I think there’s a metamorphosis occurring in my brain. There was a time when a book like Forever Evil – Arkham War #1 would be celebrated as a kitschy romp. It would stand up as a prime example of how our medium of sequential fiction was built on notions that aren’t so easily filmed, animated, or otherwise enjoyed. Comics truly for comics’ sake. Like I said, there was a time when I’d be all wine and roses for a book like this. But it’s 2013, I’m in my thirties (shudder), and I’m not calling for the ticker tape parade. Instead, I’m spiteful, angry, and pissed. This book is an atrocity by every definition of the word. This makes ‘Forever Evil’ from a few weeks ago look like Moby Dick. But I digress… the autopsy will make my case more than my generalities.
For those (like me) not following the exploits of the Crime Syndicate of Amerika in the Forever Evil mini-series elsewhere in the DCU, Arkham War is clear to catch us up. The Justice League is dead – supposedly. Gotham has been doled out to a swatch of kooks and crooks. The issue itself sees Bane returning to claim the city for his own undisclosed purposes. Well, perhaps his desires have been outlined in one of the other dozen or so mini-series pelting the racks these days… too bad I have no care or cause to look for them. Peter Tomasi, once a writer on many decent outings in Green Lantern Corps, and Batman and Robin, here shoots for the lowest common denominators. His script is shallow, and sloughs from one vapid point to the next.
Literally no twists, no turns, no conversation longer than a commercial spot on a youtube video. Just “Kill. Maim. Laugh. Shoot. Burn. Stab. Scoff. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” Bane trudges from one villains level to the next, like a terrible video game. The Arkham inmates scuttle, scurry, and spout generic dialogue at one another. The simple point is that when the loonies run the world, there’s little to no reason to care if there’s no opposition. Arkham Wars would have you pick a side, I suppose, to root for. But I beg of you, gentle reader, who? Do you side with Bane and the Secret Society… whose purpose is to rule Gotham? Or do you side with the Arkham Inmates… whose purpose is to… uh… rule Gotham? In either case, if any non-insane person is living within city limits? They deserve all the mayhem that befalls them. When the inmates run the asylum (heh), the cafeteria workers oughta’ quit.
Art duties by Scot Eaton and his trio of inkers is much like all other big two books I’ve reviewed over the recent past. Pretty, detailed, gory, and subservient to pedantic scripting. The book itself is bathed in blacks, sharp shadows, and a litany of unnecessary glow effects. Figures pose in creepy lurches and muscular fighting stances in every panel. Bones are shattered. Knifes snict-snact into flesh. Explosions litter the landscape for no more reason than the fact that it looks eeeeevil. And no page is untouched by an overzealous color wash and overdone ink knockout effects. As a testament to style over substance? Arkham Wars is the top of the pops. That is to say that the story itself is so blasé that I barely cared that in spite of having 3 inkers, there’s more than a handful of truly sloppy panels and figures. That, and Bane’s design is all but stolen from the Arkham City game, but without the faux-steampunk aesthetic… he’s left a behemoth who brandishes belt buckles the way I do a beard.
Dan DiDio and his chuckle-butts over at DC declared that ‘Villains Month’ has been a boon for the retailer and fan alike; giving the world a take on evil like it’s never seen before. Well, the truth is that the gimmick is nothing more than that – a gimmick. One that when the dust settles will reveal nothing more than an excuse for change. The world didn’t need New Coke. But it sure loved the controversy. Marvel NOW’s Superior Spider-Man is the Mountain Dew: Code Red by comparison. Don’t follow? One (New Coke) was an obvious attempt to modernize a formula that worked for decades. It failed gloriously because there was never anything wrong with the classic to begin with. Mountain Dew: Code Red (err… Superior Spider-Man) was an off-shoot that found a way to define itself as being tied to an original, while being something slightly different. While no one would drink (err… buy) it forever, we all know that the original Dew will always be there. I know, I know… a metaphor like this can strain almost any geek to tears. Fret not, it’s almost over.
Ultimately Forever Evil – Arkham Wars #1 is silly, boring, and soulless. It does nothing to add depth or flavor to any character in the DCU. It moves chess pieces in a war that won’t have any ramifications beyond a few fleeting arcs in the future – if even that. If Tomasi was paid by the word, he obviously didn’t need too much cash this month. With a team of no fewer than 5 different artists (between a penciler, inkers, and colorist) were employed to bath the book in worthless facade. Creepy is as creepy does. A book of villains serves no purpose when there’s nothing to oppose them. Star Wars would be boring without the rebel alliance. Dan DiDio and company would rather you just enjoy the building of the Deathstar, and applaud the blowing up of planets. Because why worry, when it’ll be over at the end of the month, anyhow.