Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Arkham Knight hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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I found Peter Tomasi's debut on Detective Comics somewhat disappointing, so I'm pleased to find his Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Arkham Knight workable and interesting. There's great art too from Brad Walker, whose work I enjoyed early in Dan Abnett's Aquaman. Though it feels that Detective here still suffers from its "that other Batman title" status, Tomasi does fine in creating a new Bat-rogue, though I think the final tally depends on what happens next; it's hard to see what Tomasi's run is "about" just yet. I would note that I found Tomasi's depiction of the Bruce Wayne/Robin Damian Wayne relationship more tolerable here than in the latter days of Batman and Robin; that's good, because I enjoyed it, but at the same time I'm dismayed that Tomasi's Detective is tending toward a kind of Batman and Robin-light.

[Review contains spoilers]

Having skimmed Arkham Knight prior to reading it and having seen both a woman revealed as the Knight and an image of the Batman: Year Two Reaper (in the included Detective Comics Annual #2), I thought the Knight might turn out to be Rachel Caspian, late of Year Two and its sequel. As it turns out, the main story, "Medieval," and the annual are unrelated, and the Arkham Knight is Astrid Arkham, newly introduced daughter of Jeremiah Arkham.

I find the Arkham Knight interesting enough as a character that I don't feel particularly strongly about the identity reveal. But, given some hype about the Arkham Knight's purportedly shocking identity, and all of this still coming somewhat on the tail end of the Detective Comics #1000 celebration, Tomasi's use of a brand-new character feels slightly weak. Though Astrid's origins are tragic, there's neither mystery nor suspense here; she is exactly who she's revealed to be and her origins are explained straightaway.

It's for these reasons I think a real evaluation of the Knight and how this book sets up Tomasi's Detective run will depend on where this run goes in the future. The Knight is formidable and has a personal conflict with Batman, but to an extent what we have is another cult leader villain for Batman to face off with, not gigantically different in broad strokes from a Ra's al Ghul or a Deacon Blackfire. If Tomasi can ultimately make something truly surprising out of the Knight's vendetta and attempts to turn Gotham against Batman, then perhaps the soft spots in this book won't matter so much; if the Arkham Knight does not come back, or if Tomasi's sequel isn't more expansive than this one (which includes Tomasi's familiar refrain of some villain trying to turn Damian against Batman), then ultimately this volume won't be much to speak of.

But again, I did enjoy "Medieval" overall, the Knight's use of light as a weapon against Batman and her rather gory handling of her own troops, among other things. Tomasi also gave Damian some fun one-liners and wrote some amusing banter for Batman and Robin. To me it feels like Tomasi's Damian has aged-up a bit, going along with his leadership of the Teen Titans, also mentioned here. There's a significant lack of angst, none of the Damian not following orders or running off on his own without permission that was characteristic of Tomasi's Batman and Robin. In fact, given the focus here on Batman and Robin (instead of Robin, with Batman as guest star, as in Batman and Robin), this reminded me a bit of the early pre-"Knightfall" days of Alan Grant writing Batman and Robin Tim Drake, among the last times we had a Batman title with Robin as a supporting character instead of someone also anchoring his own book.

Frankly, I'd just as soon had seen Tomasi leave Damian out of Detective entirely, so no one could level the criticism that Detective seems more like Batman and Robin than Detective (for however a standard Detective story is supposed to go, acknowledging that until a short time ago it was a team-up book itself). But if Tomasi means for Damian to be a fixture in Detective then and it continues like this, that's fine with me. (I'd say it seems mildly out of step with Adam Glass's Teen Titans, where Batman and Robin are meant to be at odds, but I guess Tomasi kind of had them work that out in Detective Comics Vol. 1: Mythology.)

On that aforementioned annual, Batman: Year Two is among one of my favorite Batman stories, so I was happy to see Tomasi revisit it. DC's wonky approach to continuity being what it is, of course, Tomasi's story resurrects Year Two but dismisses the Full Circle sequel, but I'll take what I can get. Tomasi's imagining of Julian Caspian, son of the Reaper Judson Caspian, is interesting in that it's not exceptionally different from the Arkham Knight — children with cult followings who blame Batman for the death of their parents — and Julian (or Rachel) would again have made a more compelling choice for the Knight. I wondered too if Tomasi might eventually team the Arkham Knight and the Reaper; as with the Arkham Knight, there seems too much here for Tomasi to just leave the character be and I'm eager to see what he does with this.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Arkham Knight

I had thought Peter Tomasi's frequent collaborator Doug Mahnke was joining him on Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Arkham Knight, but I was glad to see Brad Walker getting a shot on a prominent Batman title. Knight could have gone a gritty route with Mahnke, in line perhaps with the "Batman: Arkham" video games, but Walker's work is big and bold, often with an emphasis on faces, and befits among other things the Batman/Robin team-up here. Looking ahead, I don't see Walker continuing on this title, nor much of an overarching story more than villains of the month (no Arkham Knight or Reaper, particularly). That gives me some pause indeed about where Tomasi's Detective run is going and how well.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Arkham Knight
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 1 )

  1. One thing that took me out of the story was the apparent time frame ... how old is Astrid Arkham supposed to be, and what does that mean for how long Batman has been operating (and how old is he)? Did I miss something? I kept expecting a line about how she was artificially aged or grew up in another dimension or something, but nope.
    In any event, the pick-and-choose-but-keep-it-vague approach to pre-New52 continuity continues to be annoying...


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