Arkham Asylum is an integral part of the Batman books, and a recently revealed detail changes everything about its relationship with Gotham City.
Warning! Spoilers ahead too Arkham City: The Order of the World # 2!
While Arkham Asylum has long been an institution by and large Batman myth, its meaning tends to fluctuate as different creative teams have their run of the character and his world. As Arkham Asylum now stands destroyed and dilapidated after the events of A-Day, the inmates have fled and have their escape from Gotham during the events in Fear State. Amidst all the chaos, DC has revealed a dark theory that recontextualizes Batman’s story and his relationship to his gallery of scoundrels.
IN Arkham City: The Order of the World # 2 by Dan Waters and Dani, the former Arkham employee Dr. Jacosta Joy houses the escaped Ten-Eyed Man as she continues her quest to find her patients who are still missing after the events of A-Day. Meanwhile, GCPD detective Stone continues to follow up on clues regarding the mad hatter and the victims he has left behind. Dr. Joy talks to Ten-Eyed Man, who explains Arkham Asylum’s unique relationship with Gotham City, and by using this relationship, he tips Dr. Joy about where an Arkham patient has been held. Before the patient can be safely rescued, Azrael strikes and injures both the patient and Detective Stone.
Ten-Eyed Man explains Dr. Joy, that long ago, when Amadeus Arkham founded his asylum, he first looked out from his stately mansion and saw Gotham’s disease running wild through the city. In response, Amadeus reportedly rebuilt his home, not just to function as a mental hospital, but also to serve as a model for Gotham itself. Allegedly, this allowed Arkham not only to keep Gotham mentally unstable, but also to capture and limit its evil and disease. Although this initially seems incredibly far out for Dr. Joy, she still trusts Ten-Eyed Man’s tips. When she sees Ten-Eyed Man’s cobbled map of Gotham, his story actually seems to be true, as the asylum’s floor plan fits almost perfectly over Gotham.
If Amadeus Arkham really constructed his asylum in a way that reflects the city’s evils, it drastically redefines Batman’s history and his relationship with his enemies. While Batman’s presence and inspiration are often blamed for the existence of his disguised enemies, this new theory suggests that these villains, or as disturbed people as them, would have appeared anyway. If Gotham is an asylum, it needs patients to house, Batman or no Batman. Arkham Asylum captures the worst at Gotham, disguised villains or something. Furthermore, this theory gives the Joker an even stronger connection to the city. Gotham may be Batman’s City, but the asylum is almost always portrayed as the Joker’s domain. Batman rules the Gotham of hope and progress, while the Joker rules its dark mirror in Arkham. Batman’s villains are no longer merely a reflection of only his faults, they have become analogous to the evil and corruption that plagues all of Gotham’s citizens.
While for many, Arkham Asylum is simply the dumping ground where Batman deposits his defeated enemies, Arkham City: The Order of the World # 2 shows that the asylum is more than a mental hospital, it is a dark reflection of Gotham itself, and like Joker is the dark heart of the asylum, Batman is the guardian who protects Gotham from his darker self.
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