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Batman: Arkham Reborn


Written by David Hine; Art by Jeremy Haun; Cover by Cliff Chiang

Aug 27, 2010 DC Universe Bookmark and Share

DC’s go-to psychological thriller scribe David Hine (Batman: Joker’s Asylum, Azrael) and artist Jeremy Haun (Batman: Streets of Gotham, Berserkers, Man-Hunter: Face Off) join forces on Batman: Arkham Reborn. The moody page-turner collects 2009’s Batman: Battle for the Cowl: Arkham Asylum #1, Arkham Reborn #1-3, and Detective Comics #864-865. They flesh out the twisted back-story of Amadeus Arkham and Gotham City’s new doctor for the criminally insane, his mysterious nephew Jeremiah. Due to the absolute wreckage that Black Mask wreaked on Arkham’s walls, we get to see Amadeus’ vision for a classical-yet-gothic asylum come into fruition. It’s devised on the principles of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon and contains more than a few secret passageways and rooms.

They say the devil is in the details and that tired phrase holds true for Jeremiah’s “rehabilitation, not incarceration” creed and the consequences of getting so close to his patients. Regular Batman archenemies such as The Joker, Mr. Zsasz, Clayface, Mister Freeze, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, Raggedy Man, and even Dr. Phosphorus make appearances, but the real insane stars of this macabre tale are Jeremiah’s “Beauties.” The trio of patients go by the names No-Face, Mirror Man, and the Hamburger Lady. As Jeremiah says at the book’s close, The Beauties are his “perfect constructs of textbook pathologies.”

Through them, Hine revels in the intersections between psychosis and sanity, madness and genius, disturbing ugliness and striking beauty. With the aide of more congruent artist, this graphic novel may have been as unrelenting in tone and scope as his Batman: Joker’s Asylum or his Image graphic novel, Strange Embrace. Haun is perfectly capable for the material, but doesn’t grab the reader by the collar and show how dark he can go. This in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. After all, Arkham Reborn isn’t all doom and gloom, just about 70%. It feels right when the art palette goes to all the dark places these characters go. The moment when the artistic moorings start to loosen appears to be after the prison break in Part Three of Arkham Reborn (“The Ghost in the Machine”). It’s mostly worth the wait.

As it stands, Arkham Reborn hits a few of the plot points Batman and thriller fans enjoy: intrigue, mental disorders, and mystery. The added bonus turns out to be Hine’s knowledge of psychological disorders and neuroses. He’s obviously taken more than Psychology 101 or at least reads a lot of murder-mystery paperbacks. When his multi-layered, and surprising plot twist comes to a head in Beneath the Mask, Part One, the gritty/yet luminous inking from John Lucas adds to the riveting, action-based scripting.

Secondary characters, such as Jeremiah’s new assistant director, Alyce Sinner, keep your interest. This is especially true during the telling of her “colorful past.” And Hine should get some kudos for turning the outwardly one-note story of villain Raggedy Man into an intense character portrait of child abuse and the dangers of internalized trauma. Also, Aaron Cash, the Asylum’s head of security, is successfully brought straight from the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game to the printed page.

Note in passing: The Seven Deadly Sins ribbons Sinner sporadically plucks from her long brown tresses make for nice character development tools. DC would be wise to explore her character further. OK, more kudos for Hine. ( /

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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