The Batman of Arkham
Alan Grant, writer,
Alcatena, artist
(DC Comics, 2000)

Batman has had plenty of close encounters with the infamous Arkham Asylum. In this Elseworlds tale, circa 1900, Bruce Wayne runs the place -- a respected psychiatrist by day and a vigilante helping to fill the asylum's cells by night. His treatments are thorough and compassionate, a significant change from usual portrayals of the asylum, and he measures a fair success rate with his patients.

Meanwhile, the Joker is spreading his maniacal brand of madness through the city, and Jonathan Crane (in modern stories, the Scarecrow) is a subordinant member of the asylum staff with his own views on patient care. When Wayne falls victim to the Joker and is left in a manic state, Crane has the chance to work his harsher will on the patients.

This is a good story with appropriate atmosphere, but it attempts too much in 48 pages. We are expected to come to know this Elseworlds variations on so many characters -- also including Two-Face, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Scarface and the Ventriloquist, Dick Grayson, Commissioner Gordon and Alfred -- in such a limited span that the story itself never achieves much depth. Basically, Grant sets up the situation, allows a brief plot to develop with a few fisticuffs and gimmicks, and then it's over.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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