Written by Peter J. Tomasi, drawn by Alisson Borges, colored by Dave McCaig and lettered by Deron Bennett, “Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis” #1 takes a bold first step in revealing the identity of the Arkham Knight while he mangles his foe, Ratcatcher. Following the Batman mythology as reshaped by the video games, there is plenty of backstory to sift through as the characters introduce themselves to the readers. After opening the story with a scrap that barely clocks in at four pages, Tomasi turns the rest of the issue over to exposition, peeling off the Arkham Knight’s cowl and explaining his mad-on against Batman. Tomasi takes the story all the way back to the character’s birth, literally returning to the rooftop where the character’s parents welcomed their son into the world.
From there, the gravity of the story pulls the tale down, working against logical developments and sending this character on a perpendicular path towards events that should have happened naturally. It is almost as though Tomasi doesn’t have the room or that the shift in destiny was dictated; the story waffles between crafting a down-on-his-luck background and a made-man tale. The timeline gets a little blurry as well, giving the story less-than-stable ground for that bold first step.
Borges’ storytelling is stutter-step, as the Arkham Knight appears to be brushing rats off Hush in one panel and has Ratcatcher on the ground from a body slam in the next. The characters are in similar attire, but the chosen perspective angles minimize drama, opting for setting and scope instead, and, in doing so, sacrifices clarity. Borges crafts plenty of detail and makes some dynamic framing choices, but those choices come at the expense of the storytelling more than once.
Serviceable but not polished, Borges’ art is not helped much by McCaig’s bright, bold colors. The colors work well for the fight against the Joker, where purples and reds need to pop from the pea soup background, but — on the splash page where the Arkham Knight slams into Ratcatcher — too many points fight for dominance and none outstrips the others. The impact starburst is too similar in color to Ratcatcher’s hair, the Knight’s left boot directs the reader to the credits and right off the page and the purple-blue “SHRAKK” wants to celebrate sound. Bright colors but no depth just flatten the story, forcing Borges’ shadow-heavy art to forge ahead. I’m hopeful McCaig is just finding the levels for this issue, as I know he can really deliver for this type of story, but Borges needs to open up the storytelling a bit to help him out.
“Batman: Arkham Knight – Genesis” #1 is going to be a must-read for devotees of the games but, for readers looking to latch onto a new Batman adventure, it’s going to prove to be a headscratcher that doesn’t provide much return on investment. This is a story all about the Arkham Knight and, while it sets up his origin, it doesn’t give the reader much reason for return.