Thursday, 6 August 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight - The Riddler's Gambit by Alex Irvine (Titan Books)

I turn my attention to one of the two Batman: Arkham Knight related novels, The Riddler’s Gambit, set in the same universe as the Arkham games, written by Alex Irvine and published by Titan Books, this book acts as a prequel to the video game. Both the game and The Riddler’s Gambit are currently available to buy.

The Joker's death has left a void in the Gotham City underworld--a void the Riddler seeks to fill in the deadliest way possible. Creating a path of death and destruction, the criminal mastermind places Batman and Robin in an unwinnable scenario, with the clock ticking down the moments to disaster.

The Riddler is one of my favourite Batman villains, and he recently gained some notable exposure in the Zero Year arc of the main Batman comic from Scott Snyder. I don’t know how much he’ll focus in Arkham Knight itself as I haven’t been paying very much attention to Xbox One/PS4 exclusive games, but considering that I should be getting one of these two consoles in the next couple of weeks or so, I certainly hope that Edward Nygma will feature prominently. I’d prefer him to play a more direct role in the plot then be limited to side missions this time around, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see. But even if we don’t get that in Arkham Knight (no spoilers, please, I haven’t yet played the game), The Riddler’s Gambit serves as a fun way to put the Riddler in the spotlight, because if you remember in Arkham City, the Joker died, right? No more arch nemesis for Batman and a criminal underworld without a figurehead. And Batman hasn’t been seen in a while, either. It’s where we jump in to Riddler’s Gambit, which feels very much like part of the game itself, as any good tie-in novel should, drawing readers in and having them hooked right from the start, and if you want to read more about the Arkham world in prose format, you can’t go far wrong with The Riddler’s Gambit.

The Riddler’s Gambit serves as a welcoming treat for all fans of Batman and his rogues gallery. We have multiple villains but also multiple protagonists, for example, Robin (Tim Drake), who only cameoed in the main Arkham City game (and was playable in his own expansion) gets a significant part of the story here as the book spends time between Batman and Robin chapters, with the dynamic duo getting plenty to do and working together well. The book also serves as an example as to how the media view Batman, and we get a look into how he’s viewed both positively and negatively by articles on blogs and newspapers that separate chapters, told from the likes of Jack Ryder, Vicki Vale and more, as Irvine manages to utilise the rich cast to the most of his ability without feeling they’re shoehorned in. This book doesn’t suffer from the problems that can come with a lot of villains, as the Arkham games have handled this in a way that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 failed to accomplish. It reads well and does about everything you’d expect from a tie-in.

However, The Riddler’s Gambit suffers from a few problems. There are a couple of continuinty errors that I noticed and it will probably annoy fans of the Arkham games as well, and sometimes, the villain’s voices sound a little too similar, and not really as distinctive as I would have hoped, even if the characters themselves are still mostly handled well and given plenty of page-time. But those are really the only two minor problems that I had with this book because The Riddler’s Gambit otherwise allows for an action packed read with a lightning fast pace that as a result makes this novel feel very similar to a summer blockbuster, you’ll get through it pretty quickly and you’ll enjoy it, but it won’t exactly be anything that will blow you away.

The book also handles the relationship between Batman and Robin well, and it’s something that is great to see for fans wanting more Tim Drake (it’s worth pointing out that Tim Drake is my favourite Robin – Dick Grayson would be, but he works far better as Nightwing). The amount of stuff that Robin gets to do in this book should keep readers content, and I hope he gets more than just a mention in the game itself. Barbara Gordon fans should be happy with Oracle’s inclusion, so there’s plenty there that makes this book something that fans will enjoy, even if The Riddler’s Gambit may not be perfect.

It’s also worth noting that I’m probably going to hold off reviewing the Arkham Knight novelization until I’ve played the game (which should hopefully be before the year’s end), as I don’t want to be spoiled by any major plot twists as I’ve remained spoiler free so far. So you’re going to have to wait for that review to crop up, but it will make an appearance once I’ve finished the novel. But for now, The Riddler’s Gambit is something that you should check out if you’re an Arkham fan looking to get some more adventures focused on Gotham’s dynamic duo.


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