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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Batman: Assault on Arkham



Set in the continuity of the best-selling and excellent Batman: Arkham video game series, it's good to be bad in Batman: Assault on Arkham. Except no, it really isn't. It's horrible. For in the DC Universe, if you're a B-list or C-list supervillain, you may just have the unfortunate distinction of being suddenly drugged and unwillingly drafted into the Suicide Squad. The Batman himself is largely relegated to the shadows as the Suicide Squad takes center stage in Assault on Arkham. Coerced by fearsome super spy Amanda Waller (depicted here in all her preferred pre-New 52 glory as a heavy set black woman deserving of her nickname "The Wall," and not a svelte super model as in current continuity), the Suicide Squad are comprised of not-exactly household name arch criminals like Captain Boomerang, King Shark, the Black Spider, and Killer Frost. The most famous name in the Squad is Harley Quinn, in full loveable psycho mode. Even moreso than Batman, master assassin Deadshot emerges as the true star of Assault on Arkham, an honorable killer and loving but deadbeat dad burdened with trying to corral this gathering of psychos.

Under penalty of having their heads literally blown clean off their bodies via a nano bomb implanted in their necks, the Suicide Squad's mission is to break into Gotham's Arkham Asylum and steal the Riddler's cane, which houses a thumb drive containing the identities of every past and future member of the Suicide Squad. If that sounds exactly like the plot of the first Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible, it's because it is. One guesses the Suicide Squad never saw Mission: Impossible.* As one would predict from this gaggle of do-badders, things go FUBAR right from the get-go. Complicating matters is the Batman, hunting for a dirty bomb belonging to the Joker that will demolish Gotham in a nuclear holocaust, and the Joker himself, on the loose and working out his sordid relationship issues with Harley Quinn. Double crosses and gruesome deaths galore is the viewer's reward in this envelope-pushing PG-13 cartoon, along with a surprising amount of curse words and quite a bit of eyebrow-raising nudity from both Harley Quinn and Killer Frost. The voice work is uniformly excellent, with Kevin Conroy returning as the voice of Batman, Troy Baker nicely invoking Mark Hamill as the Joker, Hynden Walch delighting as Harley Quinn, and Neal McDonough delivering a cool, unflappable Deadshot. The quality of DC Animated movies has been touch and go in the post-Bruce Timm/Paul Dini years, but the brutal, ultraviolent, uncomfortably funny and even more uncomfortably sexy Batman: Assault on Arkham blows away recent entries like Justice League: War.

* There are some great Easter Egg homages to Batman Returns and The Dark Knight for the sharp-eyed.