Batman: Assault on Arkham — The Review

2014 has been a big year for DC Entertainment, specifically with its DC Universe Original Animated Movies. First, Justice League: War released, the follow up to Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, and the first Justice League movie to take place in the New 52 universe. This was followed by Son of Batman, an animated movie based off the graphic novel, Batman and Son.

On August 12, DC will release Batman: Assault on Arkham, which is the first movie to be based off the universe created in the Batman: Arkham video games.

Of course, Batman: Assault on Arkham is available on VOD through Amazon, Apple, Google Play, and VUD. If one is too gripped by anticipation to wait for it to release on DVD or Blu-ray (as I was), they can purchase it digitally now.

Too often do people mistakenly assume that because it is an animated movie, it must be for kids. Batman: Assault on Arkham is not for kids. In fact, most of the recent animated movies released by DC are rated PG-13 for a reason.

The language is not for kids. The partial nudity and sexual innuendo is not for kids. Even the graphic nature of the violence is not for kids. These movies are targeted at a more mature audience and seldom do they disappoint.

Whether one buys the movie through VOD now or waits until it comes out on DVD/Blu-ray, Batman: Assault on Arkham is a must see, especially for fans of the Batman: Arkham video games or the Batman franchise as a whole.

The movie stars the legendary voice of Batman, Kevin Conroy, who is considered by many fans to be the true voice of the Caped Crusader. Unfortunately, Conroy was not joined by Mark Hamill, who is equally respected for his voice work as the Joker. Instead, the Joker is voiced by Troy Baker, who has done voice work for both DC and Marvel, and first replaced Mark Hamill in Batman: Arkham Origins.

Baker maintains the voice of the Joker that fans have come to know and love so well that it nearly sounds like Hamill’s Joker, but at the same time there are certain qualities to his performance that make the character his. If anyone is going to replace the great Mark Hamill, Baker certainly sounds like he is more than capable of filling his shoes.

Similarly, after voicing Batman for over two decades, it is reasonable to assume that Conroy may soon retire, leaving the cape and cowl to someone else. Jason O’Mara, who voiced Batman in Justice League: War and Son of Batman, and will star in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, is proving to be a worthy successor.

Batman: Assault on Arkham also stars CCH Pounder, who has been a go-to voice for Amanda Waller since the Justice League animated TV series that ran from 2001 to 2006, Neal McDonough (Justified, Captain America: The First Avenger) as Deadshot, Hayden Walch (Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Teen Titans) as Harley Quinn, John DiMaggio (Futurama, Batman: Under The Red Hood) as King Shark, Jennifer Hale (Justice League, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) as Killer Frost, and well-known voice actor Nolan North as the Penguin.

In Batman: Assault on Arkham, Amanda Waller, who is in charge of Task Force X (more commonly known as the Suicide Squad), sends the team of imprisoned villains into Gotham to sneak into Arkham Asylum and retrieve top-secret information from the Riddler. The team is composed of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Killer Frost, King Shark, Black Spider, and Captain Boomerang.

As it is often the case with Waller, nothing is ever 100 percent what it seems. There are a handful of people in the DC Universe whose role as hero or villain is never completely clear. Waller is the Iron Lady of the DC Universe, a well-intentioned extremist who is often portrayed as working toward the greater good (in the end), but can incorporate villainous means to achieve this end. She isn’t past getting revenge through any means either.

While the Suicide Squad is breaking into Arkham, Batman is hunting down a bomb the Joker planted somewhere in the city, a bomb that could kill half of Gotham’s population. With Harley Quinn on the team, it is not long before Batman suspects that she may have alternative motives as well and heads to Arkham.

Much like the Arkham video games, this movie has a full lineup of Gotham villains and an assault on Arkham eventually escalates into a war at Arkham. Don’t get too attached to any of the Suicide Squad members, either, because not everyone makes it out alive. You never know who is going to get the axe next — especially when Waller holds their lives in her hands.

Watching Batman take on all members of the Suicide Squad at once is action-packed in and of itself, but when things really get out of hand, that’s when the fun begins. In the end, you may be surprised by who ends up fighting whom.

Sinestro #1: Give In To Fear

If there is one thing DC Comics does better than any other comic book publisher, it is how it has designed its villains. The villains of the DC Universe are often complex — certainly far from two-dimensional. The best villains are not your archetypical villains. The greatest example, no doubt, is the Joker — pure chaos; no desire for power, control, or riches.

The reason, I dare say, I have come to be a loyal DC reader and am solidly on its side in the never-ending DC vs. Marvel debate is because of its villains. The villains were the reason I became such a huge fan of the Batman franchise because while Batman is a great hero, his character is molded by his villains.

The one type of villain DC does better than anyone else is the anti-villain. It is the villain whose cause may actually be considered righteous if they were not held to the same standard as their hero counterpart. It is the antagonist who is not purely evil, villains highlighted in the last few months during the Forever Evil crossover series.

After relaunching its universe is 2011 with the New 52, DC Comics is not necessarily relaunching it again, but reshaping it. Essentially, whatever the DC Universe looks like after the Forever Evil series (and I am excited to read the final chapter of this story) it is not exactly going to be the DC Universe fans grew up with. Then again, the New 52 universe isn’t entirely that, either.

One character that has already played a notable role in the reshaping of the universe is one of DC’s best anti-villains: Sinestro.

During the events of Green Lantern #20, a brilliantly-written end to Geoff Johns’ run on the title, Thaal Sinestro uses the powers of Parallax to not only fight the First Lantern — one of the greatest threats ring-bearers have had to face — but to go into exile where he would then release its powers. Despite how horribly the Green Lantern movie reduced Parallax, it is one of DC’s greatest antagonistic forces.

The Green Lantern issue will be remembered for many reasons, but the scene that will likely stick out most in the minds of fans is one particular exchange between Hal Jordan and Sinestro before they part ways:

Hal Jordan: I can’t… I can’t just let you go.

Sinestro: Before I release Parallax, I will use his power to take me far from here. I will leave you forever. But, before I do… you were going to ask me a question. Long ago, when we were trapped on Ysmault and we both believed we’d die. But you never did.

Hal Jordan: Were we ever truly friends?

Sinestro: That’s the tragedy of all this, Jordan. Hal. We’ll always be friends.

The relationship between Jordan and Sinestro was never black and white, and neither was Sinestro’s role in the DC Universe. Sinestro returned in the Forever Evil crossover series when Batman attempts to use a Sinestro Corps ring to fight Power Ring. In many ways, Forever Evil separates the villains who are truly evil and those who truly believe their cause is righteous or are just not completely evil.

Sinestro #1 opens with Sinestro powerless and exiled in forgotten space. He is found by Lyssa Drak, a Sinestro Corps member and keeper of the Book of Parallax, a record of the Sinestro Corps, along with other secrets. Drak was one of Sinestro’s first recruits into the Sinestro Corps and, according to Sinestro, “the most insane.” In the past, Drak would have the Book of Parallax chained to her wrist by yellow energy (believed to be from Sinestro). However, the book was destroyed — sort of.

The same book that revealed to Sinestro that the Guardians planned to replace the Green Lantern Corps with what was called the “Third Army,” reveals that there is a growing force of anti-emotion spreading throughout the universe and Sinestro is needed to stop it. While Sinestro initially refuses to come out of exile, telling Drak to “let the universe beg the Green Lanterns for protection,” she reveals another secret that almost immediately changes his mind.

No spoilers here, but if issue one is any indication of what to expect from the title, it is going to be an excellent storyline to follow.

With new purpose guiding him, Sinestro will need the help of his corps, the corps he abandoned to live in exile and is now in the command of Arkillo, Sinestro’s second-in-command, who has no desire to relinquish his control over the yellow ring-bearers. The situation is complicated enough as it is, but there is one more twist at the end to get the title off to a great start.