Monday, September 27, 2010

Arkham Asylum: Madness by Sam Keith, Michelle Madsen and Dave Stewart

Everybody knows that once Batman is finished defeating his foes, they end up in Arkham Asylum, where they are housed until they escape and/or are set free to roam the streets again.

But what actually goes on in Arkham Asylum? Who works there and how do they live and work, being in such close contact with the criminally insane who sometimes spend their entire lives inside Arkham, plotting revenge or 'playing' with the guards, doctors and nurses who are trying to effect a cure.

Sabine Robbins is a nurse who works the day shift in Arkham Asylum. During the day, Arkham is safe- or relatively so. Even though they house both Killer Croc and the Joker, along with Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and the entire Rogues Gallery of Batman, morning and the day are safe.

What keeps Sabine safe and sane is her son, Oswald, better known as Ozzie, who she keeps in mind when things at her job get especially bad. Also keeping her sane is her fellow nurse, Randy, who shares with her all the latest gossip and keeps her going, along with Eddie, the Caretaker who spends most of his time in the basement of the former mansion that was converted into an insane Asylum.

But when Randy is fired for an inappropriate relationship with one of the doctors, Sabine is going to have to pull a double shift- which will mean working at night. And Night in Arkham Asylum is very different from Daytime Arkham. Can Sabine, a young and untested nurse, deal with the personalities of the Joker, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and a possible breakout by Killer Croc? And when Joker finds the picture of her son, can she find the courage to stand up to a crazy man who will take a bloody revenge on her family if she denies him what he wants?

As deaths and freakouts take over Arkham, only Sabine seems able to hold it together and keep working. But how will she take it when her family, and everything she lives for- comes under sttack. Will she fold, or stand tall?

Wow, this was an awesome graphic novel. Arkham Asylum is pretty creepy to begin with. Add a list of Batman's crazier foes, like Joker and Scarecrow, and you have a place that most people wouldn't want to stick around in for long. So how much courage does it take to go to work there when you're just a normal person, with no way of protecting yourself from the freaks and psychos who practically run the place?

It's a pretty bleak and depressing picture. Working with the insane is pretty depressing anyway, but to work with insane people who will kill or maim you and others and can't be controlled with medication- well that's many, many times more scary- and Sabine, young and innocent, seems unable to deal with people like the ones running wild in Arkham.

Ask yourself how you would deal with the situation Sabine finds herself in, and then look at how Sabine deals with it. Here's a hint- that not all heroes go out fighting crime by kicking ass or taking down supervillains. Sometimes you just have to fight it personally, one day at a time. An excellent book that is both dark and disturbing. Highly recommended.

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