Synopsis (spoilers ahead): ArkhaManiacs opens during a thunderstorm. Alfred Pennyworth is walking down the streets of Gotham City with a young Bruce Wayne. They arrive at an apartment property owned and operated by Wayne Enterprises. Bruce says that the apartment looks so dreary and asks why they have stopped here. Alfred says that they are there to pick up the mail.
Just then, we hear a jovial voice wishing everything in Gotham City a good morning. The owner of the voice approaches Alfred and Bruce. As the happy man approaches, the sun comes out and the rain stops. The man dressed as a clown pats Bruce on the head and addresses him by name. Bruce is surprised that this strange man knows him. The clown says that everyone knows who Brucie is and marches off whistling. The rain starts up again, and Alfred, as he opens his umbrella, tells Bruce that that man is the Joker and that he lives at the Arkham Apartments. This building is also owned by Wayne Enterprises, so that is how the Joker knows who Bruce is.
Joker starts talking to the building. When the building does not respond, he tap-dances in front of the door. The building starts talking to him, but Bruce does not see the building speaking. Alfred tells Bruce that the Joker may see things that are not there, that Joker sees the world differently. Alfred and Bruce return to the manor for dinner.
Joker breaks the fourth wall and takes the reader on a guided tour of the building. We first meet Supervisor Gordon. Joker then takes us to Oswald’s door, where Penguin is preparing for a swim with his penguin friends. One penguin looks sad, and Joker gives him goggles.
Joker leaves Oswald and goes next door to Victor. Vic is so warm and needs the room to be colder. It already looks like the room is below freezing. Joker reaches into his bag, takes out a bucket of ice, and pours the ice down Vic’s collar. This cools off Vic perfectly, and the two share a laugh.
The next door is covered in black. Joker sees eyes open and crows flying off, which lets us know that this is Scarecrow’s room. Joker enters and finds Jonathan depressed. Jonathan cannot scare the crows, so he is not worthy of his name. Joker renames Jonathan as Steve and leaves, the crows flooding back into the room.
Next door to “Steve,” we find Pamela’s room. Outside is a pot of flowers, and the Joker smells them. He is interrupted by a voice telling him to back away from the flowers slowly. Vines enter the panel and wrap up Joker. We meet Pamela or Poison Ivy. She tells Joker to state his business. Joker wants to say good morning to her. We see Harl peek out of a room. She asks Mr J what he is doing in the hallway. Joker tells her that he is just hanging around. Poison Ivy tells Harl that Joker was smelling her flowers without permission; the vines drop Joker on his back. We now see a cat in the pot. Joker reaches into his bag and pulls out a bottle of quick-growing plant food. He pours the contents into the pot. Poison Ivy asks him what he is doing. Then the flowers start to grow out of the pot, taking the cat with them.
Selina pokes her head out into the hall. She is looking for her cat. Harl points out the window and up. Selina shrieks for Miss Whiskers, and the Joker says that he can fix this. He pulls a dog out of his bag and paints the dog, making it look more like him, complete with green hair and a smile on his face. Joker tells Sparky the dog to get the cat, and Sparky shoots up the vine. This does not work as Sparky falls and is caught by the Joker. Sparky licks Selina all over her face, and a now disgusted and wet Selina goes off to find her cat.
Selina goes out into the backyard by the in-ground pool. Croc is in the pool, and Selina turns on him to tell him not to think about it; cats hate getting wet. Croc is not alone. Croc Junior also surfaces, and Selina continues looking for Miss Whiskers.
Croc Junior gets out of the pool and is blocked by the broom of Supervisor Gordon. Gordon pushes the animal into the pool and tells Croc to keep an eye on his pet crocodile. If he has to tell Croc again about his pet, he will put him on report. Supervisor Gordon then yells at all the tenants, saying that he has his eyes on all of them. Everyone, including the building, starts laughing, saying that they love living here. We see that Selina has found Miss Whiskers.
At Wayne Manor, Bruce looks towards Arkham Apartments that strangely has clear weather and a rainbow on this otherwise rainy day. Bruce asks who the people are. Alfred tells him that they are troublemakers that do not have bedtimes. Bruce thinks that this is great. Alfred tells Bruce that it is time for lunch and maybe a nap. He is to meet his parents in the dining room in five minutes. Bruce sees the tenants of Arkham having a lot more fun than he is. Bruce trudges off, but he finds the dining room empty. The family is meeting in the other dining room, and Bruce finds it twenty minutes later. Mr. Wayne suggests that they develop a Wayne Manor GPS app for Bruce, so that he can find the different rooms in the manor. Alfred will contact Lucius Fox. Thomas Wayne suggests that the family go to the Monarch Theater tonight. A classic old movie is playing. Martha loves the idea, but Bruce does not want to see a black and white movie. He would rather go out and play. Alfred tells the family that Bruce met the residents of Arkham. Thomas Wayne thinks that they are a colorful cast of interesting folks. Martha Wayne, on the other hand, is concerned.
Alfred puts Bruce to bed. Bruce enjoyed the movie the family saw that night, and he has no intention of sleeping. He climbs out of the window. Bruce, with the help of a puppy, slips out of the grounds of the manor. Bruce names the puppy Ace, and the two head to Arkham Apartments. He wants to find out what goes on inside. Ace seems to see the building smile, but Bruce does not.
Inside, Poison Ivy cannot sleep. She has a strange feeling like they are being watched. Bruce sees Ivy in the window and thinks that she saw them. Vines surround and grab both Bruce and Ace and take them up to Ivy’s room. Joker pokes his head in the door and welcomes Bruce back. Joker takes Bruce’s hand, and they knock on Oswald’s, Victor’s, Jonathan’s or Steve’s, Harley’s, Selina’s, and Croc’s doors. Victor is the only one sleeping. Joker introduces Bruce to everyone. Bruce introduces his puppy as Ace after Joker asks if the dog is Alfred. Selina thinks Bruce is kind of cute, and she wants to take him to the prom one day. This causes Bruce and Ace to run out of the building. Joker says that he will be back. Supervisor Gordon breaks up the shenanigans, and we see another resident, Manny the vampire. He is supposed to be awake at night.
The next morning, Bruce draws himself and the tenants of Arkham. Then he draws himself with a mask and cape. Alfred asks Bruce if there is something wrong as he appears to be preoccupied with Arkham Apartments. Bruce really wants to meet them; they are so different in their clothes and how they act. Alfred has to run an errand for Thomas Wayne, and he will be driving by the apartments. Bruce runs off to get his shoes and meets Alfred by the limo. When they drive by, Bruce wants to go in. Alfred suggests that they take it slow and easy. Joker jumps onto the roof of the limo and asks Alfred if he brought Bruce. Bruce slowly lowers a window. Joker wants to show Bruce something. This interests Bruce.
Joker tells Bruce that the house is smiling at him, even though he does not see it. Joker tells him to concentrate harder, but Bruce still does not see the building smiling. He runs off into Supervisor Gordon. Alfred asks what the Joker is referring to, and Gordon says that he does not try to understand the residents. Alfred and Gordon introduce themselves. Joker comes out dressed for swimming. He wants to take Bruce to the pool with Oswald and the penguins. Joker tells them that there is also a pirate ship, which Alfred does not see. What Alfred does see is Harley, Croc and Ivy. If Bruce wants to go swimming, Alfred suggests that they could just go the the manor’s pools. Bruce is fixated on the penguins. Joker asks Ivy to do the honors and her vines give Bruce a swimsuit. Joker opens his bag and asks Bruce to choose his weapon; Bruce pulls out a balloon sword. Joker makes his own balloon sword, and the two start to duel. Their imagination turns them into pirates, and they start playing. Bruce falls into the pool, and Joker throws a life ring out that goes over Croc as Bruce sinks into the water. Croc and Penguin join in on the game to search for Bruce because he knows where the treasure is.
Bruce sneaks out of the pool and into the apartments. He is blocked by the cane of the Riddler. Riddler asks him a riddle and then shouts at the others to let them know where Bruce is.
Bruce runs off and into Bane. Bane grabs Bruce and holds him over his head. There is a loud crack. Riddler is eating pretzel sticks. Riddler offers some to Bane, and Bruce jumps away.
Bruce now runs into Hush. Hush tells him to hush, and Bruce insists that he is being as quiet as he can. Hush is just introducing himself. When Bruce shushes him, Hush thinks Bruce is named Sshh. Bruce leaves.
Now Bruce runs into Manny sleeping upside down. This startles Bruce, and Manny introduces himself. Manny tells Bruce that Bruce needs wings, and he can help him get some. Manny puts water wings on Bruce and tells them that they are bat wings. He will need them to defeat the pirate Joker. Manny tells Bruce that Bruce is a creature of the night and that he will bring nightmares to all. Manny tells Bruce to go see Clayface.
Clayface lives in the room next door to Manny. The others find Bruce and throw water balloons at him. Clay tells Bruce to come in. Bruce finds that there is mud all over the place. Clay’s face appears on the floor and tells Bruce that it is not mud but clay. Clayface is in fact the whole room. He can take the shape of anything. Clay has something Bruce can use to defeat the Joker. Clay tells Bruce that he needs a bit of imagination.
Outside, Alfred and Gordon watch the residents play in the pool. Gordon says that they can go on like this for days or until there is a winner. Alfred is worried about Bruce. Gordon tells him that he has a feeling that Bruce will make an appearance. Captain Wayne and First Mate Clayface make an appearance to save the day. Bruce returns to the play fight, and now he uses his imagination to become a space pirate and a superhero. Everyone is impressed, but Gordon shouts at them all for bringing mud into the pool. Gordon has to clean out the pool. Alfred gets Bruce back into the limo. Bruce tells Joker that they had fun and that they should do it again. Joker says that they will, and Bruce sees the building wave goodbye. Alfred quickly gets Bruce home for lunch.
Analysis: This was an absolutely fun story. I loved the characterization. Joker is loony, Ivy is morose, and Selina even has a crush on young Brucie. It is absolutely fun to see these characters in this setting where they just enjoy themselves in a light-hearted, spirited way. This book is funny in many places, and thankfully steers any characterizations away from the homicidal villains that we see in the main comics. I find that refreshing.
The art fits with the story. It is very cartoony and gives me the feeling that I am reading a fun little book akin to a kid’s cartoon like Animaniacs, which the ArkhaManiacs title alludes to.
I definitely recommend this book for kids, but I also recommend it for adults who are getting tired of the drab, ultra-realistic, dark story that DC is putting out right now. Most of the action even takes place during the day.
It was fun to see the different nods to continuity. The movie at the Monarch Theater where the Waynes were later killed. Penguin with his pet penguins. Selina and her cat, she even dresses in a Catwoman-like costume even though she is never called Catwoman. I liked that Pamela insisted that everyone call her Poison Ivy. We even see Bane here, and it is so funny.
Final Thoughts: Overall, I found the book faultless. This a fun book to escape with and enjoy.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic digitally and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue through Comixology.