Following the events of the first two issues of Forever Evil—Batman, Nightwing and Red Robin taken off the board, the world's super-criminals all freed to run riot, worldwide blackouts, a permanent eclipse of the sun—the denizens of Arkham have split Gotham City between themselves, under the kinda-sort leadership of Secret Society of Super-Villains go-between The Scarecrow and the new mayor of Gotham City, The Penguin.
It's going to be the sane criminals versus the criminally insane criminals, basically.
This isn't the first time that the regular, old, not-so-colorful criminals of Blackgate came into conflict with the maniacal theme villains of Arkham Asylum, of course. It's likely to be a lot more violent (and long) though, as the last Blackgate vs. Arkham war was fought on a softball diamond.
|Kyle Baker's cover for Showcase '94 #4|
The story takes place shortly after the events of the big "Knightfall" crossover, in which Bane blew open the doors of Arkham Asylum, armed the inmates and let them tire Batman out for him. It worked, and Bane defeated Batman and broke his back—only to have one of Batman's many allies, Jean-Paul Valley, put on a bat-suit and some high-tech claw gauntlets, and beat him into a near vegetative state.
This story, narrated by Grant's Jeremiah Arkham character, details where the Arkham inmates went while the asylum was being rebuilt. Against their wishes, his wishes and those of Blackgate warden Governor Zehrhard and those of all of the Blackgate prison population, they are to be kept at Blackgate.
Here's the cast of inmates Grant and Sale were working with:
(It's probably also worth noting that of the 11 inmates mentioned there, Grant co-created four of them).
For the most part, these guys are safe enough to be around that they aren't handcuffed or shackled on the way there, and Arkham and others mix more or less freely among them. The current fashion is to treat everyone Batman fights as a hardcore serial killer, but Grant writes and wrote many of these guys as merely colorful criminals with bad-wiring that lead to their quirks and incarceration (That is probably even more evident in this particular story, given that the Arkham inmates are the "heroes" of the story, of a sort, and it's more of a dark, humor piece than a crime or horror story).
It doesn't go well, at first:
It helps that they've all got...unusual talents.
Firefly's proves a pretty good outfielder:
I expect a much bigger body count and much fewer sports action in Forever Evil: Arkham War. Sadly, I don't think we can expect to see art quite as good as that of a younger, less experienced and confident Tim Sale, and darker, muddier coloring than that provided by Bernie Mireault.
Here are some of my other favorite images from the story, both involving my favorite Bat-villain, who Sale would go on to perfect a version of in his various "Year One" era collaborations with writer Jeph Loeb.
As Sarter threatens to kill himself in the cafeteria, The Scarecrow eggs him on, oblivious to The Mad Hatter's designs on his juice: