An Arkham Asylum series examined behavioral health
An Arkham Asylum series took a very serious look at behavioral health care and painted the members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery in a new light.
A Batman-adjacent miniseries about arkham asylum offers a critical look at behavioral health/psychiatric treatment. Arkham City: The Order of the World (by Dan Watters and Dani Strips) devotes panels to the journal entries of Dr. Jacosta Joy, while wrestling with the ambiguity of psychiatry. Watters’ Arkhamites (known in Gotham as dangerous supervillains) are transformed into unfortunate people who deserve compassionate care. The Asylum and Gotham City become metaphors used to illuminate failures in the system for treating behavioral disorders.
The general perspective of the series on psychiatric institutions is that humanity lacks a fundamental understanding of insanity. Therefore, places like Arkham Asylum are inherently flawed. As Joy’s patients try to survive the accepted social order outside the asylum, rumors suggest Batman is dead. Worse, there’s fear toxin in the water supply. The collective efforts of the creative team emphasize the ambiguity regarding sanity and the fragility of the human mind. The series is an exercise in psychological methodologies. In particular, multiple perspectives of very different characters appear throughout.
Dr. Jacosta Joy takes on Gotham’s behavioral health complex
The miniseries also picks up loose threads from the Joker’s A-Day attack. Joy searches Gotham for her patients displaced by the destruction. The enigmatic Ten-Eyed Man helps Joy locate several of her patients. Batman’s absence is a boon to the story’s main message: surveillance of him would be the antithesis of Joy’s empathetic quest to care for and protect Arkham’s most notorious inmates.
Dr. Joy claims that psychology has made great intellectual leaps. His multi-panel reflections invoke insights from the most recent literature in psychology circles. She suggests that Arkham Asylum is a metaphor for language. The asylum must be razed forever or reinvented and rebuilt, just like the language used to talk about the treatment of misconduct. Medical jargon has changed dramatically from lunatic to mentally ill, from madhouse to hospital. Lobotomy is left aside for shock treatments. Despite this flux, some things remain constant, such as society’s willingness to isolate the mentally ill and the social habit of recoiling from madness as if it were infectious. She argues facilities that keep the mentally ill separate from the rest of society keep failing because judging sanity is a subjective art.
Most Arkham inmates just want to live in peace.
Watters and Dani combine original characters featuring established Batman villains, casting Arkhamites with psychiatric behaviors and fights that deepen the intrigue. Their genius lies in how they gain empathy for these strange heroes while retaining their most disturbing attributes. Nocturna and Dr. Phosphorous, for example, buy an apartment and aspire to live ‘like normal people’. The Doctor’s radioactive body, however, gradually poisons his next-door neighbors. Even after learning about the symptoms from their neighbors (loss of hair and teeth, skin lesions), the couple does not realize that they have caused the macabre scene. Nocturnal, a vampire opts for pig’s blood, noting that normal people live off animals. Batman’s enemy, the Man with Ten Eyes, cloisters himself and gains hidden information from him’s ‘rituals’. Dr. Double X is discovered chained in the basement while a drug dealer collects and sells energy “punches” from his energy duplicate.
It’s harder to empathize with some of the Arkham inmates, but certainly add to horrible bow From the series For example, Professor Pyg still instills fear, but his role in the series takes a turn when he tries to change the minds of his classmates instead of their faces. Pyg enlists Dr. Joy to help him run an institution where there are no locks on the doors and no tranquilizers. Pyg and Dr. No Face come up with clever ways to give each of their patients a problem to solve or help find an effective solution to their suffering. They comfort Double X with a simple hand mirror, so he still has a twin to look at when he separates from his astral double. Meanwhile, the Mad Hatter is encouraged to look for codes in the static of an extinct television.
Spinning Arkham as Gotham City’s metaphorical Doppelgänger is Watters’ way of further illustrating the subjectivity of “world order.” Overlaying a map of the Asylum on a map of Gotham, Ten-Eyed Man correctly locates the missing. Joy discovers that the locations of her patients in Gotham City spaces correspond to her usual locations within the institution. Joy finds that this order collapses once she gets caught up in how her patients make sense of things; unfortunately for her, there is a magnetism to madness’ and she finds herself overtaken by the ‘new order’ with tragic consequences.
Dani’s style is unhinged, adding to a frenetic narrative
dani’s art makes series Even better. There is a visceral quality to his work. His aptitude for sculpture is clearly expressed through his ink engravings. He carves characters out of it, playing with negative/positive space. Dave Stewart (hell boy) is the perfect choice for coloring. Stewart instinctively uses a palette that suits the tense and heavy atmosphere of Dani’s illustrations. This story is all about duality and divergence, and Dani’s style proves to be a huge contributor to that notion. Her eerie artwork feeds a lingering apprehension that makes the reader drunk on the toxic Gotham City tap water.
Readers are not provided with definitive solutions to the problem of curing people who oppose following ‘the order of the world’. arkham City, in essence, it offers just a thought experiment. The very nature of psychology is questioned. The reader is forced to wonder if behavioral health care, for all its advances, can really heal the mind. Watters and Dani want the reader to feel uncomfortable contemplating this serious social problem. The finished story satisfies the senses with this electrifying portrayal of Gotham and Arkham and it’s worth checking out.