I am vengeance I am the night
Its almost Bat-time for Batman: Arkham Origins to Bat-arrive on our Bat-consoles, and some of you out there might be thinking, This Batman guy seems pretty awesome. But when can I see him when he isnt appearing in games, feature films, or animated series? Good news! There are more than 70 years worth of Batman comics to read!
If all that content sounds a little too daunting for you, weve picked out some of the best storylines to read while waiting to play Arkham Origins. These 11 collections not only cover some of Batmans greatest adventures, but they also spotlight many of the themes and villains that have been announced to appear in Origins. Our graphic novel reading list begins with...
Batman: Year One
Lets just get the obvious one out of the way. Arkham Origins takes place early in Batmans career, but he no longer considers himself a rookie. The events and mistakes of his first year are firmly in his past, and hes made a name for himself by taking down Gothams most powerful crime families. If youre concerned about missing out on that, its all there in Batman: Year One.
But even if it has a different timeframe, the two stories have a few common elements. Despite Bats not being a total neophyte in Origins, he does maintain a combative relationship with (not-yet-Commissioner) Gordon, just as Batman has with Captain Gordon in Year One. If youve yet to read one of the most well-known Batman comics of the last 30 years, seeing that Arkham Origins dynamic in Gordon/Batmans relationship might finally get you to pick it up.
Batman: Long Halloween
As we said, Arkham Origins deals with a Batman thats gotten a few investigations under his utility belt, but doesnt yet have much experience with the more colorful criminals of Gotham. Long Halloween deals with that exact timeframe as well, following Batman as hes cleaning up his citys organized crime while also having some of his first interactions with people like The Riddler and Two-Face. Like in Origins, its a tale of Batman being confronted with elements he never expected when waging war on crime.
Long Halloween is an epic 12-part story that follows a string of murders connected to different holidays over one year, with Bats (and the reader) doing their damnedest to deduce the identity of the Holiday Killer. And because it takes place on multiple festive days, one being Christmas a.k.a. the same timeframe as Origins. And if youre looking for more X-Mas moments from the Dark Knight...
Gotham Central: Jokers and Madmen
Batman gets all the accolades for stopping crime, but the Gotham City Police Department still has its hands full policing the town, something the underrated series Gotham Central explored. This particular volume is the best of the entire run, as it tells a story of Joker wreaking havoc on Gothams civilians as the holidays approach. As Batman is searching for answers from the shadows, the detectives of Gothams Major Crimes Unit want to be the ones to stop the madman this time around.
This Gotham Central arc shares Origins affinity for a snow-covered Gotham and should help players empathize a little more with the cops that are tired of waiting for Batman to save the day. And because Batman and the Joker barely appear in Gotham Central, the comic also gives readers a rare glimpse at how the average person sees the legendary Caped Crusader and his Rogues Gallery.
The Killing Joke
Speaking Mr. J, Arkham Origins got some early flack the hardcore Bat-fans for replacing Mark Hamill as the voice of The Joker. Troy Baker is taking over the role that Hamill has performed since Batman: The Animated Series, and some older fans had their doubts if the man behind BioShock Infinites Booker DeWitt could take on the psychotic creep. Though weve yet to truly experience the character in the final product, this video removed 99% of our doubts.
In case thats all new to you, the passage Baker performs is a famous monologue from The Killing Joke, the Alan Moore and Brian Bolland work that many still regard as the greatest Joke story ever written. Even if youve memorized the book, its worth pulling out again to read along with Bakers words in the above video. Even after hes retired from the role, Hamill will always be the voice of The Joker to us, but were now comfortable if Baker takes on the role for the next 20 years.
The Man Who Laughs
Arkham Origins has Batman facing the Joker fairly early in their respective careers, but if youd like to see the first meeting between the two archenemies, The Man Who Laughs is an outstanding telling of their initial encounters. Batman isnt ready for Jokers chaotic approach to crime, while The Joker has yet to face a force of order as strong as Batman. At the same time, Gordon and his police are still trying to understand Batmans role following a post-Year One truce.
Flashbacks like The Man Who Laughs and Arkham Origins both take Batman and Jokers blood feud--something thats very familiar to fans--and brings it back to the early days. It gives the faceoff some freshness because neither combatant can really predict the other, and the same goes for the players. Plus, after seeing Joker so decrepit in Arkham City, both Arkham Origins and Man Who Laughs gives the Clown Prince of Crime a vibrancy we miss.
Arkham Origins Anarky seems like a villain ripped from todays headlines. The yellow-masked menace is expressing views straight out of the Occupy movements handbook (though Anarky uses way more explosives). And his mask calls to mind the Anonymous hacker group. But, as this comic attests, hes been around since the late 1980s.
Created by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, this collection of Anarkys early appearances shows the young prodigy as a hyper-intelligent agent of change, one that Batman must stop despite appreciating Anarkys idealism. Anarky fought drug dealers with the same intensity he brought to battling homelessness and corrupt politicians. He appears to have similar goals in Arkham Origins, though his methods look a tad more nefarious this time.
Batgirl: Year One
The Arkham games have previously shown us Barbara Gordon in her role as Oracle, the uber-hacker, master coordinator, and exposition master. Now a much younger Babs has been spotted in Arkham Origins. Though we dont see her as Batgirl in that clip (and perhaps not even in the final game), you can see her venting the frustrations that lead her to put on a mask for the first time, which can be seen in the fantastic Batgirl: Year One.
Written by Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon, Marcos Martins art calls to mind the classic Batman: Year One in a story that follows Barbara out of college and into the life of crimefighting. Shes a quick learner, though her lack of real training makes Batman suspicious at first, but Babs quickly earns his respect by battling Killer Moth and Firefly. Barbaras entry into the greater Bat Family is a fun story, and it also sets up her friendship with future Birds of Prey partner, Black Canary.
Catwoman: No Easy Way Down
If you watched the Adam West TV show or the animated series, youve likely memorized many of Batmans rogues, but Black Mask probably wasnt among them. The skull-faced mobster was a lesser known villain for many years, but in the last decade he has become a major force in Gothams mafia scene. He has retroactively becomes a major force in Arkham Origins, but his real rise to infamy began in the Catwoman storyline, No Easy Way Down.
Catwoman has a habit of stealing from crime bosses, so when she looted Black Mask, he didnt particularly appreciate it. Black Mask goes about exacting some very heinous revenge on Catwomans friends and family, showing a sadistic side few supervillains can match. His war with Catwoman established him as a substantial player in Gotham, a tradition thats continuing in Arkham Origins.
Until the film The Dark Knight Rises, movies and games mostly portrayed Bane as a hulking beast not unlike Killer Croc. But Rises was much closer to the true Bane: a cold, tactical monster that can challenge (and even beat) Batman both mentally and physically. Thats closer to the Bane we see in Arkham Origins, and that characterization began with the mega-crossover, Knightfall.
In one of his first appearances, Bane declares his intention to break The Bat, and he does it! Bane deduces Bats secret identity, he sets free everyone in Arkham, he waits for Batman to exhaust himself chasing criminals, then Bane sneaks into the Bat Cave, beats Bruce nearly to death, and breaks Batmans spine. Its hard to think of Batman suffering a more thorough defeat than he does in Knightfall, and it cemented Banes rep forever, even if some later interpretations were lacking.
Arkham Origins has major Batman enemies, but it also spotlights some lesser killers for hire, like Copperhead, Electrocutioner, and (most importantly for this entry), Deadshot. These characters are treated as fodder in most stories, but a skilled creator can make even the most underrated bad guy awesome. Just look at what Gail Simone did with Deadshot and his friends in Villains United and its subsequent spin-off, Secret Six.
This book brought together a team of B-list baddies and turned them into a force that wouldnt back down from the likes of Lex Luthor or Deathstroke. The book took special care to respectfully elevate people that most readers thought were jokes, just as we hope Arkham Origins intends to do with its villainous line-up. By the time you finish the first volume of Villains United, we defy you not to root for one-time loser Catman as the new leader of this team of villains battling to survive in an evil world.
Teen Titans: A Kid's Game
Deathstroke hasnt gotten much exposure to non-comic readers, but if youve read your share of DC books, you know Slade Wilson is a major player in the underworld. Hes arguably more skilled than Batman, has total recall, perfect reflexes, and doesnt have any problems with murder. We could direct you to some of the impressive battles he and Batman have shared over the years, but instead were going to direct you to when he battled Robins team of sidekicks, the newly reformed Teen Titans.
After spending the 1990s as a boring anti-hero, Slades evil once more in the inaugural adventure of the new Teen Titans. He shoots Kid Flash in the knee with a shotgun, he beats Robin within an inch of his life, and does a lot more that wed rather not spoil, all just to test the young heroes abilities. This was the start of wicked run that almost lead to him ruling the world. Thats the malevolent persona we like to see Slade embody when hunting Justice Leaguers, something Arkham Origins really seems to grasp.
I... am... Batman!
So thats our comic book mixtape for Arkham Origins, but if any comic readers out there have other suggestions, feel free to share in the comments!