Friday, February 15, 2013

BATMAN #491 - April 1993


The Freedom of Madness
Credits:  Doug Moench (writer), Jim Aparo (artist), Richard Starkings (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)

Summary:  Bane and his men rob an armory and target Arkham Asylum.  Using remote-controlled explosives and rockets, they break prisoners out of their cells.  Joker remains inside to torment Jeremiah Arkham, as Batman arrives too late to stop the other inmates from escaping.  Joker makes his escape as Batman stays behind to free Jeremiah from a death-trap.  

Irrelevant Continuity
  • Jean-Paul Valley gets a haircut from Robin, debuting a new look following his first appearance in the Sword of Azrael miniseries.
  • Robin is wearing a black armband with the Superman emblem on it.  This ties in with the concurrent “Death of Superman” event.
  • Gotham’s new mayor, Mayor Krol, is furious with Commissioner Gordon following the armory attack.  I’m assuming Krol’s election as mayor is part of an ongoing storyline, since Gordon remarks that Krol’s only in office because of his “machine,” and Moench’s dialogue seems to go out its way to paint Krol as a right-wing, anti-crime extremist.

I Love the ‘90s:  A police officer remarks that the Arkham inmates, who have received parachuted weapons from Bane, are more heavily armed than Saddam Hussein.

Total N00B:  No effort is made to explain who exactly Jean-Paul Valley is.  He also makes vague references to a recent confrontation with Killer Croc, which happened in a story not reprinted in the Knightfall trade paperback.

Review:  Wow, Vengeance of Bane has a few reminders that it’s from a different era, but this one is practically Adam West compared to the contemporary Batman titles.  The story opens with Trogg, the caveman/electronics genius, breaking into a military armory with a giant toy robot, then has an Arkham Asylum breakout initiated by a bird carrying a balloon filled with explosives.  And Arkham Asylum is a clean, well-lit facility located in a serene rural setting, as opposed to the decrepit haunted house that’s falling into Hell that we see today.  (Was the animated series the first appearance of the truly “gothic” Arkham Asylum?)  The story still tries to sell its importance, sixteen police officers die in the breakout and the story ends with Batman crying out in an outrageous wail of agony, but it’s not capital-letters SERIOUS at this point.  And it’s still enjoyable, without anyone’s face getting ripped off or any bloody on-panel deaths.  I suppose it could be argued that this is too traditional, though.  The prospect of a massive Arkham breakout would be horrifying for the citizens of Gotham, which is something the tone of the issue fails to convey.  Still, it’s Batman, it’s fun to read, and there’s lovely Jim Aparo art to enjoy.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Arkham Asylum was pretty gothic when it appeared early on in Sandman. That predates B:TAS but I don't know if it was the first.

I always wanted DC to publish a 'Prelude to Knightfall' TPB which would have had Vengeance of Bane and the issues where the Riddler was juiced on Venom, the bat signal was broken, etc. These new trades would have been perfect but now I guess we'll never see them again.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the Arkham Asylum graphic novel (from Morrison and McKean) where it all started?

Adam Farrar said...

Arkham used to be an old mansion (Mercey Mansion) but when Jeremiah Arkham took it over from his uncle he had the building torn down and rebuilt. This is the rebuilt version that first appeared in Shadow of The Bat #1 (cover date of June 1992). It gets rebuilt after Knightfall in a new location but I can't remember what it looks like then.

And using the toys and birds to steal things is a little old and hokey. It reminds me of this bit from Futurama: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zvWPIcBkzw

yrzhe said...

Yeah, there were a few issues between Vengeance of Bane and this one that keep getting referenced in Knightfall and add to the story (like Jean-Paul impersonating Batman for the first time, only for Bane to immediately peg him as an imposter and dismiss him), but which don't seem to get reprinted, which is a shame.

Teebore said...

He also makes vague references to a recent confrontation with Killer Croc, which happened in a story not reprinted in the Knightfall trade paperback.

Yeah, like others have said I'm bummed more of that lead-up material didn't get reprinted somewhere (in its own collection if not the "Knightfall" one).

The prospect of a massive Arkham breakout would be horrifying for the citizens of Gotham, which is something the tone of the issue fails to convey.

That's the one thing I really think "Knightfall" dropped the ball on. The breakout is certainly a big deal to Batman, and to a lesser extent the cops, but you never get a strong sense of how the city is under siege and the ordinary citizens are freaking out, which they should be.

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