Review - Batman The Maxx: Arkham Dreams #1 (@IDWPublishing @DCComics)

"What caused this dark toxic cloud to haunt the outback?"

Everyone handles adversity differently. Some people meditate while others find physical means of expressing their stress (or even do karaoke death metal). In Batman The Maxx: Arkham Dreams #1 from IDW Publishing and DC Comics, Batman and The Maxx are forced to deal with the adversity of The Outback by using every tool at their disposal. The issue is written and illustrated by Sam Kieth (plot assist by John Layman), colored by Ronda Pattison and lettered by Shawn Lee.

A devious new doctor at Arkham Asylum is conducting unconventional experiments into the human psyche, and he kicks off a chain reaction of disaster when he experiments on Arkham's newest patient, The Maxx! The city of Gotham is starting to merge with The Maxx's psychedelic mental landscape, known as the Outback, blurring the line between real and unreal. It's up to Batman to save not just Gotham, but all of reality, and he and The Maxx are going to have to travel through some of the darkest places imaginable-the twisted minds of Batman's greatest enemies!

The Maxx has always been one of those unsung heroes of comic book characters and a lot of that is owed to Kieth's simplistic yet imaginative take on the character. Pairing him with (or pitting him against) Batman in Batman The Maxx: Arkham Dreams #1 is a brilliant story decision that Kieth recognizes largely based on the fact that both characters seem to have a very abstract approach to life. The Maxx revels in the Outback which is sort of a delusional alternative reality that one could argue is an extremely fitting way to describe the inner workings of Batman's mind. Kieth's script is certainly dense with exposition explaining the Outback to unfamiliar readers in a way that also gets to the detective nature of Batman. And it's only towards the end of the issue that the reader begins to grasp the full deviousness of Kieth's overarching narrative in the way he plans to weave the Outback together with the psyches of Batman's Rogues Gallery.

Kieth's loose artistic approach is the perfect fit for the issue and its approach. The Maxx is illustrated with the brutish appearance that fans are expecting while Batman is illustrated as something of a contortion of his normally buff physique. The juxtaposition between the two characters' physiques is striking and Kieth uses it to great effect to convey an almost gross distortion of their established body images. Kieth embraces a startling fluidity in his artwork that seems to have the characters constantly changing appearance in adapting to the Outback much in the way that the Outback itself forces the inhabitants to change. Pattison's colors are washed out and attribute a psychedelic sense to the artwork that further bolsters it's surrealist approach.

Batman The Maxx: Arkham Dreams #1 is a deep and brilliant first issue that gets to the core of Batman through the core of The Maxx. The unlikely duo have a lot in common and watching them play off of one another is thoroughly enjoyable. Kieth's script is intense in a way that plays on the mental strengths (and weaknesses) of its main characters. Kieth's artwork is a fascinating style that is unsettling in just the right ways. Batman The Maxx: Arkham Dreams #1 is a great first issue that sets up what will be an equally great series.

Batman The Maxx: Arkham Dreams #1 is available now.