Forever Evil: Arkham War #2 by Peter J. Tomasi (Comics Review)

DC’s Forever Evil is hitting its stride as the main-event and the four tie-ins across some seven titles get off to a rollicking start and move into their meatier moments. There is absolute chaos in the world right now and in Tomasi’s Arkham War mini-series, we see how that chaos is mirrored in the no-holds barred chaos in Gotham, where two criminal factions are going full-out at each other. Bane, powered by the Venom super-serum is leading one side, while the Society-backed Scarecrow is leading the other side, defined by the majority of the freak villains that call the city their playground.

The first issue of the series was quite promising. It was slightly better than I expected and the way that Tomasi wrote all the character interactions and sprinkled the hints of his longer plan for the series was really engaging. Of course, I didn’t get the big all-out fight I expected but the issue gave me enough to come back for this issue, which does involve some big splash scenes between the villains (and supervillains) of both sides. But, there are a few missteps made that I find really, really odd.

Forever Evil - Arkham War 02The issue starts off with a big bang as we see that Kurt Langstrom, the conflicted scientist who developed a serum that turned him into a cross between a man and a bat, has engaged in a really violent clash against Brute. Kurt, as the Man-Bat, got his own Villain’s Month one-shot issue in September (review) and it gave us a really deep insight into his character and his mental devolution as he succumbed to the serum’s full effects. It seems that since then he’s spread the formula around and has gained an army of followers who have all been transformed as well. And he has allied with Scarecrow and the Secret Society against Bane and the Blackgate villains, of which Brute is a… member. There is some really nice characterisation of Langstrom, but none of it jives with what Frank Tieri wrote in his one-shot or what John Layman did in his Detective Comics back-ups, and so I had a little trouble taking the character seriously this time around. Plus, its weird to see an army of Man-Bats carrying automatic weapons. Makes sense, but its just… odd.

From there on we move into the heart of this issue, and this is arguably the best few pages of this entire issue. Bane and Penguin, the latter supposedly one of the Arkhamites but not quite, strike a deal where Penguin helps Bane take control of the city and Bane shows a very… considerate side of his character as he talks about how much he trusts Penguin to be himself and knows full well that he plays both sides, always. There’s a ton of exposition in these pages and some of it can interfere with the pacing of the story, but it helped to expand on both characters and for that I can give it a pass. What I didn’t like was that in all this exposition, carried over from the opening of the issue, we get too much of a recap of what’s happened in Gotham. A lot of it could have been cut off to make for a more streamlined story.

The final third of the story is taken up with the Arkhamites assault on Blackgate to retrieve the coffins of the Talons who are kept there. They are the reason that Bane’s first place of attack on Gotham was Blackgate prison and they are what the war between the two villainous teams is all about right now. And no, things don’t turn out as the cover shows off. In fact, I suspect that that moment is at least another issue from happening, given how… slowly the main story moved here. Lots of splash pages here and lots of one-on-one villain action, but ultimately it didn’t really work because the story, ironically enough, moves at a fairly fast pace and we don’t really get to feel any effects of what is happening.

There is also a subplot involving Gordon and one of his juniors in which they break into Blackgate to break out its former jailor. It was an interesting plot but it felt shoehorned in and it is resolved extremely abruptly.

There is a hell of a lot going on in this issue, and to be honest, I felt lost a few times. Too much to keep straight, and as it turns out, Tomasi really rushes the last couple pages. There is a particular… boss-fight involving Bane and two Arkhamites that gets over in a flash and you are left wondering whether it even happened. I almost felt cheated at the end, since Tomasi gave so much to the reader in the earlier pages and then robbed it all of its punch.

Penciller Scott Eaton, inker Jaime Mendoza, colourist Andrew Dalhouse and letterer Taylor Esposito return for the art in this issue, as they did with the previous issue. One of my gripes from the previous issue, Scarecrow’s visual design, was in full effect here since his visual design just sucks, plain and simple. Given how much his look has changed in the New 52 between various artists, this is all the more damning. On the whole, there is some clean, detailed artwork throughout, and I kind of really like it. Not to mention that the artwork here is much better than in the main Forever Evil book. If there are any other negatives, well, the most prominent would be that when there is a distinct themed palette for a panel, then everything is dabbed with that colour and the various shades just flow into each other. It gets confusing. A sort of a minor gripe, but an important one nonetheless.

This issue didn’t deliver on what I expected from it and it was a regression from the previous issue. I’m hoping that the third issue next months improves significantly.

Rating: 7/10

More Arkham War: #1.

Posted on November 16, 2013, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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