Note: Read the note I left on the Detective Comics Annual spoiler post!
Eric Border is Arkham's newest orderly, and on his first night, Batman is turning himself in for lock up, but two hours prior, he's given he grand tour of the facility, see's many of the inmates, but the tour passes over a dark corridor that holds a woman known as the Anchoress.
So why is Batman turning himself in? To help test the new security in Arkham's entirely computer operated wing. Humans can be bribed and manipulated, so this wing is operated by machine only, and has insane security measures. While Batman begins to make a mockery of these security measures, Dr. Arkham tells Eric to go make use of himself.
Believing that no inmate should be forgotten, Eric meets with the Anchoress, a woman who has been in Arkham for hundreds of years. Her parents were scientists of sorts, and a fight that broke out when they arranged a wedding for her, lead to some chemicals being spilled, explosions, dead parents, and the Anchoress' molecular structure being changed to the point where she's been able to live this long. Feeling guilt for what she had done, Anchoress committed herself to Arkham, and saw it as her sanctuary, but something changed that… Batman.
Batman started bringing evil to the sanctuary of Arkham, and the evil ruined the peace she sought, and left her to be forgotten while attention was drawn elsewhere. She knows Batman is there tonight, and exhibits her powers to manipulate cells and molecules, phasing through the walls.
Anchoress seeks out Batman, wanting to rid herself of him permanently, and let all of the inmates out so her sanctuary can be pure again. When she finds Batman, he ends up getting caught by some of the security devices, and since the Asylum is in lockdown, he quite a bit of trouble getting out. We learn that the two had a run in during Zero Year, while Bruce broke into the Asylum to look up the Red Hood gang. Bruce wasn't Batman at the time, but she knew it was the intruder she saw that night who would become Batman and ruin the Asylum. Anchoress enters Batman's mind in a way, just manipulating it to project herself inside of it. She aims to lock Batman into his own hell, ruining the sanctuary of his mind via her invasion, the way he ruined her sanctuary. Batman is plagued by visions of his parents, brother (maybe) and son, all of which he could not save.
Of course, Batman eventually overcomes the invasion and breaks free, and Anchoress is subdued temporarily by Eric and the woman who gave him the tour. Anchoress eventually breaks free and chases Batman to the roof, where she breaks down, crying, pounding on Batman's chest. Eric finds them and pleads with Batman to not do anything to her, and recognize she's just a sickly old woman. Batman agrees and moves on. With the situation dealt with, and the Anchoress given a more humane cell and the promise of treatment, Eric and the other Arkham worker sit down in the break room where Eric expresses that he still believes Arkham can be a place for hope.
The Good:I thought this was an interesting one and done issue, with an equally interesting take on an Arkham inmate, who actually wants to be in the Asylum, with no other motives other than seeking peace. I don't think I've ever seen that before. I also thought Marguerite Bennett did a great job on this. She was able to establish who the Anchoress was, her motivations and voice all within one issue (albeit, a longer issue) which isn't the easiest thing to do.
The Bad:It's small, but the multiple inkers sort of distracted me a bit. I like Wes Craig's stuff a lot, but there were five other inkers (not including Craig himself) and some were better than others, which lead to a lack of consistency on some pages.
Would have liked more of a tie to Zero Year, but oh well, Batman #23 hits in two weeks.