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Batman – Arkham Asylum: Living Hell (Review/Retrospective)

23rd July is Batman Day, celebrating the character’s 75th anniversary. To celebrate, this July we’re taking a look at some new and classic Batman (and Batman related) stories. Check back daily for the latest review.

There is something absolutely compelling about witnessing the surreal and the impossible through the eyes of ordinary people. In the middle of the first decade of the twentieth century, DC seemed to take a novel approach to the larger Batman mythos. Acknowledging the absurdity of the world inhabited by the Caped Crusader, comic book fans were asked to look at that strange world from the perspective of the ordinary people inhabiting it.

Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark all collaborated on Gotham Central, the wonderful police procedural that offered a new way of examining the streets of Gotham. As observed by the members of the Gotham Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit, Gotham’s population of heroes and villains seemed particularly unsettling and ethereal. It is one thing to imagine the weird and wonderful world inhabited by the Batman and the Joker and the Mad Hatter. It is another to imagine sharing that world.

He knows how to make an entrance...

He knows how to make an entrance…

Launched a few months after the first issue of Gotham Central, Dan Slott and Ryan Sook’s wonderful Arkham Asylum: Living Hell is a six-issue miniseries that invites the reader inside the eponymous institution. As glimpsed through the eyes of white-collar criminal Warren White, Arkham Asylum is a place that defies explanation – a macabre and horrific environment that is home to all sorts of depravity and brutality.

Batman himself barely appears in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, existing at the fringes of the book as he does with Gotham Central. However, despite these limited appearances, it remains clear that Warren White has found his way to the other side of the looking glass.

We all face our demons...

We all face our demons…

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Wednesday Comics: Kamandi

Earlier this week I reviewed Wednesday Comics, a rather spanking anthology from DC Comics. I kinda figured, however, it might be worth my while to break out some of those fifteen stories on their own (but not all of them) and discuss them, as it’s easy to lose sight of a particular writer/artist’s work in an anthology. I thought I’d turn my attention to one of the conspicuously non-superhero titles in the anthology, an adaptation of the classic Kirby comic, Kamandi.

Although Kamandi only debuted in 1972, there’s an argument to be made that the character is better suited to this particular format and style of storytelling than the DC superheroes which otherwise populate the collection. Created by the legendary Jack Kirby, Kamandi is the story of the last boy on earth, attempting to survive in a post-apocalyptic future ruled by hyper-evolved talking animals (rats, cats and – most viciously – apes). The character has a lasting cult appeal, but was never necessarily the most popular property at the publisher, but it’s nice that they dusted him off for this project. I have to admit being a bit surprised at the creative team – Dave Gibbons is regarded as an author, but made his name as an artist, so it’s strange to see him writing this – but it works, it really comes together and suits the unique format of the project perfectly.

Gibbons successfully apes the adventure comics of yore...

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Wednesday Comics

Hawkman unsheathes his knife and crawls into the gasping T-Rex’s jaws, thinking “Sadly, this is not the craziest thing I’ve ever done.”

– Hawkman

Wednesday Comics is an amazing little experiment, a bit of comic book nostalgia delivered by some of the most talented people in the business with a smile on their face and a skip in their step. For those who don’t know, DC Comics – always the more boldly experimental of the two major companies – ran a twelve-week collection of newspaper comic strips. Fifteen strips bundled together, the reader was offered one page of a given comic at a time on a super-sized newspaper sheet, with a full story told week-on-week. It was a bold little experiment and while the whole is almost certainly greater than the sum of its parts, there’s much to love here.

There in a Flash...

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