Let me start off by saying that I loved this comic so much, I’m probably going to buy the floppy of it. This statement might raise questions but the answers are; 1. I read comics in collections en masse, rather than the weekly adventure so many of you go through, and 2. I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy! This is also my very first review of a comic, so really I’m totally new to this across the board, but dang, was I ever so lucky to land this opportunity. I jumped on the chance to read another Dan Watters/Dani/Aditya Bidikar book after reading Coffin Bound Vol 1, which absolutely blew me away, and Arkham City: The Order of the World did not disappoint.
From the very first page, Dani displays a masterful understanding of the Mignola-esque usage of negative space (Dave Stewart perfectly coloring both this book and quite a few Hellboy books), and dang it, if I’m not an absolute sucker for that art style. My friend joked that he struggled reading Coffin Bound because he would just stare at Dani’s art and upon opening this book, I understood him completely. I was fully mesmerized and engrossed within this beautifully horrifying depiction of Gotham and Arkham Asylum, which I gotta say, Dani having that ability to envelop the audience in the aesthetic and world is a huge boon to an atmospheric horror book. Dani also has tremendous efficiency in the panel to panel read. I once heard something about how the hallmark of a great comic is that it can tell the story without the words and Dani nails it. Even in the middle portion when they jump from perspective to perspective, Dani works in a way that the story is perfectly told with horror intact without having to read a single word.
Luckily, you can read this story with the words and those words are written by none other than Dan Watters. I’ll preface this by refering to the book I mentioned earlier, Coffin Bound, and saying that this book, probably more than any other comic book before it and I imagine after it, connected with me and let me see myself on the page. The depressive, goth-punk who only deals in morose poetry was so far up my alley, I was left too dumbfounded to finish this joke. It was a comic entirely made for me, so I came into this book with the highest expectations I could possibly have and I’m walking away 0% disappointed. The characterizations were perfect, from who the characters were in terms of personality, to how the characters interacted, and the dialogue itself was top notch.
He builds on top of the atmospheric horror that Dani has set up and introduces a cop mystery element to it, but flips it. The main protagonist is not a cop, but a psychologist who was overseeing patients at Arkham before a breakout, the absolute perfect main character for a book that is very clearly working as Watters’s statement on mental health and the treatment of it. Watters expertly weaves this theme into the book and the vignettes with different escaped patients, respecting the reader enough to understand it without getting beaten over the head with it. He wraps up this first issue with a twist that simultaneously works as a complete ending as if it was a one-shot but also as an incredibly enticing “and the plot thickens…” moment.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the absolutely fantastic lettering Aditya Bidikar does here. Helping set every villain apart with distinct and oh so appropriate fonts, with one even receiving distinct colorization of the word bubbles, to surprisingly successful effect. The fonts used for the effects are also superb; the progression of the “squeak” in the first few pages is a masterclass in how to letter effects. Even the contrast in the title card, of Arkham City vs Gotham City, with the fonts themselves marrying the two differing locations to themes they might represent: Arkham City using a font reminiscent of the Anarchy logo; Gotham City’s font bringing to mind the metallic font such as in Wolfenstein’s title card. Bidikar flows through a number of fonts, italics, bolds, with each one being vitally important in Bidikar’s quest to finish the job of dragging you into the terrifying depths of this book.
Arkham City: The Order of the World is perfection. It has 4 geniuses working at the top of their craft to once again strike me in the heart and give me exactly what I want. This book is 22 pages of my favorite part of Batman comics: the horror possibilities of Arkham and Gotham. It reunites 3/4ths of the creative team from the masterpiece that is Coffin Bound, bringing in a legend to round out the 4th spot. Above all, it has done what I once thought impossible: inspired me to buy a series in floppies and follow on from one issue to the next.