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Batman Arkham Asylum Tales of Madness #1

Greg is a new guard at Arkham Asylum. He is going to night school and has plans to be married soon. Life is good for Greg. Until his third night on his new job. They are in Killer Croc's cell when there is an earthquake. Steel shutters snap into place locking the facility down. Unfortunately Croc's door was still open. He kills a guard and is going for the other two when he hears the Joker calling to him. The power goes out and the two guards make a break for it. Croc releases Joker, who proceeds to release some of the other maniacs. Together they find the two guards and kill one of them. Greg is the lucky survivor.

They argue over who will get to kill Greg. Joker decides they will have a contest. They will each tell a story and whoever scares Greg the most gets to kill him. Vox tells about her dysfunctional family and how they were so messed up they didn't notice that she was hearing voices until they told her to kill her little brother.  Riddler told a story about robbing a monastery and getting caught by Batman who was disguised as a guru. Killer Croc tells about being heckled by a man while he was wrestling  alligators, so he grabbed the man and pulled him in. Of course the gator chewed him to bits.

Samantha tells how in her previous life she was accused of being a witch. She was innocent but after being tortured she confessed anyway. While being burned at the stake she pronounced a curse on her killers. She has now been reborn and remembers the face of each of them, and is convinced Greg is one of them.  During this story Vox has released Charaxes, who attacks the group. Croc beats him down and then Joker delivers the knockout blow. Then we get to read Scarecrow's story about a family who had the devil in their basement. The devil was upset at the lack of fear in the world, so he made everyone in the house afraid. The parents were afraid their kids would get run over, so they locked them in their room. The husband was afraid the wife would leave so he chained her to a wardrobe. The wife was afraid the husband would leave so she handcuffed him to her. The dogs were afraid no one would feed them so they ate the parents.

This leaves the Joker. He tells about killing a crowd of people using acid paintballs. Of course this brings Batman and Robin. Joker has a plan for them though. He doses them with non-lethal gas. He then stabs Robin to death while Batman can only stand by laughing. They ask Greg who scared him the most and he says they all did. They surround him then everything goes black. The guards arrive to find the two dead guards, Greg and Charaxes. They say it must have been Charaxes who got out and killed the guards. Cut to a week later and Greg's fiancee is asking the warden to let her see him. He reluctantly agrees and we see Greg, naked drooling and smiling madly chained in a cell. His story tellers have carves lines into his body and their names into the sections. He thinks to himself that now they call him the Jigsaw Man.

I appreciate what they were trying to do with this book, but honestly they missed the mark. They told each story with a different art style, but rather than making each story a distinct part of the whole, it came across as jarring. Especially the Riddler's story which was drawn like a bad Sergio Aragones rip-off. The stories weren't scary and some like Riddler's and Joker's didn't even make sense. I don't know why the guards would assume Charaxes was responsible for all the mayhem when the others had carved their names into Greg. It would seem obvious from this that they had been out of their cells at some point. Greg seemed sane enough to carry out a monologue of the narrative in his head, and explain that he is now the Jigsaw Man, but his appearance in the last panel makes this seem unlikely. Overall, this just felt a bit rushed. It had potential to be interesting, but just missed the mark. It's a shame, because this could have been a book like Spider-Man's Tangled Web that took us into the world of the villains, but instead they chose to make a quickie one-off. It was the 90's, so that's not surprising. And in the end they already had the Legends of the Dark Knight book, so they probably didn't need another Batman book cluttering up the comic shop shelves. Still, I just can't but think of what could have been.



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