Writer: Peter J. Tomasi / Artist: Brad Walker / DC Comics
All of the hype surrounding the new iteration of the Arkham Knight since Detective Comics #1000 has led to this: the proper origin story of the new villain, Astrid Arkham. Detective Comics #1004 will be come to known as the linchpin of Tomasi’s and Walker’s “Medieval” arc. And for the most part, this issue paints a fascinating character study of a literal child of the asylum although the depiction isn’t entirely perfect.
Tomasi wastes no time jumping into Astrid’s family history and how she came into the world hating Batman. As is typical for any Gotham villain, her story is tragic and as is typical for newer villains, her story is inexplicably linked to Batman. The pacing of her conception into her descent into madness is controlled and gives us insight to the working conditions of the Asylum, that gives us enough sympathy while still establishing the fact the Arkham Knight is not a well-intention extremist, she was destined to become a villain. Walker’s artistic depiction of the flashback is a beautiful freeform. Unburdened by panels, characters, and scenes blur together on the background of a decaying scroll, it is fluid and readable with a strong guideline as the text takes your eyes throughout entire page. It’s a wonderful way to distinguish the flashback before pivoting back to the present at the end of the issue.
But, this is Astrid’s story through and through and while the conceit of a child born in the Asylum turning mad isn’t above reproach, it’s an interesting take and revision of the Arkham Knight archetype. It’s a novel idea and, interestingly enough, makes her an appropriate counterpart not just for the Dark Knight but Damian as well. It’s that type of layered narrative that I personally revel in. It’s a challenge that riffs off of familiar notes that results in an entirely new mix.
Detective Comics #1004 is my favorite issue of “Medieval” to date. Walker’s artwork sells Tomasi’s narrative of the tragic origins of Astrid, and the end result builds up to a wonderful crescendo.
9.1 “Breakouts” out of 10
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