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Review: Batman: Arkham Knight

Welcome Michael to the Graphic Policy team! Can’t wait for him to help flesh out our video game coverage and that starts now! – the Management

Batman Arkham Knight Cover ArtIt’s rare for people to pick up a superhero video game title, as a majority of the games are pretty terrible (Anyone remember how awful Superman 64 was? Blocked it out from your memory? I wouldn’t blame you). With how severe people have been burned in the past by spending $60 on a game that felt like it was made at the last-minute, a stigma was created with superheroes and video games. If there was a title released, not only was it awful, but you could bet there was usually a developer behind it trying to promote a TV show, toy line or movie to fit alongside it. On the off-chance that someone saw that title in your house, you usually had to rely on the excuse that a relative gave it to you for your birthday, and that you didn’t actually want it in the first place. Never has loving a superhero brought me as much shame as it did among video game fans…

Like Rocky after getting beaten several times, the developers at Rocksteady put on their walkmans, cranked up Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger and were determined to make a superhero title worthy of owning (I have no evidence of this, but this is how I like to imagine it). Needless to say, their conquest was successful! In 2009 Batman: Arkham Asylum was released, and not only was it amazing, but the bar for a Batman game was set so high that only Rocksteady themselves could surpass it! (Sorry WB Montreal) With an emphasis on stealth, hand-to-hand combat, and a wide variety of gadgets at your disposal, Batman: Arkham Asylum provided a true first-hand experience to what being Batman was really like.

553e34670056aLet’s fast-forward to 2015 with their latest and final installment in their trilogy, Batman: Arkham Knight. With an emphasis on making everything bigger and better than before, Rocksteady did their best to pull out all the stops to make this the best Batman title they could. With a much larger map, more gadgets to utilize, and new and bigger threats around every corner, Batman: Arkham Knight is no doubt the fullest Batman ever released.

The game spans over 3 large islands within Gotham City, with criminals running wild as the rest of Gotham is evacuated for fear of Scarecrows attempt at terrorism. While Batman tries to save his city, there is another menace who appears to teams up with Scarecrow, referring to himself as The Arkham Knight. With a powerful army at their disposal, it’s up to Batman to save the city with his trusty Batmobile/Bat-tank and a few of his allies.

The story, as with most of the Rocksteady’s titles, starts out promising and then slowly gets convoluted as there is simply way too much going on. Each and every super villain has the need to try to take over Gotham to prove that they deserve to stand on top, except for the Riddler (Everyone knows he’s too cool for teamwork). What honestly shocks me is that none of these villains seem to care about Scarecrow’s threat to plunge Gotham City into a living hell with his new toxin, so much as run their crooked businesses normally. While the main story focuses mostly on the Arkham Knight and Scarecrow teaming up to overtake your city, fans may forget that Scarecrow is even in the game, because you only see him a handful of times. The story generally focuses on the Arkham Knight and his feud with Batman, and it’s pretty obvious who the Knight is if you’re familiar with Batman at all. I did enjoy the sections with the special guest of the game (no spoilers!). With a somewhat tired ending that just feels forced, fans really get the impression that this is Rocksteady’s final installment with the series, and that they’re officially done with Batman. With how difficult it was to actually get the PC version established, I don’t blame them. (Sorry PC players!) With a super secret ending for completing 100% of the game, fans are shown that there will be no more Batman, from this developer at least…

With every new installment to a series, the one thing people really hope for is improvements on graphics, especially when a series crosses over to a newer and better platform. This title doesn’t fail to impress as Rocksteady truly gives everything a major upgrade in the fashion department, making it truly breathtaking game to look at. Arkham Knight‘s environment is the largest of the three titles, spanning over 3 islands that each stand larger than Arkham City. With the ability to either glide or drive through the city, there’s a lot for players to take in.

54e504c0956d7I would have loved to have given this a solid 9 or 10 because of how amazing these Batman titles usually play, but the one thing that stands as the bane of your existence is the highly anticipated Batmobile… With shaky controls (at best) and several missions actually focusing on you driving your car around Gotham or mazes, I’ve more often crashed into walls, flipped my car over or blown up than I’ve actually stopped crime. With Rocksteady allowing the Batmobile to crash through most objects and building corners, it’s a wonder there was even a Gotham left to save after all was said and done. While it was difficult to learn at first, I did find it enjoyable once I got used to the controls. Though it did take a while.

The tank mode in the game is also another necessity as you have to fight several other tanks in the game. The targeting system is only subpar, so often times I would actually miss when I would think otherwise, resulting in my death. I made the mistake of upgrading my suit and gadgets before my car, thinking that I would go through the majority of the game as Batman, not the Bat-tank. Never have I been more wrong…

The times fighting as Batman are the reason this section received the positive score it has. With a heavy focus on combat and stealth, and a great mixture of gadget use and new kinds of takedown attacks, Rocksteady really outdid themselves with the physical combat. The newest feature, and by far my favorite, that’s provided with the new armor is the Fear-Multi Takedown. What this does is it allows Batman to get a surprise attack on a group, and causes the whole area to slow down and panic, so you can control your camera and attack your next victim at super high speeds. This feature gives fans real insight into how Batman fights using fear as an element, and it’s the best thing the game has going for it. The only downside to this is that it’s not easy to pull off when you want to, so much as when the game wants you to.

The other new feature that Rocksteady added into this game was Co-op fighting. While it’s not multiplayer (which would have been amazing), the feature allows players to fight like a true dynamic duo, but unfortunately it didn’t actually happen very often. This serves as somewhat of a letdown considering how high they were trying to sell it during advertisements. So unless you’re interested in only playing the one VR Mission that features this, you won’t be seeing much of Batman teaming up. We all know Batman prefers to be a lone wolf anyways.

Arkham Knight is also the first game to allow you to utilize gadgets in your combos. You build up a combo meter through flawless execution and then use that combo meter to unleash gadget attacks to takedown enemies. While this sounds like an excellent feature in the game, and everyone knows this is what Batman does, I often found myself being unable to use it. With the combo meter instantly getting taken down the moment you suffer any type of attack, it was a rare occasion to use one of these gadget attacks successfully. With Batman constantly fighting hordes of enemies, it’s rather difficult to do anything other than punch or counter, so inputting other button commands would often result in taking a hit and losing the chance.

The sidequests in the game were considerably more exciting than the actual campaign. They allow you to feel like the Dark Knight as you take down some of Gotham’s fiercest foes. While some of these stories are shorter than others, they give players a chance to explore through Gotham, learn some of its history, and solve crimes. The only downside to all of this, is that if you’re doing these alongside the main scenario, you’re often cut off from being able to continue until you progress further through the main campaign.

The Riddler missions in this game are also more exciting as they go beyond just finding trophies like in the previous titles. The challenges come in the format of solving riddles, puzzles, finding easter eggs, scanning your surroundings for question mark shaped footprints, and even race tracks. Rocksteady really outdid themselves this time around with how much there is to find in the game. For a title at nearly 50GB, you can expect quite a few Easter Eggs to find through riddle hunting. The motivation to finish the Riddler segment is strong too, because once you complete the main scenario, Riddler bugs you about finishing his riddles every 5 minutes or so. Never has punching someone in the face been so fantastic…

As with every Batman title from the trilogy, the game is very story heavy, so while the game is amazing to play the first time around, the re-playability factor isn’t high. I’d prefer to take a long break before diving into the game again, even if the difficulty is increased with New Game Plus. With nothing extra besides a slightly altered intro cutscene, there isn’t anything new to the game that we wouldn’t have seen before.

Nothing would have pleased me more than to give this game a 10/10 solely on the fact that I’m a huge Batman fan, but the game has a lot that stands against it. With several of the new features seeming like more of a hassle than exciting, or just overall lacking, this game just feels like it could have been so much better. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I just know it could have been better. At least it’s Kevin Conroy voicing Batman. That man could narrate my life. I would definitely avoid the DLC Season Pass bundle at the moment as it’s an additional $40 with only one segment, and a few extra costumes. That money could be used towards another title or several comics with better stories.

Story: 6 Graphics: 9 Gameplay: 7.5 Sidequests: 8 Re-playability: 5 Overall Score: 7.5

Played on the Playstation 4

Around the Tubes

The weekend is almost here! We’ve got some links to help you get you through the day and for it to come quicker! Check out some comic book news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

The National – Pakistan Man is the latest comic-strip hero to save his country – An interesting read.

GamePolitics – Report: PC version of ‘ Batman: Arkham Knight’ won’t be fixed until September – Well that sucks.

Kotaku – The Big Things That Change When Someone Else Becomes Batman – A fun read.


Around the Tubes Reviews

The Beat – Book of Death #1

Talking Comics – Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #1

CBR – Hawkeye #22

Talking Comics – Negative Space #1

Review: Justice League #42

jl042Epic comic book stories will often have a pretty predictable formula, and especially when it comes to Geoff Johns.  Although the stories obviously change, there is nonetheless common developments among them.  For instance, the introductory issue for the Darkseid War promised something epic, and the first issue was action packed and yet also promised more action for the second issue.  This being formulaic though, the second issue did not really deliver on that promise from the previous issue, but rather instead there is some of what should actually be expected, plot developments that are unforeseen.  If one looks back on some of the bigger Johns’ crossovers and story arcs, it is the same, but then again he has created some of the biggest and best epic stories in the past ten years, so evidently it is a formula that does not need to be tinkered with too much.

Grail has brought the war to Earth and the Justice League, and although seemingly very much out matched Wonder Woman stands alone against them after her colleagues have been beaten.  Superman aids Luthor’s recovery, while Darkseid makes plans for how to break the two of them, and on Earth, Mister Miracle and Myrina Black make plans to both start and stop the war, through the only way that she knows how, an alliance with the Anti-Monitor.  All of this is further confused when Metron shows up and intercedes against the plans of others, although this has an unexpected outcome.

There will likely be those who think that this issue is weaker compared to those that led into it.  In a sense it is, because this story arc is based on big epic moves, and this issue doesn’t really contain any.  What it does provide though are the plot elements required for this story arc to become something pretty amazing.  In other words, there are no “wow” moments here, but it is setting them up, and in a pretty impressive way.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: Jason Fabok
Story: 8.7 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

Around the Tubes

Still recovering from San Diego Comic-Con? We are too. Below is some news and reviews you might have missed and we’ll have our picks for this Wednesday’s comics in a few hours.

Around the Tubes

The Outhousers – SDCC: Director and Cast Confirm “Amazing Spider-Man 3″ Would Have Sucked – Yup, it could have gotten worse.


Around the Tubes Reviews

CBR – Batman #42

CBR – Squadron Sinister #2

SDCC 2015: Grant Morrison Reveals Multiversity Too and Batman: Black & White

multiversity 1 coverDuring his panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Grant Morrison revealed Multiversity Too, a line of original graphic novels based on his groundbreaking and bestselling titles from The Multiversity series of monthly comics and his Multiversity Guidebook. Fans will experience stories from throughout the 52 (or more?) worlds that make up Morrison’s Map of the Multiverse and whether it’s the further adventures of Earth-4’s Pax Americana, the New Reichsmen of Earth-10, the female-led Justice Guild of Earth-11 or even one of the seven “unknown worlds,” everything is fair game!

The series begins in 2016 with Multiversity Too: The Flash. But from which earth is anyone’s guess!

Morrison also provided early details on another series of graphic novels featuring everyone’s favorite Dark Knight in Batman: Black & White. This continuing anthology series pairs Morrison’s original Batman stories with a rotating cast of some of the biggest art talents in comics, that will only serve to highlight Grant’s one of a kind perspective when it comes to comics in general and Batman in particular.

SDCC 2015: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer

Debuting at San Diego Comic-Con, Zack Snyder‘s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is in theaters March 25, 2016.

We Talk About the Gotham Inspired Cake Wars Winning Design with the Fabulous Cake Girls

Season 1 of the Food Network’s television show Cake Wars wrapped up this past Tuesday.  The somewhat unexpected theme for the final episode was DC Comics and Good Vs. Evil, with special guest judges Jim Lee, Dan Didio and Geoff Johns and .  The Fabulous Cake Girls from San Diego ended up winning with their Gotham inspired design and we caught up with them to talk about their experience on the show.

cake002Graphic Policy:  I guess the most obvious question is whether you guys are comic fans?

Fabulous Cake Girls:  From an artwork perspective, 100%. Graphic novels are beautiful and they inspire us to take our comic type cakes to another level.

GP:  What is the inspiration for the amazing design which won you guys the finale?

FCG:  We knew it had to be Gotham City. The darkness and mystery surrounding the history of Gotham drew us in and we went with it. The clock tower was such a cool, and detailed building to recreate and we wanted the cake to look like the cover of a comic or graphic novel.

GP:  Poison Ivy is an odd selection for the villain, seeing as there are more obvious bad guy in Batman’s rogue gallery.  Why did you choose her?

FCG:  Because she’s freaking HOT. We loved the idea of trapping Batman and Robin in her clutches and doing the creeping flowers and vines on the building. They told us Good VS Evil, but not who had to win ;)

GP:  How do you go about putting together a cake like that?

FCG:  Hours of planning! We build platforms and other structural support, dowels go through the cakes; whether they are tiered wedding cakes or 3D buildings. They also had to be lifted, moved and eventually delivered to the DC Comics Party.

cake001GP:  How did you guys get involved in cake design?

FCG:  Jennifer went to The California Culinary School in San Francisco, worked in restaurants, trained with incredible pastry chef’s in city and moved back to San Diego so we could open Cake. We contacted a ceramics guild, here in San Diego, a few years ago looking for raw talent in figurine and sculpting work. They referred the fabulous Sami to us and we have been a powerful team of talent ever since.

GP:  How did you get selected for the show?

FCG:  We are good friends with the pastry chef at The Hotel Del in Coronado, California. She got an inquiring email from The Food Network and immediately sent it to us. We had appeared on The Cake Challenge five years ago, so we wrote to them. They invited us to participate right away.

GP:  Were there some other designs which stood out for you on the show?

FCG:  We were extremely impressed with Aquaman. Honestly, until they announced that we won, we truly thought it could have been them

GP:  What does the future hold for you now that you have won Cake Wars?

FCG:  Total world domination.

SDCC 2015: Batman Finally Meets The Turtles.

Batman-TMNT-01IDW and DC are teaming up for a six issue monthly miniseries to begin in November, by the creative team of writer James Tynion IV and artist Freddie E. Wiliams II. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman and other to-be-announced artists will illustrate variant covers.

Set in Gotham City, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will mark the first time the characters have met in comic book form, finally realizing the dreams of so many comic book fans of all ages.

From the official description of the story: “In the ongoing power struggle between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, General Krang, and the Foot Clan, allegiances have shifted and the battle lines have been drawn. Krang concocts a plan to rid himself of both the Turtles and Shredder by transporting them to another dimension, where they land in the dark and dangerous streets of Gotham City. It isn’t long before they encounter Gotham’s most famous resident, Batman. The Caped Crusader may be their only hope of overcoming their enemies and getting back home. But not before they encounter a whole cast of Gotham’s most infamous rogues.”

James Tynion IV is making a lot of dreams come true, including his own. “I’ve been extremely luck to spend so much time working in Gotham City, but it’s always a thrill to see the world of Batman through new eyes. Taking the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on a Gotham adventure is a fanboy dream come true.”

November can’t come soon enough.

The Strangest Members of the Justice League

snapperThe Justice League of America is best defined by its core of main characters.  As opposed to other major superhero teams like the X-Men, Avengers, or Teen Titans, the core seven members of the team are considered as almost sacrosanct.  Without Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter, the League is considered to not be at full power (though Manhunter has been somewhat replaced on this list by Cyborg.)  That being the case, the membership of the League has mostly remained constant over its publication history, but as with every team there are always the odd ones that find their way in.

Snapper Carr – The modern reader of comics might not recognize it immediately at a glance, but the history of comics is the history of trends.  Characters that might seem to represent some diversity in the modern day such as Power Man/Luke Cage or Shang Chi were in fact added to comics as they helped to capitalize respectively on the popularity of blaxpoitation and kung fu films.  One character long before them was Snapper Carr.  Although he existed as a sidekick more than actual superhero, he was nonetheless a vital member on some missions, (such as the first involving Starro).  The character was inspired by the Beatnik generation which was somewhat popular at the time, and for those that might look for a related Marvel character, they would be wasting their time, because the trend of beatnik characters came and went long before Marvel got established.

daleDale Gunn – After the X-Men took over the medium of comics in the 1970s it was determined that the Teen Titans became DC’s best hope to fight against this success.  After the youth oriented book performed well it was decided to give the Justice League a makeover as well, and what resulted was what has become known as Justice League Detroit, a weaker version of the team, but one focused more towards the street.  Out were Batman and Wonder Woman, in were street level characters like Gypsy and Vibe, the latter of which was enough of an attempt to cash in on the breakdancing genre that was actually popular for a while, for those that remember their Electric Boogaloo.  The stranger character though was Dale Gunn, introduced as a ladies-man character that was the custodian/tech expert for the new team, who wore a superpowered suit of armor in his first appearance, but then just faded into the background.  Zatanna and Vixen both fell in love with him almost from the get go, but his impact was never really noticed after a few issues.

maxMaxwell Lord – Whereas the X-Men had Dazzler and the Outsiders had Looker, the Justice League never really managed to capitalize on the big hair and big money 1980s, or at least they wouldn’t have except for the influence of Maxwell Lord.  The character was essentially a Gordon Gecko rip-off, and one whose moral code was also somewhat skewed.  He served as the bank roll for the team, but had delusions of heroism at times, and eventually went bad when he almost had every superhero killed during Infinite Crisis.

Blue Beetle – The Justice League of the post-Legends DC Universe was one very different from what came before.  Legends was kind of an attempt to do the final clean-up on what had happened during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and it resulted in a new Justice League.  Whereas a lot of titles were getting darker at the time, or at least geared more to a mature audience, this team went the opposite route, becoming goofy.  Another trend at the time was that the Justice League becoming a dumping ground for characters who couldn’t hold their own series.  Thus the League assimilated Booster Gold, Blue Beetle and Captain Atom among others, but it really became the Blue Beetle and Booster Gold show, with their not-so-serious antics proving to be the fodder for most issues as opposed to real threats.  The character had been serious before, but never really recovered before being killed off.

drfateZan and Jayna – The so-called Wonder Twins didn’t come from the Justice League exactly, but instead came from the children’s show spin-off, the Super Friends.  It might have seemed likely that the characters might have just retired into obscurity as many others did, but they were actually revived for a time in the 1990s.  As a bit of a running joke before hand they never really caught on, and were used for only a few issues.

Dr. Fate/Guy Gardner – These two are not exactly the strangest characters exactly, except in how they were used.  Once again another influence of the post Legends Justice League, the writer Keith Giffen was a big enough fan of gender swapping some of his characters.  Not as in the usual sense of making a separate character like Supergirl or Batgirl, but in simply finding a way to switch genders.  It was done first with Doctor Fate and recently with Guy Gardner.

Ambush Bug/Super-Chief  – After Infinite Crisis the creators promised to give exposure to pretty much every character that had ever shown up in the pages of DC Comics.  This meant that some strange and obscure characters had to be brought in.  In this case it was a Firestorm led Justice League that contained among its members the Ambush Bug and Super-Chief.  They showed up for a couple of panels and then were never seen of again.

poisonivyPoison Ivy, Lex Luthor and Captain Cold – It turned some heads in the pages of the Waid led JLA when the rotating cast of team members included what was kind of Catwoman for one issue.  People wondered how it was that a thief was allowed membership to the team, even when she didn’t really join.  This was later rendered somewhat moot in the era of rooting for the bad guys in comics.  In the modern day, many series focus on villains, and Lex Luthor, Captain Cold and poison Ivy have worked alongside the Justice League, the latter in the most recent issue of Justice League United.  As villains become the new cool characters, it is not surprising to see some join the ranks of the superheroes.

To read the list of the strangest members of the League is partially a way to read the trends which have defined the medium of comics since the team’s inception.  There have been characters that have been stunts, or put in place to take advantage of what was happening in popular culture.  The team usually goes back to the main seven, but it is interesting to note that they are not always there, and sometimes some odd choices are made.

SDCC 2015: DC Collectibles Knocks it Out of the Park

I just came back from an event for DC Collectibles where they showed off some of what’s coming out over the next year or so. The figures and statues on display are amazing as expected. What’s even more amazing was what I wasn’t able to take photos of.

Out in July 2016 is a statue of Power Girl and Superman, both done up like carnival strong men. But, what’s different is, instead of the woman on the guy’s shoulder, Superman rests on Power Girl’s shoulder. It’s an amazing statue.

Even cooler is a figure out in June 2016 based on Batman: Arkham Knight. This figure, Batgirl…. but also Oracle! Yes, Barbara Gordon in wheelchair as an action figure. Amazing to look at with so much detail it blew my mind.

I wish I could take photos. Below is what I could take photos of as well as what else I couldn’t, but was on display.


On display but no photos allowed:


Power Girl and Superman – July 2016
Raven – July 2016
Lex Luthor – July 2016
Wonder Woman – April 2016
The Flash Captain Cold’s Gun – May 2016


Batman: Arkham Knight – Batgirl and Oracle – June 2016
Batman: The Animated Series – Harley Quinn
Batman: The Animated Series – Firefly
Batman: The Animated Series – Clayface
Batman: The Animated Series – Anti Fire Batman
DC Designer series – Greg Capullo – Survivor Batman <- straight out of Year Zero – July 2016
DC Designer series – Greg Capullo -The Flash – July 2016
DC Designer series – Greg Capullo – Wonder Woman
DC Designer series – Greg Capullo – The Joker


More photos to come later!

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