Tag Archive: penguin


DC Daily Halloween 2018

I made a cameo as the Penguin in the 2018 Halloween special for DC Daily.

It’s extremely difficult to appease Batman fans, and I’m admitting right from the get go that I count myself amongst the most hardcore of them. It’s almost tradition now for every new version of The Dark Knight to suffer some backlash—especially from those of us who are as obsessed with Batman as he is with fighting crime. Fans of Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s original gun-wielding, rooftop leaping lunatic from the late ‘30s and early ‘40s hated Adam West’s camp-filled romps in the ‘60s. Those fans in turn disliked when the comics crafted a noir vibe and turned back towards some of Finger/Kane’s roots in the ‘70s with Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ take on the character. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, and Tim Burton’s film version of the Caped Crusader in the 80s all had their haters, too. So, when it finally came time for me to play Batman: The Telltale Series, I was both excited and worried about what the latest take on Batman might bring to us, knowing it would be extremely difficult for me—even though I’d like to think of myself as a more open-minded fan—to come away satisfied.

Batman: The Telltale Series is best described as a transitional adventure between “Year One” and “Year Two”. What this equates to in Batman’s history for those unfamiliar with comic book parlance is that he’s taken his lumps in that first year of crime fighting, and just now is starting to come into his own as “The Batman.” It’s also when the supervillains start to show up; classic foes like Catwoman, Penguin, Two-Face, and the Joker all make their presences felt by the end of the game, along with the traditional mobsters that Batman had to deal with in his early days. The bulk of the game’s narrative, however, centers on Bruce Wayne needing to clear his family name after a new bad guy reveals that Thomas Wayne (Bruce’s father) wasn’t the philanthropist that Gotham necessarily saw him as.

Being a Telltale game, the narrative does a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of one’s enjoyment of the product—or lack thereof. And right from the start, this was a decision that started to turn my opinion sour. With writers running out of ideas now that Batman is wrapping up his eighth decade of print, the idea of questioning his origins and casting doubt on the sanctity of his purpose has been done countless times in recent years of the comics. The easiest way to do this is to attack Bruce’s parents, and I have always taken issue with this.

One of Batman’s greatest appeals is his mission; his obsession is one that we as fans mirror back onto him. He makes a vow on his parents’ graves to wage an unending war on all criminals as a child, and the fact he follows through on it and lets it dictate his life is twisted and unhealthy, but in an odd way also very pure. It’s a child lashing out against a cruel and unjust world for the love and security that was ripped away from him in a random act of violence. When you remove this, you simply have a maniac in a mask. Yes, that’s what Batman really is at his core, but you greatly lessen his appeal when you strip away one of his founding dimensions, and undo a lot of the great work that those came before had laid out. Simply put, if something isn’t broke, stop trying to fix it.

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And I understand the appeal of wanting to do it. Attacking Bruce’s family also attacks his money source—Batman’s true greatest superpower. His inherited wealth has always been Bruce’s deus ex machina, allowing him to get out of more situations than I could count no matter the era. It’s like putting Superman under a red sun; it’s a classic comic book gimmick to take our hero out of his comfort zone. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But when your powers are so closely tied to your origin like Batman’s are, it’s more apt to blow up in your face.

One thing Telltale did do a fantastic job of, though, was trying to pay homage to a lot of great Batman media over the years. The font in the title graphic evokes memories of Batman: The Animated Series, and the superb voice acting from this cast is on par with the legendary voices from that groundbreaking series. Although still well within the parameters of Telltale’s signature cel-shaded art-style, Two-Face’s design is largely based on that seen in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and Penguin’s feels more akin to what we’ve been given on FOX’s Gotham. And, several gameplay elements like Detective Mode—more on that in a bit—borrow from Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham games. One other element that Telltale touched on from the Batman: Arkham series is taking a previously-established comic book canon character and trying to pass them off as a new villain. The worst of it, though, is this character was never a Batman villain to begin with.

This leads us to the main villain of the story, a new character dubbed Lady Arkham, which I will try to refer to as vaguely as possible to avoid giving away her true identity. Even with my distaste for the Thomas Wayne bashing, the first two episodes of Batman: The Telltale Series were actually quite compelling. When Lady Arkham reveals her true self in episode three, the series takes a marked turn for the worse. I don’t know if it comes from Batman’s license holders at Warner Brothers, or if there’s just a general fear of introducing new villains into the Batman universe outside of the comics, but the disappointment at the revelation of Lady Arkham was even worse than when we all realized within the first 15-minutes of playing Arkham Knight that our foe was Jason Todd. At least, at that point, he was a villain in the comics.

Lady Arkham’s true identity was always a close ally of Batman/Bruce Wayne, and twisting her like this felt like it was just cheap shock value for us hardcore fans who never suspected her because of our familiarity with the character. If Telltale had created an entirely new character with Lady Arkham, keeping her network seemingly as powerful as Batman’s and as long-standing as Bruce Wayne’s—but minus the preconceived notions from her true identity’s long history in Bat-media—I think she and her Children of Arkham could’ve been a welcome addition to the Rogues Gallery (in the same way Talon and the Court of Owls was a few years ago, and Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins was in the ‘70s). As is, she feels like a throwaway character used simply to establish Telltale’s new universe while not wasting any of the classic villains, thus weakening the entire story arc as a whole.

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The series also takes a turn for the worse on the technical side of things starting around her reveal. Telltale’s game engine continues to show its age, and does so markedly as this series progresses. The first couple of episodes are mostly glitch-free, but by the time we reach episode five, the choppy cutscenes, dropped audio lines, and general lag after decisions are made make finishing the game almost a chore. I understand that Telltale prides itself on its products coming out on every playable device imaginable. At some point, however, the studio needs to take some of this licensing money and invest back into tech that is optimized for modern consoles, and stop giving us this lowest common denominator garbage.

From a gameplay perspective, the bulk of the game remains around Telltale’s iconic choose-your-own-adventure multiple-choice scenes that change character interactions and dialogue depending on the decisions you make. Some additions we haven’t seen before in a Telltale game, and some that are even exclusive to Batman: The Telltale Series, were included here, though.

Detective mode, the special lenses that paint the world in a blue hue and allows Batman to recreate crime scenes, makes an appearance here. Similar to the Batman: Arkham games, examining clues will help Batman figure out what exactly happened in and around a crime scene, and piecing things together properly will help him decide what to do next on a case. Telltale also smartly allows you to link clues together this way to make it feel more like you’re actually solving the puzzle yourself. You also use Detective mode before certain ambushes, allowing Batman to plan out how he wants to clear a room before starting the quicktime button-mashing fest that helps him to defeat thugs unscathed. It’s just different enough from the Arkham games, but it still feels very much like you’re Batman while using it, and was a pleasant surprise.

Unlike a lot of other Batman projects, this game also does a great job of balancing life as Bruce Wayne and Batman. Whereas the Bruce Wayne parts of most movies, TV shows, and even comics can lean towards the mundane, the sequences here were just as intense and action packed as those where you’re dressed as Batman. Sometimes, they were even more difficult, since you don’t want to give away your secret identity. I loved the idea of there being branching paths, and you can even choose to confront certain individuals as either Batman or Bruce Wayne, which results in the dialogue obviously changing drastically. I only wish there were more of these choices as well as more Detective mode sequences, with it feeling like there was only maybe one per episode of either of them.

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Batman: The Telltale Series had a lot of potential. There were some clever ideas, and some nice tribute Easter eggs to Bat-media of the past. Unfortunately, they aren’t enough to overcome aging, glitch-ridden technology and some weak narrative decisions in a narrative-centric experience. Therefore, it’s now time for me to try to find some Bat-Telltale repellant and see if I can’t get this game off of my bat-addled brain.

Publisher: Telltale Games • Developer: Telltale Games • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 12.13.16
6.0
The bigger a Batman fan you are, the less you’re likely to enjoy Telltale’s take on The Dark Knight. Combined with the obvious age Telltale’s engine is showing, this simply isn’t their best effort.
The Good Weaves elements from so many different Batman iterations over the years into one cohesive product.
The Bad Cheap plotline twists will leave some fans unhappy. Telltale’s engine is really starting to show its age.
The Ugly Selina Kyle’s apartment. I can’t stand a messy woman.
Batman: The Telltale Series is available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac OS, iOS, Android, Xbox 360, and PS3. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Telltale Games for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Knightfall

Editor’s Note: Because of the issues I had with the story, I will be referencing several major reveals from the game, as well as the prior game’s ending. If you wish to remain spoiler free, consider yourself warned. 

Whenever a modern, story-driven action game transforms into a successful series, particularly a trilogy, it starts to suffer from Star Wars syndrome. The middle game is always the best, and all the prequels aren’t nearly as good as the originals. We’ve seen this with Gears of War, God of War, and even Uncharted. Well, we can now add one more trilogy to that list: the Batman: Arkham games.

That’s not to say that Batman: Arkham Knight is an awful game. It’s just inferior to its predecessors (except for prequel Arkham Origins). Instead of bringing everything to a natural conclusion and tying up all the loose ends it left open from previous games, it tries to cram too many new conflicts into this final title in an attempt to needlessly raise the stakes—which were plenty high enough as they were. The results feel like a narrative mess, and I think a large part of this is the result of developer Rocksteady writing the script in-house instead of having it done by a veteran Batman scribe like Paul Dini, who also happened to pen both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City.

Taking elements from some of the more epic Batman stories over the past three decades from various forms of media—including Death of the Family, Death in the Family, Under the Red Hood, and Batman Beyond: Return of the JokerBatman: Arkham Knight sees the Scarecrow filling the criminal void left by the Joker nearly a year after his demise in Arkham City. With his most potent Fear Toxin formula yet, Scarecrow threatens to detonate a bomb that would blanket the entire Eastern Seaboard in the stuff, sending every man, woman, and child into a state or perpetual terror.

This, in and of itself, would’ve been a fine conclusion for the Arkham series, revolving around Batman having to constantly overcome his fears. Also along for the ride, however, is the Arkham Knight—a “new” character whose identity Batman fans should easily be able to deduce based on his taunting dialogue and how well he knows the Dark Knight. But even those who don’t immediately uncover the Arkham Knight’s identity will surely notice the cavalcade of clues, because Rocksteady wanted to make sure they really spelled it out before the big reveal.

Easily the worst narrative decision stems from the fact that Rocksteady and/or Warner Bros. wasn’t brave enough to make a Batman game that didn’t feature the Joker as a major player, though. For some reason, the Joker’s spirit lives on inside of Batman and several other of Gotham’s less fortunate citizens through his contaminated blood (I guess that cure in Arkham City wasn’t good enough), and Joker’s personality is trying to assert itself over those bodies in an attempt to cheat death. As time goes on and they become weaker, the Joker’s personality emerges more and more.

At that point, even as a comic book fan, it was too much. To have three major villains vying for attention in your main story—one in an incorporeal form—left a bad taste in my mouth. At the very least, the game’s ending felt like a fitting conclusion to the series, but I just wish it weren’t such a mess of an adventure getting to that point.

Instead of trying to shoehorn so many foes into the main story, maybe Rocksteady could’ve just added more side villains to allow the primary plot a chance to breathe. Those that are included—referred to as “Gotham’s Most Wanted” in-game, since you have to actually drag them back to GCPD after defeating them—provide a nice respite from the muck that is the main narrative. I could’ve easily done with more, especially Hush, Man-Bat, and Deacon Blackfire—or at least some longer missions involving them. The game does feature more than a dozen side missions in total built around a double-digit amount of classic Batman rivals, which helps to take some of the focus off of Scarecrow, Joker, and Arkham Knight. It’s a testament to the size of the world that it never felt like any of Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery encroached on each other’s turf, and I still had to search long and hard at times to uncover my next set of clues.

That’s definitely one of Rocksteady’s most impressive achievements with Arkham Knight. Gotham City is absolutely massive and comes alive like never before. Whether it’s ACE Chemicals, Port Adams, the GCPD, or Wayne Tower, the game includes every building and street that Bat-fans want to see, and you can seamlessly explore them all with no loading times while you hunt down your enemies as Batman.

Plus, Detective Mode has been expanded to help you on those hunts. With new elements like deep-tissue analysis on murder victims, security camera footage reviews, and fingerprint reconstruction, along with the addition of crime scene reconstruction from Arkham Origins, prowling Gotham for clues is as rewarding as ever.

Combat remains the high point of the Arkham series here, though. The smooth, free-flowing battles return, meaning that you’ll pull off 50-hit combos with regularity, but the game also adds new throw counters that help with crowd control, and instant environmental takedowns that can immediately remove the toughest thugs from a fight. Arkham Knight even offers special missions where you’ll team up with Robin, Nightwing, or Catwoman and can take control of them mid-fight instead of Batman as seamlessly as you do a counter, or perform team-up moves for some truly epic action. With these added nuances to combat, no encounter ever plays out the same way twice.

Predator Room combat has also seen a drastic improvement. The new Fear Takedowns allow you to remove as many as five enemies from the field at once when you’re fully upgraded. This will have you planning out your knockouts well in advance in an attempt to get enemies to bunch up together so you can swoop in and wipe them out in a single flourish. New devices like the Disruptor also lend a hand in planning strategy before jumping into the fray, since its special bolts will jam any gun—and, when upgraded, it can even short out enemy drones.

I wish that every element of Arkham Knight’s gameplay were so stellar. On the whole, all of these additions and improvements almost make you forget about the muddled plot. Then you get in the Batmobile. This was one of Rocksteady’s most touted features leading up to the game’s launch, and at times, the Batmobile is everything it was supposed to be: a dual threat fast enough to chase down fleeing enemies that still packs enough firepower in combat mode to take on dozens of Arkham Knight drones. The Batmobile even helps with ground combat by unleashing rubber bullets that incapacitate enemies in the streets.

But Arkham Knight relies on Batman’s ride far too often—and in far too many missions. The car’s deficiencies easily become evident, and it’s revealed to be one of the least enjoyable aspects of the game. I get that it’s supposed to be this monstrous vehicle, but trying to control the Batmobile in pursuit mode is a chore; it pinballs all over the road. Even after putting 30 hours into the game, with more than half of them in that damn car, I still never felt like I was in complete control.

And the Batmobile’s tank mode is even worse. While it features a strafe ability, I still felt like I was a sitting duck most of the time during an enemy missile lock-on, since the strafe only moves you a short distance in a particular direction. Then you have to try to dance between the two Batmobile forms to sneak up on certain tanks. They wanted me to be stealthy? In the Batmobile?! I just wanted to hang up the cape and cowl at that point.

The problems don’t stop with the Batmobile gameplay, though: Arkham Knight includes its fair share of bugs. I played on Xbox One and didn’t experience all the glitches that make the PC version unplayable, but the Batmobile still fell through the world in several instances where I had to drive up walls. And the bugs weren’t limited to the car, either. Several times I had to restart checkpoints when necessary button prompts wouldn’t appear, and I couldn’t advance unless I reloaded.

As much as I loved Arkham City and Arkham Asylum, Arkham Knight is nothing short of a disappointment. Two things are clear: Sefton Hill and his team of writers pale in comparison to Paul Dini, and Rocksteady should stay as far away from car combat as possible in the future. The excellent gameplay foundations, however, still shine. The fighting, side content, and stealth are as polished as ever, and considering the massive world fans have to explore here, they should still find something to enjoy with Arkham Knight, even if it’s not the conclusion we all hoped for.

Developer: Rocksteady Studio • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 06.23.15
6.5
The main story is a convoluted mess, and the Batmobile gameplay is a serious detractor on the fun factor—especially since the Dark Knight is forced to use this clunky vehicle far too often. The combat outside of the car is better than ever, though, so exploring the game’s bountiful side content remains a bright spot in an overall disappointing conclusion to the Arkham franchise.
The Good The combat might be better than ever, the world is absolutely massive, and the story provides a fitting end to the Batman of the Arkhamverse.
The Bad There’s too much reliance on the Batmobile, the Joker aspects are unnecessary, and the game has a fair amount of glitches.
The Ugly Every Batman fan will be able to guess the identity of the Arkham Knight from his dialogue long before the big reveal.
Batman: Arkham Knight is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the benefit of this review.

A load of Killer Croc

Batman’s seen so many great representations in different mediums over the past couple of decades, whether it’s animation, movies, or videogames—so it absolutely boggles my mind when someone utterly fails to capture the essence of the Dark Knight. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is such an awful depiction of the Caped Crusader, however, that I had to wonder whether Armature had even heard of Batman before being tasked with making this game.

Set several months after the events of the console Arkham Origins, Blackgate sees Batman infiltrating Blackgate Prison—again—in order to quell a riot. Three of Batman’s most notorious foes are at the head of all the chaos, and they’ve divided the prison up into sections that their respective gangs control. Batman must defeat them all if he hopes to save the hostages kept in the prison’s Arkham wing.

Aiding Batman is Catwoman, whom he apprehended a couple of weeks prior to the riot. In exchange for her assistance, Batman will put in a good word for her to be moved to more “accommodating” quarters, since supposedly a fragile thief like her could be torn apart in a place like Blackgate. Batman must unlock new abilities and gadgets to help him traverse the different security systems and hazards of the now-dilapidated prison, often backtracking frequently to do so.

And sure—this sounds like the makings of a decent Batman game. The prologue level that revolves around catching Catwoman at an abandoned construction site gave me high hopes that this would be the Batman game we never knew we wanted on handhelds. But as soon as you set foot on the prison grounds, the game takes a serious nosedive. When I sat down to write this review, two words kept coming into my mind to best describe Blackgate: broken and boring.

The first major flaw? Armature tried to develop the game as a Metroidvania within the confines of the story. As we all know, Batman is never without his gadgets and his utility belt, and he goes to Blackgate of his own volition after being called by Commissioner Gordon. Yet, right from the get-go, all he has are Batarangs. No rhyme or reason—just to stay within the parameters of what defines Metroidvanias as a genre.

Someone who actually knows the character would’ve set up the story so to have Batman kidnapped and dragged to Blackgate against his will. Since we’re talking about a young Batman here, he wouldn’t have all the safeguards in his utility belt to prevent it from being forcibly removed. Batman shouldn’t randomly find a Batclaw in a container—like he does in Blackgate—just because he forgot his other one at home. Breaking the character’s basic traits to fit the genre you want your game to be is not forgivable.

Speaking of breaking character, Catwoman’s always played both sides of the fence in Batman lore, but she fills the role of Oracle/Alfred in this game—again, for no apparent reason. Catwoman doesn’t need Batman to break her out of prison, and she doesn’t really need to help Batman. After what happened in Origins, Batman should know Blackgate like the back of his hand. If he does need help, though, did Batman give Alfred the night off? Were his shows on again? Yes, I could definitely imagine Alfred curling up with a cup of Earl Grey and catching up on Downton Abbey instead of manning the Batcomputer!

The story isn’t the only element that’s broken, though. The game itself, from a technical standpoint, is as glitchy as it gets: items flickering in and out of existence, Batman getting caught on invisible walls, or falling through the floor to oblivion (or a checkpoint reload). At one point, I actually glitched through a wall and into a hidden compartment that had an armor upgrade I shouldn’t have been able to get to at that point. I was lucky I could backtrack with the gadgets I had—otherwise, I might’ve had to start over completely.

And if I had to start over, I might’ve just chalked this game up as a lost cause (more so than I already do). If I had to stare at another gray, bland, repeated prison wall, I’d have broken my Vita. The only good-looking aspect of the game is the comic-style cutscenes.

You can forgive the look of a game to an extent if it’s at least fun to play. But with Blackgate, the combat system that has made the Arkham games great is almost completely nonexistent. You can’t quickfire any gadgets, and you don’t even need to counter most of the time, since you’ll rarely encounter more than three of four guys in a room at once. Sometimes—almost like an early-’90s side-scrolling arcade game—a couple more will crawl out of the background when the first group’s been dispatched, but never will there be more than a few fightable enemies onscreen at any given moment.

Detective mode was also a pain in my cowl. I don’t mind having to tap the touchscreen to turn it on—it actually helped deter me from wanting to stay in Detective mode and served as a unique fix to a persistent problem with the series. But I did mind having to keep my finger on the screen to actually scan or look for things because it prevented me from freely interacting with the environment while I was in the mode. I had to move, enter Detective mode, scan, find I was out of range, turn the mode off, move to a better position, re-scan, turn the mode off, then interact. Just let me scan things automatically—no one wants their thumbs off the sticks for that long!

At least the boss fights provide much-needed variety. New characters to the Arkhamverse like Bronze Tiger actually make you work for your wins, since they’re more or less the only time you need to utilize multiple gadgets or techniques. And even though we’ve seen most of Batman’s gadgets before, the one new addition—an explosive-gel launcher—was something I’d like to see on consoles at some point. It reminded me a lot of a grenade launcher, and it could be used in a lot of ingenious ways in both combat and puzzle-solving.

Some decent boss fights aren’t enough to save this game, though. Never before have I been so disappointed in a Batman-inspired property. Plus, this is also one of the worst examples I’ve ever seen of a Metroidvania, since the backtracking and gadget-finding is kept to a bare minimum. Broken, boring, and just plain bad, everyone should steer clear of this as though you had chiroptophobia (fear of bats).

Developer: Armature Studio • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 10.25.13
3.0
A waste of potential, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is a broken, boring game and a stain on the Metroidvania genre. Its positives are few and far between, buried under a mountain of glitches, tedious gameplay, and poor level design.
The Good Comic-style cutscenes look great.
The Bad One of the worst Metroidvanias you’ll ever play.
The Ugly All of Blackgate Prison—and its single shade of gray.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is available on Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita. Primary version reviewed was for PS Vita.

Hey there, kids! Dr. Ray Carsillo, Associate Professor of Superherolgy here for EGM. Today, we’re going to speculate as to what villains the Dark Knight may face in his upcoming game, Batman: Arkham Origins.

Along with a slew of screenshots, plot information leaked yesterday that Black Mask has called eight of the world’s greatest assassins to Gotham and put a massive bounty on Batman’s head. We know for sure that Deathstroke is, unsurprisingly, one of these assassins from those screens. But who are the other seven? Here are my best candidates for the job:

Deadshot

First Appearance: Batman #59 (June/July 1950)

Real Name: Floyd Lawton

Bio: Originally appearing in Gotham under the guise of helping Batman, Floyd Lawton actually had a grand plan to replace the Caped Crusader and then use the vacuum of costumed do-gooders to establish his own stranglehold on the Gotham underworld. This failed, of course, and when Lawton finally broke out of prison, he decided to become an assassin-for-hire instead. Consistently proving that he never misses, Deadshot quickly becomes one of the best assassins in the world, but frequent marks in Gotham has seen him cross paths many times with Batman over the years. His constant trouble with the law has led to several stints with groups like the Suicide Squad to put his skills to more noble uses while also trying to get shorter jail sentences.

Powers: Expert marksmanship

Why He Might Appear: Having already been part of an Arkham game increases the likelihood of Deadshot appearing. He’s one of the best-known assassins in the Batman mythos, and the huge bounty would play to the character’s more basic traits. Also, if the developers wanted to touch upon his origins, with the Penguin and Black Mask also being seen in screens, there’s a good chance for strong mob undertones to the game. If Deadshot wants a slice of the underworld to himself, this Batman Bounty would prove a perfect excuse for him to come to Gotham and try to weasel his way into one of the premier organizations before starting his own.

Lady Shiva

First Appearance: Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #5 (December 1975)

Real Name: Sandra Woosan (or Wu-San, depending on the writer)

Bio: Born and raised in a shantytown protected by Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins, Lady Shiva grew up around martial arts. After fleeing the village with her sister at a young age to pursue a better life in America, Shiva continued her training into adulthood before being tracked by David Cain, one Ra’s al Ghul’s best assassins. In order to free her mind from restraints she didn’t know she possessed, Cain killed Shiva’s sister. Realizing that Cain was right—that she needed to let go of everything, including her family, to reach her true potential—she entered into the League of Assassins with Cain and bore his offspring. This child would go on to become Cassandra Cain, the second Batgirl (third if you count Betty Kane, but most don’t). After Cassandra was born, Shiva abandoned the girl and continued her quest to reach her full potential, often fighting on both sides of the law to fulfill her personal wishes.

Powers: Martial arts grandmaster, expert in reading body language to predict opponents’ moves

Why She Might Appear: In a game revolving around assassins, the League of Assassins would need some sort of representative. Although I’m sure Ra’s al Ghul will also likely appear somehow, he rarely does his own dirty work and often employs people like Lady Shiva to do it for him. David Cain, Shiva’s lover, is also a possibility but less likely due to his niche status in the Batman mythos.  Therefore, Shiva’s easily the best-known candidate. Her past of both helping and attacking Batman could be an interesting side story—maybe even to set up a trap in the game—since Lady Shiva’s best-known story arc is the one where she helped train Batman back to full strength after Bane broke his back in the Knightfall story arc. On several occasions, though, she’s tried to kill several members of the Bat-Family.

Merlyn

First Appearance: Justice League of America #94 (November 1971)

Real Name: Depending on what media he appears in, Merlyn has a bevy of first names, including Tommy and Malcolm, with Merlyn always serving as his last name.

Bio: Once known as Merlyn the Magician, he was a world-class archer who fell out of the limelight after one great public archery contest against Green Arrow. Leaving the contest simply as archery rivals, Merlyn appeared many years later as a member of the League of Assassins, charged with killing Batman. Green Arrow prevented the attempt, however, and Merlyn was ousted from the League because of his failure. While at the League of Assassins, Merlyn also had a hand in Cassandra Cain’s training.

Powers: Master tactician, archer, marksman, and hand-to-hand combatant

Why He Might Appear: Even though he’s best known as a Green Arrow antithesis, Merlyn’s recent history has been heavily interwoven with Batman, especially now that he was last seen working with Talia al Ghul again. If the League of Assassins does make its presence known in the game aside from Lady Shiva, Merlyn would make an interesting villain to bring along under the League of Assassins banner. Not to mention it could lead to a Green Arrow cameo, whom DC and Warner Bros. have both been pushing heavily recently.

Prometheus

First Appearance: New Year’s Evil: Prometheus #1 (February 1998)

Real Name: Unknown

Bio: The son of two criminals who traveled the country committing numerous acts of theft and robbery, Prometheus watched from the sidelines as his parents provoked the police—until the cops had no choice but to gun them down in an alley. At that moment, he vowed to take revenge against all forces of “justice” that he might come across.

Powers: Variety of gadgets and weapons, peak human physical and mental ability

Why He Might Appear: Meant to be Batman’s perfect mirror image, Prometheus offers up an interesting battle that we see in many games, where the hero must face him or herself to advance (Dark Link, anyone?). Although Prometheus has a large sum of money due to his parents’ various stashes, he often meddles himself in mob affairs to garner more power. Again, with the mob angle clearly coming into play with Black Mask and Penguin’s respective presences, Prometheus might see this as the perfect time to confront his do-gooder equal while inserting himself into the Gotham underworld scene. Seeing as how all these assassins with underworld ties might possibly appear in the game, this could help introduce other mob bosses as well, like the Great White Shark, Carmine Falcone, Rupert Thorne, or Two-Face to go along with Penguin and Black Mask.

KGBeast

First Appearance: Batman #417 (March 1988)

Real Name: Anatoli Knyazev

Bio: Trained by a secret cell of operatives inside the KGB, the Beast was loyal to the Soviet Union and would do whatever it took to eliminate the targets he was assigned. His first encounter with Batman had KGBeast targeting 10 high-ranking officials inside the U.S. government in the hopes of crippling the “Star Wars” program. The Beast was mostly successful but failed to gun down his final target, then-President Ronald Reagan, after being thwarted by Batman. After this failure and the U.S.S.R. dissolving, KGBeast turned to a more traditional life of crime.

Powers: Prosthetic gun in place of left hand, enhanced physique due to cybernetics, explosives expert, extraordinary hand-to-hand combat skills

Why He Might Appear: The leaked info says that these are the best assassins in the world, and by the time he first met Batman, KGBeast had already successfully assassinated over 200 targets. His unique weapons—and considering the game is set in the past—could allow for KGBeast’s first appearance story to be mostly explored, especially as the game looks to have an open-world feel similar to Arkham City but twice as big. At the very least, it could be an interesting side mission to have high-ranking political figures in town—and Batman having to stop them from being killed by KGBeast.

Bane

First Appearance: Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 (January 1993)

Real Name: Unknown

Bio: Born and raised in a prison his entire life, Bane’s natural skills allowed him to survive and later thrive under the harsh conditions. Building up his body in the prison gym and learning as much as he could, Bane quickly dominated everyone in the courtyard to become the unquestioned “king.” Seeing his potential, prison controllers felt he’d be perfect for an experimental drug called Venom. Using his new-found superstrength, Bane escaped his prison home and made a beeline for Gotham City, feeling it his destiny to break the Bat.

Powers: Master of disguise, photographic memory, expert strategist, Venom usage gives him superhuman strength

Why He Might Appear: Bane’s another character who’s already appeared in the Arkham games. If Warner Bros. Montreal decides to tap into a little bit of the Batman: The Animated Series mythos, it would be easy to make Bane an assassin-for-hire type, as well as a mastermind in his own right. This would explain what would bring him to Gotham in the first place, and since his own origins in the Arkhamverse haven’t really been explored, this could be the time to do it. Plus, he’s another big name from the Rogue’s Gallery and could really help complement Penguin and Black Mask. And let’s not forget that Bane is at an all-time high in terms of popularity due to last summer’s The Dark Knight Rises, and seeing him in a more traditional comic-book setting might be just the thing to keep his villainous momentum going.

Azrael

First Appearance: Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight (March 2009)

Real Name: Michael Washington Lane

Bio: An ex-cop, Michael Washington Lane is approached by the Order of Purity when the former Azrael went mad and killed an undercover cop. Dressed in holy relics that speak to him—and after undergoing numerous purification rituals by the Order—Lane has lost some of who he once was, but his personal sense of justice is still his primary driving force, which has led him to be both an ally and an adversary to Batman.

Powers: Artificially enhanced physiology, specially armored costume

Why He Might Appear: I chose the more recent incarnation of Azrael—not the original from the early ’90s in Jean-Paul Valley—because Lane is another figure who’s appeared in the Arkham games. It makes sense for this version to be used here, because instead of trying to teach people about two different men as the same character, you create a bit of a new backstory for him in the Arkhamverse. All in all, this would be a lot simpler—and more interesting. Azrael’s always been a character who lives in that gray area and whose methods are too extreme for Batman to use himself; his religious undertones also make him a bit of a lightning-rod character. This could also lead him to believing that Batman is some sort of devil or demon—and that by purging him from the world, he’d be doing his holy duty, instantly providing a bit more depth in terms of character motivation beyond “I want to get rich and famous.” His character’s also susceptible to being easily manipulated—and he has a history with Ra’s al Guhl as well because of this.

What do you folks think of this list? Who do you think should be on here? What non-assassin villains do you think will crop up? Are you excited for Batman: Arkham Origins? Let us know with comments below! 

Holy rusted armor, Batman!

For me, Batman: Arkham City was one of the crowning achievements of this console generation—never mind just 2011. So, when I heard it was being ported to the Wii U for the system’s launch (13 months after its initial release, mind you), I certainly understood why. But when I went hands-on with the new Armored Edition at this year’s E3, I was disappointed with the Wii U “innovations”—it seemed Nintendo loyalists wouldn’t get nearly the same smooth experience I had when I first played the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. I understood that a 15-minute demo wouldn’t be nearly enough time to pass final judgment on this one, though—especially as it was my first experience with the Wii U, period.

Flash-forward five months later, and I’ve been playing the Wii U incessantly along with my fellow EGM cohorts. And though some of my fears have been assuaged—and some of the new features have even impressed me—several new problems that have arisen that make Batman: Arkham City—Armored Edition the clearly inferior version of this phenomenal game.

The first flaw that you’ll notice rather quickly is glitches that were never present before—audio suddenly cutting in and out and weird shadows in cutscenes that make many characters look unnatural. In fact, the very look of the game as a whole has almost a waxy quality to it now, where you wonder if it actually takes full advantage of the Wii U’s HD. Maybe some of this odd look is just Batman’s new cheap suit of armor, which leads us to another major problem in all the gimmicks that have been tacked on in order to try to sell this version of the game: the B.A.T. system.

With the B.A.T. system, Batman can absorb the kinetic energy thrown around in battle and then channel it into enhanced strength. The problem is that this redesign makes the game far too easy. Fights where you had to strategize who you’d take out first—as thugs came at you with knives, shields, stun batons, and all other manner of weaponry—are now nullified, as the B.A.T. system makes it so that every enemy can now be taken down in only a couple of hits.

The next problem comes via the Wii U’s GamePad controller and the touchscreen features that have been added. The hopes were that by adding your inventory screen and minimap to the controller, it would create a more fluid experience. Instead, it does the exact opposite. The controller’s minimap is less detailed and harder to read than if you were pausing the game and looking at it on a normal-sized TV screen. It also fails to streamline the experience in any way, as you’re still interrupting the game to look down at the screen and set waypoints, level Batman up, or change gadgets—and now you’re doing it with Batman in the open, vulnerable to the dangers of the living, breathing environment of Arkham City. This again deters the strategy offered in the original version.

One way to escape this problem is by playing the entire game on the Wii U GamePad tablet, should you wish to use your TV for something else. I do applaud the fact that there’s no lag or choppiness, but playing the game on the controller’s tiny screen—which is of a worse quality than what you’d get with an iPad, iPhone, or even the PS Vita—only makes the visuals look even more muddy and unappealing.

The final shortcoming with Armored Edition also involves the Wii U controller. Having to hold it up and move it around to scan areas in Detective mode or to pilot my remote-controlled Batarang had me grinding my teeth at times while also grinding the poorly placed controller joysticks. Also, the cheesy effect of having Alfred talk through the controller became tiresome quickly, as the audio quality is so poor on the small speakers. It all felt like unnecessary proof-of-concept mechanics that again were much smoother and simpler on other systems.

Now, I’ve really honed in on the negative aspects I found with this port, but this isn’t to say the game is broken and completely unplayable. Gamers who don’t have the muscle memory of playing the game on Xbox 360 or PS3 will likely more readily adapt to the controller, and the core elements that made Batman: Arkham City so great are still present. The enthralling story, the classic DC characters, and even all the DLC is bundled onto the disc so that once you beat the main story, you can go back and play Harley Quinn’s Revenge or use Nightwing, Robin, or Catwoman on their challenge maps. The combat system that allowed Batman to showcase his bevy of martial-arts maneuvers is also still available, should you choose to ignore the B.A.T. feature.

But, like many of the ports that are coming to the Wii U long after their initial release, there’s really no positive reason for you to look into this port if you’ve played it before on other consoles; this is simply a dumbed-down version for the Nintendo hardcore. I legitimately feel bad that they get this bastardized version of Batman: Arkham City—they’ll never know how great this game was in its perfectly polished original form.

SUMMARY: Although the core of Batman: Arkham City remains intact, new glitches and tacked-on gimmicks take away from the overall experience enough to make this a clearly inferior version of one of the great games of this generation.

  • THE GOOD: Same great story with all DLC packs already on the disc.
  • THE BAD: New glitches and unnecessary gimmicks make this a worse version than its predecessors.
  • THE UGLY: How the game looks if you play exclusively on the Wii U controller.

SCORE: 7.0

Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition is a Wii U-exclusive version of Batman: Arkham City. 

Sorry to have missed last week folks, but after a crazy celebration over the New York Giants winning the Super Bowl followed up by a week in Vegas for the 15th annual DICE Awards and I think you all might understand why I couldn’t get around to doing a write-up last week, which is especially sad because it was a very good week for comics. But, the week of February 8th was a very good week as well, especially for Marvel, and so without further ado here is the Pullbox.

1) Marvel – Deadpool #50: Kicking off the first really big event for our favorite Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool #50 starts off the “DEAD” story arc where Deadpool’s obsession with Death has pushed him to the brink (even for him) and so now he is playing his own sick game of chess with X-Force, Daken, The Kingpin, and many others in the Marvel Universe in order to finally fulfill his death wish.

Deadpool has been continually one of the consistently best written Marvel books due to writer Daniel Way writing the entire series up to this point (almost unheard of nowadays) and just when you thought things were going to start drying up and go stale, he kicks off this arc, which looks to shake up what we think of Deadpool in every way imaginable and have us laughing the whole time while he is doing it. Even if remotely a Deadpool fan, pick up this issue as it surely is a sign of big things to come. Or the end of everything. Not really sure which.

2) Marvel – The Incredible Hulk #5: Hulk begins fighting his way through Banner’s island of misfit gamma irradiated animals while Banner deals with his very human enemies on the other side of the island while trying to bring his mad quest to be reunited with the Hulk to an end.

The most shocking thing about this issue was the surprisingly crisp banter between all the characters. And the irradiated monkey poop. Easily the funniest moment of the week because it literally came from nowhere. The best part of this issue though is we finally learn how Hulk and Banner were separated and it was done by none other than Dr. Doom. Once again able to do what no one else in the Marvel Universe could (as is the greatness that is Doom), everything of course comes with a price and so finally it looks as if we are going to get the explosive issue we have been waiting for as Hulk comes face to face with Banner and will likely result in their re-bonding and Doom will call in the favor he earned by separating the two originally.

3) DC – Batman and Robin #6: Robin finally shows his true colors and we find out that he has been playing both Batman and Nobody and Batman tends to be a bit more forgiving of these things, and that’s saying something. 

This story had been drawn out just enough as we learn both a key element of Batman’s past via flashback and Robin endears himself to the audience as we realize he is just a son looking for his father’s acceptance. And in the superhero world, taking down a super villain by yourself would be the logical way to do that I suppose if you’re a 10-year old boy. But Robin is clearly in over his head and that vulnerability all around for the first time from this character I think really keeps him from falling down the Jason Todd path of 25 years ago as fans were starting to get uneasy with the smart mouth brat that is Damian most of the time. It will be interesting how Batman comes in to save the day and it will be even more interesting to see where the book goes from here.

4) DC – The Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #5 (of 5): The Penguin can’t help but resort to his old ways and they finally catch up to him and everything he thought he might have had is once again forcibly ripped away from him. 

This book is great because it helps show off the tragic dimensions of a character like the Penguin as many of the snippets we get where he plays the villain to Batman’s hero play him off mostly one-dimensionally. This book is also a real throwback to how Batman moves and reacts to all the situations around him and panel sequences where he moves silently through the shadows taking down one thug at a time reminds us just how awesome he is in a book that is supposed to be all about the Penguin. A tragic end for this tragic character really drives the point of the mini-series home and was overall a very well written book. If you’re looking for a little more depth from the Penguin for whatever reason, then this is a great series to start with and is highly recommended for all Batman fans.

5) Archie – Mega Man #10: Mega Man’s budding rivalry with Quick Man comes to a head and we start to see the Blue Bomber go a little power mad again as he begins collecting all these new powers. Will Mega Man be able to continue his pursuit of Dr. Wily or will this constant pace finally get the best of him? 

I loved this book because it had a ton of action with more classic Mega Man 2 bosses as Mega Man hits both the halfway point of his boss battles and the halfway point of this story. We also learn a bit of history about the bosses as Flame Man reveals and confirms that he is indeed Fireman 2.0 basically and Quick Man talks about how he is a combination of Gutsman and Bombman. Of course, this pattern will continue for many issues to come hopefully as I can’t wait to see now how Mega Man deals with Airman and the other remaining bosses before dealing with Wily again himself. If you grew up on the Blue Bomber’s video games, there is absolutely no reason not to be reading and loving this monthly right now.

A lot of comics came out this week, but not too much really stood out as special for me and I’m even tempted to start removing some titles from my pullbox. Action Comics and Red Lantern continue to be mediocre for different reasons…Action has too much going on and Red Lantern doesn’t have enough. Marvel also saw some new monthlies start like The Defenders, but it really just concentrated on forming the team more than anything. So it actually ended up being a good week comparably for the Indies. Spawn, Mega Man, and Last of the Greats were all very solid. But only the most spectacular of all these made it into this week’s Pullbox.

1) Marvel – X-Men #22: A team of Cyclops’ X-Men continue to work with War Machine to track down several dozen Sentinels and hopefully prevent the start of World War III erupting in Eastern Europe.

I love this story arc featuring the return of the Sentinels and seeing the X-Men trying to take down the giant tin cans again. This issue in particular sees the action and the consequences of that action really amp up as the X-Men know that if they don’t disarm the small fleet of giant robots, that the entire world could fall apart. We also see Domino work her way back into the fold and surprisingly see Jubilee really start to contribute with her new vampiric powers showing off some increased agility, strength, and speed. If you’re an X-Men fan, especially an old-school one, the ending only hints at more great action coming up and now is a great time to get on board if you aren’t already.

2) Marvel – Venom #10: Now that the events of Spider-Island are behind everyone, Flash Thompson, the current Venom, has to get back to work as a covert ops agent. Unfortunately for him, the Crime-Master has other ideas and with Betty and the rest of Flash’s family in Crime-Master’s number one henchman, Jack-O-Lantern’s sights, Flash has no choice, but to listen, even if that means going through Captain America to do it.

Going back to the early themes of this monthly, pitting Venom against Captain America in this issue really helps re-establish Venom as the anti-hero he is meant to be. This issue gets everything right back on track after being derailed by the mediocre Spider-Island story line and if you missed the first nine issues, now is the perfect time to get on board as you can pick everything up pretty much from here and expect things to trend upward drastically.

3) DC – Animal Man #4: Animal Man’s family has been split up and he is just starting to become aware of what he and his family mean to the Red and what they have to do to hold back the Rot. The question though is can Animal Man and his daughter come to grips with their lofty responsibility before the Rot gets to the rest of the family?          

I wasn’t very high on Animal Man to start with, but now as things are starting to come together for a cross over between Swamp Thing and Animal Man as Swamp Thing, representing the Green and plant life, and Animal Man, representing the Red and wildlife, will have to combine their forces to put down the Rot. It is a move that makes sense and helps bolster characters that might not be strong enough to really sustain monthlies as originally suspected as they don’t really have the enemies that define them like so many other great DC characters. It’ll be more interesting to see where both characters go from here, but for now this is the perfect place to get on board for both comics as they build towards what could be an entertaining event between the two monthlies.

4) DC – Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #3 (of 5): After the passing of his mother, The Penguin is lost, but finds a kindred spirit one faithful day while visiting the penguins at the Gotham Zoo. Now Penguin has a new person to obsess over and to use his criminal enterprise to gather pretty little baubles for.     
      
This mini-series has been a great look at the psychology of the Penguin the whole way through and to see him find an unlikely love was an interesting twist. But it is only a matter of time I’m sure before the Penguin’s true nature reveals itself and he will end up alone again as the Dark Knight is always lurking in the shadows. With two issues left though it is going to be very interesting to see how everything unfolds as the Penguin isn’t one to go quietly when everything of his is threatened, as we’ve seen time and again in this series as he destroys the life of all those who choose to look down on him in the most creative of ways.

5) IDW – Raphael: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (One-Shot): Even after being re-united with his brothers, Raphael doesn’t feel completely comfortable with the family yet. So when the Turtles go on their nightly patrols, Raphael uses Wednesdays to go out with Casey Jones still as he feels closer to Casey in some instances. Just what kind of trouble can these two get into? A lot more than should possible in a on-shot.                    

This issue is massive for old-school Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans in terms of the new monthly as it introduces Bebop and Rocksteady (pre-mutated) as well introduces a brand new character into the fold, which makes me suspect we can start to see an all-out mutant vs. mutant war at some point with new and interesting animals being mutated and although he has been hinted at, we still haven’t even seen Shredder. I can only imagine what a revamped 2012 version of Shredder could look like as whether a bumbling 80s cartoon villain or the cold-blooded master of the Foot Ninja, he is still one of the most iconic villains out there. This one-shot is a must have and be sure to look for the alternate covers if you’re a true collector!

“Wait’ll they get a load of me…”

Comic book fans are easily some of the most rabid fans out there. Maybe it’s because of the history, maybe it’s the appeal of the characters, maybe it’s because of a lack of social skills developed in their mom’s basement, but whatever the reason, whenever something features comic book characters, the fans tear it apart. Well, good luck finding fault with this one. And trust me, being a fan myself, I tried.

Batman: Arkham City is easily the greatest fan service a comic book game could ever possibly be. Fans who had concerns over how the story line tied together or whether too many villains might be featured, need not concern themselves anymore. The way the story flows and introduces you to Hugo Strange, the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, Deadshot, Zsasz, and all the other villains in Arkham City, could only be described as water it flows so smooth. The game has such a natural plot progression that your biggest problem may be just finding the time to finish it because if you do even a portion of the side quests like where you team up with Bane or simply wish to hunt for a few Riddler trophies then you’re going to be looking at a 40-50 hour experience. That’s almost unheard of for an action/adventure game, but somehow Batman: Arkham City finds a way to keep surprising you to the point where you might just start sitting on the floor so that when you keep dropping your controller it won’t fall as far. The guys at Rocksteady should be applauded for this new Batman universe they have created while also making it still feel like Batman.

Really though the biggest reason why the game is so great comes down to the variety and execution in the game play. There are a plethora of problems for Batman to solve using all of his different gadgets and abilities and unlike in Arkham Asylum where some gadgets were favored more than others, every gadget will get a workout here. Whether expertly trying to pilot your remote-controlled batarang through air ducts too small for Batman to fit through to hit a switch on the other side of a locked gate, to using your grappling hook to pull together platforms to solve tricky Penguin puzzles, every gadget will be pushed to the limit, and not to spoil anything, but there are a lot more gadgets this time around.

The gadgets are also a huge part of combat now, which is another feature that has seen a facelift. Now, via some hot key combos, Batman can whip out his grappling hook, batarangs, and other goodies on the fly and throw them in the face of unsuspecting foes to pull off some really stunning combos like using the grappling hook to pull distant thugs in for a devastating clothesline. Also, aside from the standard punches and counters and these new gadget moves, Batman has new special moves that can take foes out of the fight instantly when his combo gets high enough, catch items thrown at him and throw them back with a well-timed counter, capitalize on the tremendous environment physics to put walls and railings more to his advantage, and even unlock special crowd control moves that can even up the odds on those 30 on 1 fights that you’ll occasionally run into. Basically, if we’ve seen Batman do it in a movie or comic book before, he can do it in the game and few things feel as good as quick grappling an enemy over a banister and hearing him scream for his mommy before being knocked out.

Another aspect of the first game that has been tweaked is the leveling up, RPG elements. You start the game off with a good amount of gadgets and moves, but like in the first game, the further you progress and more stuff you do, the more gadgets and combos you unlock as it goes with the story and then upgrade as you see fit. In the end, most people should have many, if not all of the upgrades, but it does give you some options in just how you would play as Batman in order to help craft a more personal experience.

Now, for many people, the only real negatives from the first game were the linearity and Detective Mode being used as a crutch. I’m happy to say that both problems have been solved. In order to counter people wanting to stay in Detective Mode, things away from where your focus should be have become more blurred, forcing players to only use it when examining a crime scene, following a blood trail, or when scoping out a room full of thugs. The bright neon lights of Gotham also wreak havoc with Detective Mode really making sure that when you’re outdoors, you take in Gotham in all it’s downtrodden glory. The linearity has also been fixed with the bevy of previously mentioned side missions and having several objectives open at once so that you can solve cases at your own leisure, go explore for Riddler trophies, or just do what I did for the first half-hour I played the game, glide around on my cape and just take in Gotham staples like the Monarch Theater, Ace Chemicals, and Park Row.

Now, one knock might be that there is no co-op multiplayer since if you squint really tightly you might see potential for it, but the character really isn’t built for that, especially in this story. You can already play as other characters to mix things up, which the Catwoman levels are just as fun as the main game and give you a whole new look to Arkham City for the short sections you play as her by the way. But, honestly, Batman is at his best when he is the center of attention and Robin, Nightwing, Oracle, and the rest of the Bat-family are just on the sides providing occasional support from the wings. And Batman and his rogues are the biggest reason why anyone plays this game. Would anyone really play a Nightwing game with him taking on Professor Pyg? The challenge maps return, of course, and trying to work your way up the leaderboards and build the best combo is still fun and choosing different characters there works, but Batman is a loner and so the main vein of this game, which is the campaign, is in all its glory with you just focusing in and playing as Batman.

When all is said and done, throw in the amazing voice acting from Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Maurice LaMarche, Tara Strong, and the rest of the cast, and without giving away the brilliantly written plot (thank you Paul Dini), all I can say is that this is the single greatest comic book game I’ve ever played. It plays so well that I can easily recommend this to anyone without even thinking about it.

SUMMARY: Batman: Arkham City is easily the greatest fan service a comic book game could ever possibly be.

  • THE GOOD: The most comprehensive comic book game I’ve ever played
  • THE BAD: So many “Oh my God!” moments you keep dropping your controller
  • THE UGLY: The seedy underbelly of Gotham all in one spot

SCORE: 10

With the first month of DC’s universal re-launch behind us, Marvel has decided to start re-launching some more characters of their own in response. Along with Hulk coming out later this month, we see this week the conclusion of the Schism story line in the X-Men to pave way for several new X-Men monthlies featuring two different teams. So, what series are worth continuing in the DC re-launch and what can Marvel do to draw your attention away from it? And there’s a surprisingly good indie that came out this week as well that deserves you attention so without further ado, check out the Pullbox below!

1) Marvel – X-Men: Schism #5 (of 5): As a giant Sentinel came bearing down onto Utopia, Wolverine and Cyclops’ 30-year rivalry has finally come to a head with the two of them duking it out like never before. Meanwhile, while they try to work out their differences with Wolverine stabbing Cyclops several times and Cyclops blasting off Wolverine’s face, it is the young X-Men and Hope’s new recruits who come in and save the day. With a clear moral divide now present on the island, Wolverine decides to leave for good and several various members of the X-Men decide to join him. You need to see this just to see who breaks rank with Cyclops and to set up what looks to be an awesome foreseeable future for the two new X-Men teams. The best part about this mini-series is that it shows everyone how a re-launch should really take place. Marvel has been infamous in the past for screwing them up, but this coupled with the Hulk’s re-launch, both look promising depending on how they come out of the gate with their new respective series. DC has been pretty awful as well including this new universal re-launch. Some characters stayed the same while others were completely re-written or retconned and just had me scratching my head in many cases. It should be interesting to see where the X-Men go from here, but if I were you, start here and get ready for one wild ride.

2) Marvel – Deadpool #44: Moving away from the almost somber tone that the dividing of the X-Men brings, we look to the greatest comic relief character in comics, Deadpool. Still in England, Deadpool is hot on the trail of his would be psychiatrist/stalker when he goes into her apartment and finds a frozen version of…himself. Leaving it for the time being, Deadpool , having grown a small conscience and realizing that it is his fault that his shrink is about to commit murder, for once actually saves someone he dislikes. But in the end, the doc bites the big one and that frozen version of Deadpool? It looks like it’s going to be EVIL DOPPELGANGER time next issue! Yee-haw! Sorry. I, too, begin developing extra voices in my head after reading too much Deadpool. Anyway, Deadpool is always hysterical to read and sees him in the most over-the-top, off-the-wall situations in comics. With everyone else saving the world, Deadpool can barely even save himself most of the time, relying on his healing factor even more than Wolverine does, and it is always entertaining. Again, this issue wraps up a story arc and sets up the next nicely so it would be a solid point to jump in at and the laughs you’ll get from it makes this an easy choice this week.

3) Image – Last of the Greats #1: Earth is under attack and after not heeding the warnings from beings of tremendous power, they must now go to the last one and beg for his help against an invading alien force. Simple in it’s description, but so deep in its writing and art, that this is the most pleasant shock I’ve had in a while from an indie comic. I actually had a chance to speak to the author of this book, Joshua Hale Fialkov and we both agreed that the thing that should first draw people in is the cover, especially this alternate version you see to the left. Beautiful in its simplicity while harking back to a classic in the Watchmen with the smiley face with a drop of blood on it, Last of the Greats could become something that could rival Spawn for Image’s top monthly comic in my opinion because this first issue was just that damn good. It was dark in a way you rarely see in comics and in just the first issue had enough twists and turns that it made your jaw drop and that’s saying something considering these are characters we have no history with. I’m thrilled to hear this is a monthly and that the next three issues are ready for print (again via Fialkov) because I think this is going to be something really special and cannot wait to pick up issue #2.

4) DC – Swamp Thing #2: I admit that my first experiences with Swamp Thing growing up was the movies and later a short-lived cartoon. I never read the comics and so I had a very limited knowledge of the character until later in life and thought that its return at the end of the Brightest Day was one of the worst things DC had done in recent history. But maybe it is that poor rebirth penned by Geoff Johns and my cheesy childhood memories that had limited my expectations for this comic and led to my pleasant surprise that it has been pretty good. We learn more of the history of the Swamp Thing and it almost sounded a bit like the history of Spawn to be honest, but revolving around plant life. Still, Alec Holland having to face this global threat, unknown forces working against him, and the tremendous pressure for him to take back up the mantle of Swamp Thing, makes him a surprisingly deep character only two issues in to this new series. Whether you’re like me and don’t have the history with Swamp Thing or read everything Len Wein and Alan Moore wrote for the character, I think you’d be pleased with how this is going and should definitely pick this up.

5) DC – Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #1 (of 5): With Batman: Arkham City right around the corner and since The Penguin is a main villain in the game, I particularly enjoyed this comic because it gives rare insight into the character of the Penguin himself if you are unfamiliar with Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot’s rough upbringing. The ruthlessness the Penguin portrays as we see his psychological profile through the brilliant art of the book is really something Batman fans old and new will enjoy and it is nice to see this classic villain is another character mainly untouched by DC’s universal re-launch. It’s also a good comic because it is clearly a set-up for a much larger story as no Penguin story would be complete without interference from the Dark Knight. What new scheme is the Penguin working on or what is he covering up that will draw the Caped Crusader’s interest? I think this is an easy pick-up for all the Batman fans out there as true Batman fans know how underrated the Penguin can be at times as a villain and this arc looks like it might help put the Penguin back into the spotlight for a time. Proof positive to never underestimate even the runts in a litter as rotten as that of the Cobblepots.