The month of October looms upon us. A month where many wallets will succumb to the hoard of games that will overwhelm the world of gamers with simultaneous grief and joy. There are so many games coming out this fall, but one specific game called Batman: Arkham City stand out. The reason why is because it’s a sequel to one of the best games of 2009, which you all know as Batman: Arkham Asylum. To the surprise of thousands of gamers, a developer named Rocksteady Games was able to craft one of the best superhero games of all time. The graphics were gorgeous, the story was creative and engaging, the sound effects and voice acting were phenomenal (Mark Hamill is the man), and the stealth and combat gameplay fit the style of Batman perfectly. Arkham Asylum was one of the first games ever that was able to put us in the shoes of a superhero. More specifically, in the boots of the greatest detective in the world: The Dark Knight.
Let’s fast-forward to Arkham City, which takes place one year after the first game. From what we know so far, a huge section of Gotham has been surrounded by security gates. Hundreds of prisoners and big-time villains inside pick sides and fight each other to survive. In Arkham Asylum, at least prisoners were separated and taken care of. But in here? It’s nothing but a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Of course, Batman is already on the case. He has to figure out who has done this. There’s something bigger planned behind all of this…but what?
Riddle me this! Whoever runs Arkham City is pretty deranged, so who’s the one that would do something this Strange?
I don’t know about you, but I was a little confused about the set-up for Arkham City. How did so much happen in one year? Thankfully, big questions like this were answered in a 5-part comic series written by Paul Dini and illustrated by Carlos D’Anda. The illustrator immediately caught my eye because he worked on the first Bionicle comics in 2001 (long story). Since I love the Arkham Asylum game and the illustrator, it was natural for me to pick these comics up. For those that haven’t, fear not! In this blog post, I’m going to summarize each of the five comics for you so you’ll be caught up with the story. If you still want to read them yourself, I would highly recommend buying the hardcover book coming out the day the game releases. Oh, and don’t forget that if you haven’t played the first game, there are spoilers ahead! Without further ado, let’s begin.
We start where Arkham Asylum left off. Batman has managed to defeat the Titan-enhanced Joker and the island is secure once again. Almost every villain and thug is accounted for and is back in prison. Among them is the Joker, who isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He’s been left physically devastated and helpless by the Titan formula’s after-effects. Everything seems well for Gotham…but not for long. Batman is eventually back to business when Commissioner Gordon informs him that a twin brother and sister team by the name of “T&T” have completely devastated an armored car recently. In their mug shots, they appear to be skinny and weak. However, a photo taken while they were robbing the car tells the opposite. The only explanation is that several boxes of the Titan Formula must have found their way to Gotham’s shores. Batman immediately contacts Oracle and finds out that T&T worked for Two-Face. It’s time for Batman to pay a visit.
Batman arrives at Two-Face’s hideout to find him bandaged and scarred. Since he knows Batman well, he doesn’t bother to command his gang to fight him; all Batman wants is information. Two-Face tells him that T&T turned on his back and killed/injured a lot of people in his gang. He suspects that they’re planning on doing something big soon. Batman quickly remembers that a ceremony dedicated to the building of a new city hall is tomorrow morning that hundreds of people are attending. He wastes no time. He warns Commissioner Gordon about a possible attack and leaves Two-Face’s hideout to prepare for the next day.
Batman’s suspicions were right on. T&T ambushed the ceremony. After a small fight, Batman manages to weaken both of the twins. It appears their plot has been foiled, but suddenly the duo grab hands and yell, “light us up, chief!” Batman realizes they’re rigged with explosives, but it’s too late to do anything. An explosion rocks the area, which kills 300 people and destroys the city hall in the process. The next day, Quincy Sharp (now mayor of Gotham) is seen the next day addressing Gotham that the city is a war-zone. He proposes a plan to seal off part of Gotham for criminals to live in. Batman knows that if this happens, every prisoner located in the area will eventually kill each other off. Despite this obvious reality, Sharp seems quite optimistic and sure of this plan. Batman also realizes that Sharp couldn’t even develop an intricate idea like this. If this is something he could never formulate, who is behind it? Is their someone controlling Sharp’s decisions and moves? Most importantly, who is this “chief?”
Newscasters Jack Ryder and Vicki Vale are seen debating if this “Arkham City” is a good idea that will permanently lower Gotham’s crime rate or a bad idea that will turn half of the city into a prison where criminals will suffer inside. Sharp approaches the two and affirms that the “quarantine zone” will be monitored and prisoners will be taken care of. Arkham City is in the beginning stages.
It’s time for Batman to get serious. He’s almost certain now that Sharp is just a puppet with strings. He decides to pay a visit to his mansion to see if he can find anything to confirm his suspicions. He already knows Sharp is a blank slate; someone that will do anything or be anyone (like how he impersonated Amadeus Arkham in the first game). Batman eventually discovers a file named “Enemy X” that contains pictures and notes about himself. Why would Sharp be so interested in him? Suddenly, a video of a man appears on the computer monitor sitting on Sharp’s desk! He appears to have known Batman was coming all along, and various traps that bombard Batman confirm this. Thankfully, he manages to escape the mansion in time before Sharp’s security arrives. While Batman is escaping, he figures out that the man was actually studying his fighting techniques while he fought the traps…but why?
Along with many other inmates, Joker is being transferred to Arkham City. We see him bound in a wheelchair being pushed by an Arkham guard. While Joker’s incessant chatter fills the halls, the guard suddenly takes a wrong turn…something is going on. When they finally reach a room with three other guards inside, they tell Joker that it’s time for justice; time to avenge all of the people he’s killed. One of the guards brings a knife to the Joker’s neck, but suddenly throws it at another guard’s neck! After that guard is down the traitor takes out the other two before escaping with Joker. It’s actually Harley Quinn! She tells Joker that she overheard a plot to kill him, so she knocked out a female guard when she had the chance and took her place. After telling her story they finally arrive at the docks and take a boat, but Batman rigged every boat to warn him of any escapees, so he was immediately on the way. When he arrives, Joker opens fire on him, so Batman quickly destroys their boat. There’s no indication of survivors, but he knows that’s not saying much when you’re talking about Joker and Harley Quinn. Far away from this spot we discover that the two lovebirds managed to make it to Arkham City’s shore. Not far from their location is an abandoned factory, and Joker sees it as the perfect place to set up shop. He’s ready to get back on top again and build his gang…he’s ready to rule Arkham City.
For a change of pace, we are introduced to a new character named Lester Kurtz: a regular criminal looking for some dirty work in Arkham City. First he “applies” for a position among Joker’s thugs and gets the job. However, he wants to see if Penguin has anything more to offer. Lester also gets the job there, but is immediately assigned on a mission (something Joker did not offer) to raid an Arkham City security truck carrying weapons. During the mission, Joker’s men arrive and find out Lester betrayed Joker. Surrounded, Lester has no choice but to blow up the weapons to save his fellow gang members. Penguin is furious when he finds this out, but strangely enough, he doesn’t kill Lester. Penguin cuts his pay and tells him he’s getting locked up for the night. While Lester is being taken to his holding cell, he takes out the guys bringing him there and…uses the Batclaw to escape? It’s Batman! He was Lester Kurtz the whole time. Now he has a better view of what’s going on within Arkham City and who’s doing what. This may have not gotten him any closer to figuring out who the mysterious man is, but maybe future trips in other disguises will help.
Little does Batman know that he himself was being watched in Arkham City from the inside and while leaving it. The mysterious man now knows even more about Batman and believes he’s doomed to fail. With a S.W.A.T-like team that’s learning how Batman works by your side, you would say the same if you were the mysterious man.
An explosive start to this comic. Batman has returned once again to Arkham City as Lester Kurtz, but his cover is blown immediately. The mysterious man has prepared for Batman this time. After dodging hundreds of bullets, Batman finds himself cornered by at least a dozen troops. The mysterious man assures Batman after hacking his communications radio that the soldiers are equipped, skilled, and ready to counter everything he can throw at them. It looks like the end for Batman is nigh. When everything seems lost, a huge cargo truck bursts through one of the surrounding walls and rescues Batman. The driver is Catwoman; how coincidental. She tells Batman that she’s in Arkham City for wealth and allies. She goes on tell she got the truck with some help from Poison Ivy, who took out the truck’s security guards with ease. Batman warns Catwoman of the dangers of Arkham City, and quickly leaves her ride.
The Joker is in a bad state. A doctor is shown analyzing him, who tells Joker his condition is only getting worse. There’s not much else to say about this part, except that Joker accidentally leads the doctor to his doom and laughs hysterically.
Batman speculates that the soldiers who attacked him must know the mysterious man. He manages to locate and ambush a small group of soldiers and leaves one conscious. Out of fear and shock, the guard reveals the mysterious man’s identity: Hugo Strange!
It’s time for Batman to get busy. He gets in touch with Alfred and Robin and tells them to start looking up files and information on Strange. When Batman meets up with them in the Batcave, everything about Strange seems like enough to expose him for the criminal he is. Batman doesn’t think so because if Strange knew there was a possibility that Batman could expose him, he wouldn’t have initiated his plan in the first place. That, or Strange is going to do something very unexpected and brilliant. The latter proves to be true, because soon after Batman found out the mysterious man’s name, the news confirmed that Quincy Sharp has planned to hold a conference with Strange to discuss “their” plans for Arkham City. Strange is going to be in plain sight and won’t have to worry because Sharp’s position as mayor protects him from scrutiny. Batman decides to go to the conference…but how? As Bruce Wayne, of course.
The next morning Sharp is shown introducing his partner and confirming that he will be handling the operations of Arkham City once it’s operational. Bruce buts in to reveal that Strange performed experiments on human test-subjects in Arkham Asylum and left soon after. Strange counters by saying incompetent doctors blamed him for their mistakes, and that is why he fled. Strange also wants to know why Bruce would go to all the trouble to do a thorough research on him. Bruce answers by saying he’s worried that the inhumane prison of Arkham City will fail, as evidenced by past events. Strange assures him and everyone that Arkham City is reality, and no theories presented will stand up against it. Nothing can stop the prison’s opening.
The day eventually comes when Arkham City is finally completed. To blind the city of Gotham even further, Strange allows Victor Zsasz to escape to only be recaptured on live television. This creates a stronger illusion that Arkham City cannot fail. For the villains inside the prison, everything they do will lead to nothing, whether it be forming “empires,” resisting the security, or just living out their psychotic dreams. Even people like the Joker do not realize what’s really behind Arkham City’s purpose. However, there is one man who can unravel this plot: Batman. Strange knows more than anyone about Batman, even the fact that he is Bruce Wayne. Despite this advantage he has, Batman is still capable of doing anything. But will his next goal to expose Strange for what he really is fall through? Will he be able to find the answers within Arkham City itself, while fending off hundreds of crazies? All will be revealed soon…
Thanks for checking out my blog post! I know you could have just looked this up on Google or something, but I felt like writing my personal viewpoint of the comics to you guys. Don’t forget that Arkham City is coming out in about two weeks! Get ready to brush off your batarangs and done the cape once again…
This article was originally published as a user blog post on Game Informer.