eye to his daughter’s transformation into Arkham Knight. Though he did not push her to take up her training Doctor Arkham also used his daughter’s motivation to take down Batman for his benefit. In the process Tomasi created some sympathy when it comes to Astrid Arkham’s origin story. The parallels between Astrid and Bruce was a good connection to draw to help the Arkham Knight establish herself in her first story as an antagonist.
Though it is not emphasized as much as previous issues, it is great to see Batman and Robin working together. With Detective Comics #1004 Tomasi once again shows how Bruce and Damian have a strong chemistry with each other. Even if they haven’t teamed up as the Dynamic Duo a lot on recent years Damian has been Robin long enough to know how to interact with his father. It was especially fun to see how Damian has started to integrate his own brand of witty banter that his predecessors had while they were Batman’s Robin.
Brad Walker delivered dynamic artwork. Though I don’t like the heavy emphasis on the lenses on Batman and Robin’s cowl and mask, respectively, he did a good job with the character expressions. Especially when we see the dynamic between them through their dialogue with each other Walker adds a fun element with how Batman reacts to Robin’s banter.
Also credit to Walker for adjusting his artwork to make the flashback sequence have a different look to them. He captured the original looks of Batman’s villains. Andrew Hennessy and Nathan Fairbairn inking and coloring, respectively, added a lot to these scenes to get across the fact these were all flashbacks.
The Bad: One of the problems that Tomasi ran into with Detective Comics #1004 is the odd timeline of the Arkham Knight’s origin. From everything we learn about Astrid Arkham’s origin she was born around Batman’s first year. That would make sense in the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe. But in the current continuity Bruce Wayne has only been active as Batman for no more than seven years at most given that when the New 52 began the superhero age with the Justice League was five years old.
Taking that into account Astrid should still be about elementary school age but here Tomasi makes her at least around Tim Drake’s age, if not older. This creates a lot of questions for the exact timeline of Astrid’s origin and how she became Arkham Knight. In particular, it does not make sense that Astrid would get enough training and resources during that time to become the Arkham Knight that could match Batman and Robin’s skill level.
Not helping matters is the fact that Ingrid Karlsson was nothing more than a plot device. She was a means to give Astrid a tragic backstory. Ingrid’s extremely short arc was made worse by the fact that we only get hints of her personality through Doctor Jeremiah Arkham’s point of view. Not giving Ingrid any sort of dialogue further pointed out that she was nothing more than a plot device instead of a person that existed in the DCU.
The choices of the villains that helped Ingrid give birth to Astrid was also head scratching. While it could be believed that Poison Ivy and Clayface would help Astrid. These two have shown us in the past that they have a part of their characters that could make them fall into the antihero camp. Joker, Two-Face and a pre-reformed Harley Quinn on the other hand is extremely questionable. These three being part of Astrid’s birth made her entire origin not be something that as a reader we can get behind.
This all spotlights how forced Astrid’s motivation as the Arkham Knight is. Given what we learn about her she has not escaped the generic villain who hates Batman for the wrong reasons mold. Not adding a sense of heroism to what Astrid is doing as Arkham Knight does not make her look better as well. She is just a filler villain until Batman and Robin have to fight before Joker, Two-Face or another major villain from their rogues gallery attacks Gotham City.
Overall: Detective Comics #1004 had elements of a good story. Unfortunately there were some major problems with Arkham Knight’s origin. Not the least of is the fact that a major character in Arkham Knight’s origin was treated as nothing more than a plot device. It is not to late for Peter Tomasi to turn things around but there will be a lot of work to be done to give a compelling end to Arkham Knight’s introductory story arc.
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