REVIEW: “Forever Evil: Arkham War” #2

(DC Comics, 2013)

Review by Shawn Warner

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils by Scot Eaton
Inks by Jaime Mendoza
Color Artwork by Andrew Dalhouse

This second issue of the Arkham War mini-series picks up a bit of speed but still contains quite a bit of set-up. Peter J. Tomasi is taking the slow burn approach to this narrative, meticulously building the story at a pace that allows for more detailed characterizations while still driving the plot forward. Bane remains the central figure as he makes his attempt to control a Gotham City that has been plunged into chaos. Tomasi relies heavily on Tom Hardy’s “Dark Knight Rises” portrayal of the hulking villain here over his previous New 52 incarnation. Kirk Langstrom and his army of Man-Bats as well as Scarecrow have surfaced to challenge Bane’s ascension to power. However the ambitious Bane is not without potential allies as the manipulative and self-serving Penguin offers his support.

Tomasi has further altered his depiction of Bane in this issue playing up his intellect and savvy as a strategist. Not only has Tomasi taken a cue from Hardy’s cinematic Bane but he seems to have referred to the work of Chuck Dixon and Gail Simone on the character in infusing him with morality this is in direct contrast to the Bane we saw strike a girl during Villains Month. Tomasi highlights Bane’s newly acquired cunning in a particularly well scripted scene involving The Penguin as the two hammer out the details of their newly formed alliance and the potential benefits of teaming up to tackle issues of mutual concern. Man-Bat and Scarecrow prove to be little more than fodder for Bane as he literally rips the wings from Langstrom in a wonderfully detailed rendering by artist Scot Eaton. Eaton’s attention to detail and wonderfully exaggerated anatomy really work to dynamic effect particularly on Bane. However he seems a bit out of his element when drawing the more mundane images of Gordon and other more conventionally proportioned figures. Overall Eaton does an excellent job artistically, my main disappointment is that we didn’t get to see his take on The Talons, in fact other than their appearance on the cover which is done by Jason Fabok we don’t see them at all in this issue which is a shame because Eaton’s kinetic style would fit them so well.

This issue of Arkham War is engrossing and visually energetic and while it is not action-packed it does pack enough of a punch to keep the set-up heavy narrative lively. The thrust of this issue is to set the stage, define the participants (both enemies and allies) and generate anticipation for the big show down looming in the not-so-distant future. There are many conceivable threads to be explored here and Tomasi is playing his cards very close to his vest in regards to the grand scheme of things so far however even in taking a slower approach I would expect to see some potentially long-reaching ramifications to be uncovered or at least hinted at next issue. Given the enormity of the cast Tomasi has at his disposal I hope we get to see more attention to characters other than Bane, Scarecrow and Penguin in upcoming issues.

I’m completely onboard for the long haul. Arkham War has the potential and momentum to be the best tie-in of the Forever Evil event, Tomasi and Eaton certainly possess the talent to deliver a tremendous story and after two issues I feel confident that they will. Tomasi has been writing stories based in Gotham and featuring many of Batman’s rogue’s gallery for quite some time now so it stands to reason that he has the intimate knowledge of these characters and their environment to tell a compelling and entertaining story. I highly recommend this series to Bat-Fans but you don’t have to be one to enjoy this book. Tomasi is telling an intriguing story full of great characters that will impact the DCU for the foreseeable future. (4/5)

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Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter:  @shawnwarner629

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