Tag Archive: arkham asylum

Originally Published: May 25, 2011, on Comicvine.com

After a brief respite for the Judgment of Gotham crossover, Gotham City Sirens comes back with a bang as Selina struggles with loyalty issues and Harley is seen helping the Joker turn Arkham into something similar to the Arkham Asylum video game, but gets resistance from an unusual suspect in the new Black Mask, Jeremiah Arkham!

The Good

This marks the beginning of a new story arc for Gotham City Sirens and as previous issues seemed to be spiraling into a valley, this issue looks to be pulling us back towards a peak again. Tons of action and chaos as Harley and Joker survey the carnage they’ve caused around them while torturing the Arkham guards unfortunate enough to cross their path. Throw in some cameos by Clayface and Mr. Zsasz and you’ll have flashback to the Arkham Asylum video game.

The key to this issue though is conflict. Catwoman versus herself as she weighs whether or not she should help Harley out over in Arkham. Ivy versus Harley as the two friends confront each other as Ivy has had it with her love sick puppy spells she goes into when she’s near the Joker. Joker versus Jeremiah Arkham as Arkham has been slowly buying or twisting many of the prison guards to his means and the Joker’s rampage is undoing the plans he put in motion months ago. And, of course, the set up for Batman (Bruce Wayne) versus them all as he lets Catwoman know that cases involving the Joker are his personal responsibility and are not to be handled by Dick. This is a great build up for a new story arc as we’ll see the effects of the previous ones finally play out here in one of Gotham’s grandest stages.

The Bad

The only real negative that seems to come from this comic is the lack of originality. Will every major arc that guides its way through Arkham Asylum and the Joker deal with a giant breakout that causes chaos and riots in the Asylum and force Batman to come inside the haunted padded walls to quell the threat? It just sounds a bit too much like this arc is already getting ready to help build up some more hype for Arkham City along with the five-issue mini-series that is being released as well.

The Verdict

What I thought of as a lack of originality aside, this comic features a lot of action between many different characters and sets the stage for what looks to be a mighty test for both Catwoman and Batman in the future issues. If you haven’t been reading this comic, you might be a little lost since even though it’s technically a new arc, you’re really jumping into a continuation of the last one, but you should be able to catch on quickly enough to still enjoy it.

4.5/5 Stars

Gotham City Sirens #21 Review

Originally Published: March 30, 2011, on Comicvine.com

Harley Quinn looks to right the wrongs committed against her by the Joker. But she’ll have to make her way past Aaron Cash and her own personal trump card to do so!

The Good

This Harley oriented story arc surprised me because it shows us a side of her we rarely see, the clinical analytical side of a once great psychiatrist. Normally we get the aloof Harley with the giant mallet, but this Hell Hath No Fury arc reminds us that she can be nearly as cunning and manipulative as the Joker.

Aside from Harley, this particular issue also explores the character of Aaron Cash some as he is the last line of defense between Harley and the Joker as he tries to maintain order as Arkham’s head of security. Harley though reveals a shocking secret about Aaron’s past that forces him to relent and let Harley pass as you actually feel your heart strings tug as you see the clear development of yet another tragic character in the Batman universe.

The Bad

Even with a tremendously well-done build up, it was all too predictable that Harley would not be able to pull the trigger when confronting “Mistah J”. Not only because I’m sure DC will never kill off the Joker, but because no matter how much he hurts her, Harley can’t help but be head over heels for the Joker and the entire arc reminds me too much of the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Harley and Ivy” where Harley teams up with Poison Ivy after being fired by the Joker.

This arc, predictable as it was, also just seemed to be a way to make the series even since Ivy already had her love-interest story when she fell in love with an alien plant-man, Catwoman had hers when she had to defend her love of Batman against Talia al’ Guhl, and now Harley has hers with the Joker. I would hate to see this series continue on this three-character merry-go-round since I thought it was more supposed to be about the dynamic between the three villainesses.

Of course, that dynamic seems to be in jeopardy altogether since Poison Ivy and Catwoman are at each others’ throats without Harley around. So we see Selina go off to explore why there is so much police activity going away from Arkham while Ivy goes off to see if the Joker has indeed dug his claws back into Harley and what carnage she is reeking at Arkham. It seemed like a blatant and sad attempt just in order to keep the two other main characters somehow involved in the past couple of issues that have been so Harley heavy.

The Verdict

This title has been teetering on the edge of my comic book pull box list for a while now, but I had hope because I enjoyed the exploration of both the main characters and some lesser known characters in the past couple of issues, including Aaron Cash this issue. There is also hope that whatever action Selina has gone off to investigate will provide a big payoff that will bring the three ladies back together.

Unfortunately, this predictable storyline and outcome left me feeling a little flat after reading it and unless it gets back to the nice and balanced three-character dynamic that it had in the beginning instead of the current rotating stories centering around each individual villainess and having the other two as side-pieces, this could be one of the last issues I pick up for this monthly. Only diehard fans of Batman’s Rogues Gallery rehashing their same gimmicks repeatedly will probably find this comic consistently enjoyable.

Originally Published: March 4, 2011, on Comicvine.com

Batman: Arkham City is probably one of the most anticipated video games of 2011, but it will also mark the end of an era as Mark Hamill, the quintessential Clown Prince of Crime for the past two decades, has said that he will officially walk away from doing the voice of the Joker after this project. With this comes the difficult choice for casting directors of deciding who will take over as the vocal chords behind that infamous rictus grin.

This got me thinking that maybe I could lend Andrea Romano and other casting directors a hand. Romano, the DC Animation casting director who of course introduced us to Hamill as the Joker, will probably have the biggest hand in selecting a replacement for most projects involving the Joker. So with that, here is a comprehensive list I made of possible candidates for a new Ace of Knaves.

Kevin Michael Richardson

An extremely accomplished voice actor, Kevin Michael Richardson has been doing the voices of various comic book and video game characters now for almost 20 years. Bishop, Tombstone, Lucius Fox, Mammoth, Trigon and many others from both the Marvel and DC Universe, Richardson is a possible front-runner for the role after serving as the Joker for the entire five season run of The Batman in the mid-2000s.

Richardson’s Joker was part of a push for a more realistic Batman as a supplement building up to Batman Begins in 2005 and thus was forced to play a bit more of an urban thieving jester than the genius psychopath with a sadistic sense of humor. Preferring a straight jacket with torn sleeves, bare feet, and dreadlocks to the more traditional custom tailored suit and slicked up hair, Richardson’s Joker still got across that most basic of dynamics, that the Joker must be the yang to Batman’s yin. Throw in a sinister cackle cross bred with a hyena for his laugh and Kevin Michael Richardson did something that you want to see from whatever actor takes the role, he worked with it and tried to make it his own. Add in his experience already working with Andrea Romano on several projects to put him a little higher than a lot of the competition.

John DiMaggio

Another top of the line voice talent, John DiMaggio is best known as Bender from Futurama and Marcus Fenix from Gears of War. He also got at least one shot as the Joker when he voiced the Harlequin of Hate for the recent Batman: Under the Red Hood straight to DVD movie from DC Animation.

Strongly criticized for his portrayal of the Joker, I actually enjoyed his performance except for the fact that he didn’t make it his own. It seemed more like he was trying to blend Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight with Mark Hamill’s vision of the Joker instead of bringing something unique to the table. If he should land the role, I hope that whoever the casting director is works with him on trying to make the character more his own instead of trying to give fans what they expect from the character because he definitely has the chops to reach greatness. John also has the advantage of having worked with Andrea Romano as he also portrayed Aquaman and Gorilla Grodd in episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Jeff Bennett

Another 20-year veteran of the voiceover business, Jeff Bennett is playing the most active version of the Joker at the moment in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon. The cartoon is a campier version of Batman and his rogues gallery that harkens back to the original run of the comic series of the same name from the 1950s, and so Bennett’s Joker is not nearly as sadistic or sinister as we’ve become more accustomed to. There are some episodes that have shown that he maintains his obsession with Batman, but the overall tone of the show prevents Bennett from ever showing that real dark side that fans have come to expect from the Joker. Not to say he couldn’t do it, but if Bennett were to become to the number one candidate, he’d have to show that he has the range to take the character where the fans want to see it go if it would be a permanent fix.

Being the Brave and the Bold Joker has afforded Bennett the chance to work with Andrea Romano, but it’s more likely that the campy scripts of Brave and the Bold have written off his chance of becoming the Joker full-time. Not to mention, he seems to be just imitating other campy voice versions of the Joker from decades earlier and hasn’t made the character his own at all.

Scott Cleverdon

Not many people may know of Scott Cleverdon, but when sitting down to make my list, he was one of the first names for me to come to mind of people who have never played the Joker. Comic book fans may know Scott best for his portrayal of Carnage in the mid-1990s Spider-Man cartoon as well as his brief stint in Batman Beyond as Jack of the Royal Flush Gang.

It is his experience as Carnage that really piqued my interest because there are few maniac villains who could come close to the seeming randomness of the Joker’s ways, but Carnage is definitely one. Carnage kills because he loves to kill and that easily could transition into the Joker. The Joker and Carnage are seen as so similar that they even teamed up in a 1995 one-shot crossover versus Spider-Man and Batman. Obviously, Cleverdon would need a bit more control with the Joker to get that calculating nature across if he were to become a candidate, but his high-pitched hyena giggle that he used with Carnage could work very well with the Joker. He has never worked with Andrea Romano and bringing the two of them together could also lead to an interesting exploration of the character.

Michael Nicolosi

Another candidate who has never played the Joker, but is familiar with sadistic clowns is Michael Nicolosi. He may not have the voiceover experience as some of the others on this list, but he did do a fantastic job as the Clown form of the Violator in the late-1990s HBO Spawn animated series. Obviously, in terms of language used, the Joker will be much more toned down than the script used on a premium channel, but Nicolosi provided that perfect calm before the storm. As Violator, he had a cool demeanor that put enough unease in you to know without seeing it that there was a monster just bubbling below the surface, which is literally the case in Violator.

Michael Nicolosi hasn’t worked with Andrea Romano either, but if he can flick that special switch on and off with the Joker like he did a decade ago with Violator, then he might be someone who should be given a look for those really dark storylines involving the Clown Prince of Crime.

Frank Welker

This candidate is probably the biggest wild card (pun intended, pun always intended), but is also easily the most experienced voice actor on this list with more than 40 years under his belt. Frank Welker played the campiest version of the Joker on this list when he played him as a part of The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians in 1985. He has also played nearly every character imaginable and if you saw the list, you’d understand why I think he has the range where, if no others rose to the challenge, Frank could steal the title for himself and provide us whatever version of the Joker we want. Whether a dark, sadistic murderer, an aloof thief and eternal foil to the Dark Knight, or a campy jester prancing around with exploding whoopee cushions, Welker could get the job done.

Andrea Romano and Frank Welker worked together on the 1980s Jonny Quest and several other cartoons so these wily two veterans are probably very well acquainted with one another, which makes you think that if Welker hasn’t been used before for some other projects involving the Joker, then maybe he doesn’t have it in him to play the more serious Ace of Knaves.

Jack Nicholson

Here’s the long shot, and I know how much of a long shot this is, but hear me out on why this could work and why DC Animation should pursue Jack. The reason why this came to mind is I just moved and was looking through my video games and I came across my copy of From Russia With Love from the last generation of consoles and thought how great it was for Sean Connery to reprise his role as James Bond more than four decades after he shot the corresponding film. It’s not like he had a lot on his plate though due to the natural ageism that comes in Hollywood. There are simply less roles out there for older actors.

So here is an opening for the Joker, a role that Jack Nicholson defined for many people back in 1989. Movie roles are starting to dry up a bit for him. I’m sure he could find time in the basketball off-season to head over to a recording studio and reprise a role that many still see him as being the best live action version of. Even if he only does it for one movie or one video game, the appeal for all of us Batman fans out there to hear Jack do the Joker again would make it one of the best selling DVDs or games of that year. Gimmicky yes, but gimmicks sell and you can’t tell me you wouldn’t be curious.

Me, Ray Carsillo

Ok, honestly, this has been a dream of mine for years and at this point it’s probably the best way to get my name out there. If somehow Andrea Romano sees this, then maybe I’ll have a chance because I love the Joker so much I even have my own set of razor blade playing cards.

My name is Ray Carsillo and yes, I have done voiceover work before. Not a lot, but I have a radio/TV background and voiced a couple PSAs and commercials. You would have to trust me on this until you heard it, but I have the most maniacal laugh of anyone you’ll meet and can change my demeanor on a dime if necessary. I think I’ve shown my passion and more than any of these others guys on the list, I come cheap (I used that same line on the folks at Comicvine). All I’m asking for is a tryout…and if you would like a sniff of my flower?

-Ray “StrongProtector” Carsillo

No Escape, No Asylum

Originally Published: September 4, 2009, on Lundberg.me, 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com), Examiner.com, and Comicvine.com

After many delays, Batman: Arkham Asylum has finally arrived. Written by long-time Batman comic and cartoon writer, Paul Dini, this original Dark Knight tale might not only go down as the greatest comic book video game to date, but it is my current choice for the 2009 Game of the Year.

The basic premise of the game is that our hero has caught the Joker once again after he broke free to wreak havoc on Gotham. As Batman helps the Arkham guards escort the Joker to his comfy corner cell, the Joker, in a unique haphazard way all his own, breaks free from their grasp and reveals that his true plot was to lure the Dark Knight into his grandest trap yet, an asylum run by the inmates.

Now the Dark Knight must fight his way through some of his most fearsome foes on their home turf along with a few hundred of Joker’s cronies from Blackgate Prison (that just so happened to be transferred to Arkham in time for Joker’s “surprise party”) as he tries to restore order in the most chaotic situation he has ever been immersed in.

Any Batman fan immediately knows the implications when any story arc will weave its way through Arkham Asylum, never mind an entire video game plot. This is where Batman drops off his degenerate villains after he disrupts their “master plans” to destroy, torment, or conquer Gotham, no matter what they might be. So for the Dark Knight to be surrounded by hundreds of these thugs, lowlifes, and insane super-criminals for an extended period of time, does not bode well for the Caped Crusader as his mind will be tortured just as much as his body.

The look for this game is anything but torture for the player though. The first and most striking aspect of this game is how beautiful it looks. From the gothic architecture of the Old World style buildings of Arkham to the movement of Batman’s cape, the graphics for this game are unreal. You could, for a minute, forget you are playing a game and fool yourself into thinking you’re watching one of the movies.

After you examine the looks for a game, the next thing most people notice is how a game sounds. With an orchestral theme worthy of the movies and superb voice acting from many of the same people who voiced the characters from Batman: The Animated Series including Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, and, of course, Batman and the Joker and you have the most pleasant audio experience you could hope for from any video game.

So the peripherals for the game are superb. But what about the gameplay? I can say with full confidence that this was the most engrossing and intense game I have played in a long time. From the FLAWLESS fighting mechanic where you can just string together amazing, free-flowing, bone-crunching combos on thugs to truly stepping into the Dark Knight’s boots as you prey on unsuspecting, gun-toting criminals from the shadows and stringing up goons from gargoyles as a sign for others that you are coming for them and no amount of Joker face paint will save them from your righteous vengeance, there is not a more pleasurable gaming experience to be had from any game I’ve played in the recent past.

Not to mention that the more foes you pummel, the more gadgets and combo moves you can purchase with experience points to give yourself an arsenal truly worthy of Gotham’s Guardian. It is a great feeling to take a thug out of a fight permanently by breaking his ankle or dislocating his shoulder with some upgraded counter moves or bringing an armed henchman to his knees from the shadows with a special sonic emitting batarang without him even knowing you were ever there.

The only weak point the game might have is in replay value. Although it is wonderful to explore every nook and cranny of the massive Arkham Island, once through is really enough to get the full story. There are special collectibles that the Riddler leaves in order to try to test your detective skills, but any decent Batman fan should be able to crack the references rather easily on the first time through.

There is an extra challenge mode where you can step into the boots of the Dark Knight (and the purple wingtips of the Joker if you pick up the PS3 version) as you try to either pummel as many thugs as you can while building up a high score or sneaking around and taking out as many thugs as stealthily as you can as you race the clock, but they grow stale quickly so the only drawback would be that this game just doesn’t give you enough to keep bringing you back for much more.

In the end, the game probably offers a solid 15 hours of gameplay even if you solve all of the Riddler’s riddles and the live up to the challenges of the Challenge Mode. The game is a beautifully crafted masterpiece that plays out like an awe-inspiring comic arc. I would’ve liked more villains to fight aside from Croc, Ivy, Bane, Harley, Zsasz, Scarecrow, and Joker considering their referencing almost 40 villains as you progress through the asylum with special emphasis on Mr. Freeze and Clayface’s cells, but I guess that just means we’ll have to have a sequel to this spectacular gaming experience.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 10.0: From little details like battle damage to your batsuit as the game progresses to the way your cape flows as you run across Arkham Island makes Batman: Arkham Asylum the most beautiful game I can remember seeing in a long time.

Audio: 10.0: Bringing back a lot of the original voice talent from Batman: The Animated Series brought back some great memories from my childhood as Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy are the definition of the Joker and Batman. Along with a musical score worthy of a motion picture and the audio couldn’t help but bring a smile to my face.

Plot/Plot Development: 9.0: Although the plot was superb and the development of things kept you guessing at every turn, I dock a point because I’ve seen the “Batman trapped in Arkham” line before, just to a lesser degree. It has never been flushed out like this, but I had flashbacks at certain points of the game to the Knightfall storyline and a few episodes of the cartoon. It was still spectacular to see it portrayed like this though.

Gameplay: 9.5: Only a couple of minor glitches that I can remember if I accidentally swung around a corner too tightly or was forced into a corner by a crowd of thugs. These can be forgiven though considering how smooth the fighting engine is and there is no greater feeling than swooping down from a gargoyle and stringing up a thug as he screams for help.

Replay Value: 5.0: The Riddler collectibles are easy to find, especially as you go back after unlocking certain devices for your utility belt and the Challenge Mode isn’t very challenging so this is the only aspect I thought the game lacked in. Batman: Arkham Asylum is very much a one and done kind of game.

Overall (not an average): 9.5: Aside from the replay value, this game is spectacular in every aspect. It is my choice for the 2009 Game of the Year as of right now and I can’t stress enough that any video game fan, not just Batman fan, will probably fall in love with the awesomeness of this game. I would’ve liked more villains for a longer game also, but I’m just being picky.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is out now for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

-Ray Carsillo