This is a question of formats. As I’ve mentioned in previous U.S./U.K. match-ups, there’s a bit of a delay in sending stuff eastwards across the pond. But, with the wonderful wealth of Batman stories in the American market right now, it would be a waste to not bring a smashing great read over to the UK. Batman: Arkham is a great compilation of a lead-in story from Arkham Unhinged (connected to the smash video game Arkham City) along with a couple of really fun stories that were previously released in Batman: The Dark Knight #20, and Detective Comics #21.
You have to love Mike Miller’s clean lines and dynamic action. His art is really astounding. Not only is it clearly defined, but the characters seem streamlined and athletic – as you would expect of Batman and Catwoman. The prevalence of rectangular panelling in the pages not only adds more action to the page, but gives it more of an animated feel.
Szymon Kudranski’s work in a story titled “Down, Down, Down” (written by Gregg Hurwitz in Batman: The Dark Knight) has a softer feel to it, making more use of shadows and indefinite shapes to convey an atmosphere of fear and paranoia. When dealing with a villain like the Mad Hatter, madness tinges every panel in this story’s pages.
“Shadows and Ghosts” in Batman: Detective Comics, drawn by Scot Eaton and written by John Layman, has to be my favourite out of the selection. Eaton seems to capture that essential 1970’s Neal Adams Batman that I remember from when I was a kid. Also, the character Penumbra is featured in this story as well as one of my recent favourite supporting characters, Harper Row. These are enough reasons to make this the best story out of the package and make “Shadows and Ghosts” the cherry on top of this Dark Knight sundae.
When introducing American comics to a British audience, you always have to add more than one story. The U.K. audience expects this and I think it’s a far superior model to the American one. You get more stories, exposure to more talent and quite frankly, when it comes to comics, more is better. In this case, it’s the difference between four stars and five. Unfortunately, because of the delay, this means that the UK audience won’t get the material as fast as their American counterparts. As a consolation, at least they’ll get more.
4 stars in North American market / 5 stars in the U.K. market