When this issue came out I have to admit I wasn’t exactly ripping the bag open and whipping through the pages. In fact I wasn’t even thinking about reading it until I had read through the rest of my pull list twice! The reason being I was just not too interested in the story. The first part (Detective Comics #864) was alright we got to see Jeremiah Arkham as the twisted maniac that he is, but I just wasn’t pulled into the story. So when it was time to read this current issue I was not too excited. But Batman is Batman and I’ll read it regardless.
Our story begins where Detective Comics #864 left off, with Dr. Jeremiah Arkham slaughtering the beauties, which we learn that like everyone else in his messed up family, he hallucinated them. But Arkham wasn’t always crazy, he was slowly poisoned by Dr. Hugo Strange and the Joker using one of Strange’s toxins (which was delivered via a marionette that was given to him by the Joker), and to top it all off, when Dr. Arkham (who was under the influence of the toxin) conducted sessions with Strange, Strange used subliminal messages to create multiple personalities for the Doctor which he promptly set up a mental block for.
Meanwhile Conrad Leblanc (the man with the bomb in his chest) has successfully canceled all of the deals he had arranged to bring down all of Gotham’s finance institutions, while Arkham, now recovering from the exposure to the toxin has finally come to his “moral” senses and tells Batman the code to de-activate the bomb. Turns out Arkham had given Batman the wrong code so the bomb explodes (in a rather violent scene) and Conrad is killed instantly. Meanwhile Batman visits Gordon who, when posed with the question of why Sinner was promoted to the Director position at Arkham, says that he abstained his vote only to be out ruled by the majority vote. Batman leaves saying he’ll keep an eye on Sinner to see whether she’s a murderer or not. Back in Arkham’s cell in solitary confinement, Alyce Sinner, after she confirms that Arkham gave Batman the wrong code, tells him that Victor Zsasz is next door. While she walks past Zsasz’s room she unlocks it and in the next scene we see Zsasz at the entrance to Arkham’s room wielding what looks to be a scalpel saying he’s going to put Arkham’s name on the inside of his eyelids. Arkham manhandles Zsasz and does it for him as Batman breaks the door down to the room. Later we see Alyce in Arkham’s room saying he’ll probably have to stay in solitary confinement. He reveals that Alyce sent Zsasz to see if Arkham was the same old weak, boring, timid Jeremiah, the man she hates or Black Mask, the man she loves. They embrace and kiss, the last page shows them cuddling by a mirror in the reflection we see Arkham as the Black Mask.
This story arc as a whole wasn’t that great and to be honest I’m kind of sick with the whole Black Mask thing. There isn’t a lot of action in this story which up to a point is a good thing. But when every other scene is either a monologue of how smart Jeremiah Arkham thinks he is, a flashback to how he was poisoned, or became what he is besides that fact that there are very little Batman scenes and quick easy conclusions, it above all things gets more than a little boring. Is the Black Mask that much of a dollar sign for DC that the only reason this story exists is to stretch it out just a little farther? Granted, it has its moments of pure, deep story and thought, but it’s slow pace and failure to deliver any sort of meaningful content that pushes forth the legacy of the idea of Detective Comics masks that. What we are left with is the basis of what DC has built up to that point with the Black Mask that only moves it’s story forward a centimeter, if not even that.
The artwork on this issue and the previous issue is visually stunning. Jeremy Haun definitely knows how to approach the concept of the villain. Whether it’s his work on the Mortician cuddling up with his zombie parents or the Joker fooling Arkham, it is great and disturbing along with David Baron’s gory and demanding colors.
Overall, where this issue fails, it fails. And where it succeeds, it succeeds. Although it’s brevity, sluggishness and banal nature is what continually brings it back down to a forgetful arc. I think there is some redeeming qualities in its pages and for that it should be paid some attention to.
Detective Comics #865:
Reviewed by Dane