September 27th, 2011

Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

Review: the Arkham Asylum softball game in Alan Grant and Tim Sale's "Madmen Across the Water."

So it's recently come to my attention that some of you have never heard of this story where the Arkham inmates played softball against the inmates of Blackgate Prison. Because that totally, actually happened.

This is one of those great little oddball (no pun intended) stories that will probably be of interest to most because it features early Batman artwork by Tim Sale. That said, it's only Sale's pencils inked by Jimmy Palmiotti, and while Palmiotti is a fine enough inker and even better co-author of books like Jonah Hex, the result is art that looks like a poor man's Matt Wagner with a dash of poor man's Bill Sienkiewicz. Which is to say, it's still pretty darn interesting to look at.

To make matters even more flawed, it's written by Alan Grant. Oh, Alan Grant. Now there's a writer I never learned to appreciate until very recently, even though I grew up reading his Batman work. Whereas I used to find his writing cheesy and a tad pretentious, I now find it charmingly earnest and ambitious. I enjoy and admire those qualities in writers even their stories are subpar.

As such, I hadn't given "Madmen Across The Water"* (from Showcase '94 #3 and 4) much thought until yesterday, when I was rereading it in preparation for this post. While it still falls short in areas I prefer, namely treating the Arkham inmates as characters in their own right rather than just crazy characters in wacky outfits, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the character of Jeremiah Arkham as written by Grant, and I think that this story is one of his finest appearances.

And again: it's about the Arkham inmates playing softball. I don't know why you haven't just skipped all my rambling and clicked on the cut-tag already!

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Again, if you'd like to read the whole story, it's been collected in Tales of the Batman, a collection of Tim Sale's miscellaneous Batman work. It also features the James Robinson story Blades from Legends of the Dark Knight, which is considered a classic by many. I loved it back in the day, but it's been many years since I read it, and I don't know how well it holds up.

*The title is taken from an uncommonly-great Elton John song, although I greatly prefer the extended version.