Reading the game: all about Batman: Arkham City

I recently took to the sprawling streets and city structures of Batman: Arkham City, a game that came out for PS3 (what I played on), Xbox 360, and PC last year. It’s the follow-up to the widely praised Batman: Arkham Asylum, which I beat twice in its opening weekend … you know, back when I had actual free time.

Arkham City features an overarching narrative that’s broken up by side missions and other sandbox-style attractions, but what makes the game truly special are its cameos. Spotlighting recognizable characters is a trick you can’t do in a lot of games because they don’t have years and years of established cannon. But since Batman lives outside of video games in comics and movies and television shows, the developers were able to give fans a bit more.

Below are a few books that make excellent companions to Batman: Arkham City.

Missed my previous “Reading the Game” features? Check out Mortal Kombat and Uncharted.

Batman: Knightfall, Vol. 1 by Chuck Dixon and Doug Moench
Publisher: DC Comics
Paperback: 640 pages
Publication Date: April 25, 2012

Peppering Arkham City with cameos emphasizes just how much responsibility has fallen onto Batman’s shoulders. He’s playing clean-up all across town. We see the same kind of complex chaos in Batman: Knightfall, in which the rogues break out of Arkham, leaving the Caped Crusader to round them up one by one. The Knightfall storyline is famous for Bane, a villain who bided his time until Batman was exhausted and then threw him off a rooftop, breaking his back.

DC Comics published a brand new edition of the 1993 original in April, no doubt because of Bane’s resurgence in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film, The Dark Knight Rises, which hits theaters on July 20.

The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 3 by James Robinson (writer) and Tony Harris (artist)
Publisher: DC Comics
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publication Date: June 17, 2009

One thing that disappointed me about Batman: Arkham City was its treatment of Solomon Grundy, who’s chocked up to little more than a violent monster—a zombie. The fascinating adventures of modern day Starman Jack Knight taught me otherwise. Grundy’s actually been known to be a gentle and emotional creature, as seen in the early Starman omnibuses and the third volume, in which Knight teams up with Batman to save Grundy’s life.

A proper Solomon Grundy education is a must for every Arkham City player.

Batman: Mad Love and Other Stories by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm
Publisher: DC Comics
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publication Date: August 31, 2011

Most fans threw a fit when they learned voice actress Tara Strong would be replacing Arleen Sorkin, who helped define and popularize the character Harley Quinn. I was upset at first, too, but honestly, halfway through the game I didn’t even care—or notice the difference.

Harley herself plays a big role in Arkham City through the new DLC, “Harley Quinn’s Revenge.” If you want to learn more about the former psychiatrist and how she fell head over heels for her “puddin'” the Joker, read Mad Love and Other Stories. The comic recaptures some classic episodes from the highly regarded Batman: The Animated Series television show and pays particular attention to Harley and her adoration for the Joker.

What books would you recommend?


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