I’m not usually one for comic books based on video games. For one, I’m not a video game person - it’s the one nerd ship that sailed without me. Secondly, comic book tie-ins with video games are usually badly-written-and-penciled cash grabs that have nothing to do with the artistic medium. Every now and then, though, one will catch me by surprise, as with the new one shot Batman Arkham City: End Game. It’s based on the hugely popular Batman Arkham City video game - one that I could never finish, damn you Mr. Freeze!!
In the game, Joker has been poisoned and your duty as the Dark Knight is to find the antidote. Interestingly, in the game, you get the antidote to Joker but he smashes it and dies. Here’s where the comic picks up, right after the dramatic scene where Batman places Joker’s dead body on the hood of a police car. Turns out, as always, Joker had a final trick up his sleeve. While Batman raced around looking to save him, Joker tapped into the Gotham City Towers and is now able to reach every man, woman and child in the city. He plays a posthumous video of himself saying that all the money he ever stole is locked up somewhere in Gotham. Since Commissioner Gordon and Batman have hidden his body, anybody who finds it will find the key to unlock the Joker’s fortune.
As Gotham tears itself apart looking for his body, the police are at war with a Joker Gang led by Harley Quinn. Quinn is wicked pissed that Joker is dead and looks to take vengeance on the GCPD and Batman. Meanwhile, the Joker has issued Batman his own challenge. He must go to the isolation unit he once locked the Joker in and discover how to disarm the bombs Joker planted on the walls of Arkham. If The Dark Knight fails, the bombs will bring down Arkham’s walls and leak every psychopath in the asylum into the streets of Gotham.
Writer Derek Fridolfs, who spends most of his time as an artist and inker, does a great job making this story not just exciting but also accessible. You don’t have to know anything about the Arkham City video game to enjoy this one-shot. It makes it a bit more fun if you do, but there’s no need to be initiated into this story. Fridlofs also pens a story that’s much more in depth than most video game inspired comics. Really, this could be an Elseworld as much as a one-shot from a game.
Tying the entire issue together is the wonderful art by Jason Shawn Alexander. There is a darkness to what Alexander does, a gritty and tripped out style that’s just slightly unnerving. The Joker looks twisted and evil, Batman is brooding and every inch the “Dark” Knight. Alexander’s fine art mixed with dark grittiness reminds me of the bastard child of Dave McKean, Sam Keith and Mike Mignola. As relentless as the script is for Batman Arkham City: End Game, the art is just as in your face.
(3.5 Story, 4.5 Art)