There’s little chance of mistaking Dan Watters, Dani and Dave Stewart’s Arkham City for having anything to do with the video game series of the same name. Just a cursory glance will reveal that this book takes place in a very Serious City on Serious Earth. Tying into current Bat-continuity, Arkham Asylum is down for the count – its gates closed following a chemical attack by the Joker, having killed almost all of the staff and inmates there.
Almost. The surviving Arkham patients have leeched out onto the streets, free to terrorise the citizens of Gotham once more. You’d think that Batman would be all over the situation, but he’s nowhere to be seen in Chapter One of The Order of the World. The story follows surviving Arkham doctor Jocasta Joy as she attempts to track down the escaped inmates. With Joker busy in his own spin-off book, wrier Dan Watters focuses on lesser-known crooks such as the Mad Hatter, Professor Pyg and – in a terrifying re-invention of the character – the horrifying Ten Eyed Man. You thought Two-Face was bad? Well, wait until you get a load of tooth-face.
The Order of the World takes a compelling look at street (and sewer) level Gotham. Dani’s art is excellent, recalling Tim Sale’s work on The Long Halloween and Frank Miller’s Sin City at its best. The colouring and letters by Dave Stewart and Aditya Bidkar furthers the Long Halloween comparison, as does the multi-layered, mystery-focused story Watters is telling here. Fans of Dark Victory and Year One should feel right at home here, in this noir-ish, jet-black Gotham. At the same time, it tells a story of its own, not beholden to the Batman for big action sequences or superhero antics.
The Order of the World is a bold debut from a strong and confident creative team. Between its seething, simmering vision of Gotham City and its nightmarish new villain, Arkham City barely needs Batman at all.