Reviewed by Jay Eales
From the man behind some of the very best Batman animated stories, Paul Dini, comes the lead-in to one of the biggest computer games of the year: Batman: Arkham City.Â Dini has to walk a similar path to Jeph Loeb with his various Batman miniseries projects, and find a way to incorporate all the heavy hitters of the Batman rogues gallery. That he does this in a way that manages to remain fresh is testament to his skill.
Artwise, Carlos Dâ€™Anda puts in a workmanlike job, with occasional high points. Thereâ€™s nothing to particularly dislike about his work, but there are plenty of artists Iâ€™d rather see here, such as Ted Naifeh, who illustrates one of several short related pieces at the end of the book.
The only real problem is that it relies on the reader being familiar with the previous Arkham game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and its job is to move the pieces around to set up the new Arkham City game, so it was always doomed to be the middle bit of a sandwich. Although I donâ€™t know about you, but my favourite bit is the filling. I donâ€™t have a games console capable of playing the Arkham games, so this is the only bite of the sandwich I have to go on.
Storywise, it takes up in the aftermath of Arkham Asylum, where an augmented version of Baneâ€™s venom was used to power up a bunch of other Bat-villains, who run riot. Now, the Asylumâ€™s Chief Warden becomes Gothamâ€™s Mayor, and instigates a new rehabilitation programme where certain sections of Gotham are walled off, Escape from New York style, and criminals are thrown over the wall to fight for supremacy. Sounds like an insane plan? Certainly, but thereâ€™s a power behind the throne, and the Mayor is being manipulated by another of Batmanâ€™s foes, for reasons that wonâ€™t be made clear until the finale in the Arkham City game.
Prelude to Arkham City does exactly what it sets out to do, which is to explain how you get from A to B in a breezy entertaining manner, whetting the appetite for the feast to come. But thatâ€™s all there is to it. For fans of the games, thatâ€™s mission accomplished. If youâ€™ve no intention of buying the games, youâ€™ll feel as though youâ€™ve had the prawn cocktail and gone home while everyone else tucks into the main course.