Warning: spoilers ahead for ArkhaManiacs!
Batman and Joker become best friends in ArkhaManiacs. DC Comics has explored the relationship between this iconic hero/villain pair for years. Often creators depict how twisted their dynamic can be, but in one new graphic novel from DC, a much lighter approach is taken.
DC has released a few different graphic novels for younger readers. These stories focus on familiar DC characters or help build upon the stories of less familiar ones while exploring themes for children and teens. This expansion within the comic industry of titles for young readers often allows for fun new stories to exist outside of DC’s main continuity. Some of these stories would never see daylight in a standard comic issue, which makes them all the more fun.
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ArkhaManiacs takes the idea of iconic DC villains being housed together and turns it into a fun, imaginative adventure. Typically, Batman and Joker stories are all about the Dark Knight trying to foil a zany or dastardly plot. The two try to outwit each other and stay a step ahead. However, in this graphic novel by the creative team behind Tiny Titans, Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, Bruce Wayne is just a kid and the relationship he has with Joker is all about fun and imagination.
“Brucie” Wayne is a child living at Wayne Manor with both of his parents and their butler, Alfred. Instead of Arkham Asylum, this version of Gotham features the Arkham Apartments, which are kept secure by the apartment complex supervisor, James Gordon. Iconic Arkham residents are included such as Bane, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and Clayface, though none are as friendly as the Joker who is seen being very optimistic and sociable. He is so sociable, that when Bruce Wayne and Alfred visit the apartments, the two frequent foes actually end up becoming friends. This shift in Batman and Joker’s dynamic is absolutely adorable. Instead of plotting laughing gas poisoning of the entire city, the Clown Prince of Crime tries to help his other residents be comfortable. Instead of trying to kill his foe, Joker teaches Bruce how to use his imagination and they have fun playing at the residents’ pool. Although, considering how much delusion tends to be associated with Arkham and based on their previous dynamics – this could almost seem like Joker’s most effective plan yet.
Brucie Wayne isn’t brooding or lonely and he isn’t lacking for anything once he meets his new friends. By welcoming him, befriending him, and even opening Brucie’s mind to what Arkham can be, he may have finally succeeded in preventing Batman from ever beating him – at least in this universe. Since the caped crusader and Joker are almost always at odds and with Gotham being so corrupt a city, this alternate view of the two characters feels very refreshing. Batman and Joker have managed to work together in some stories and the alternate universes Bruce finds himself in aren’t always as nice as they initially seem. Even the Lego Batman Movie focuses on a hero/villain dynamic for the pair. However, ArkhaManiacs manages to show a world where everything does seem to work out – where Batman and Joker actually can co-exist, not as enemies, but as best friends.
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