Batman has been admitted to Arkham Asylum, or as Scarecrow would like it to be known as, the Crane Center for Health and Wellness, and the prognosis isn't that good. A panel of doctors have concluded that more extreme measures need to be taken to cure the "Bat-Man's" insanity... and when the doctors are Mr. Freeze, Harley Quinn, Pyg and the Merrymaker, all under the effect of Gothtopia, their ideal solutions aren't too good... lots of cutting open involved.
Luckily for Batman, he knows Arkham like the back of his hand, remember Batman Annual #2 where he tested Arkham's security systems? Well, he also planted a backdoor entrance in them, so little by little, he disables the security, knocks out the guards, and tries to work up an antidote to the toxin, but always returns to his cell, so no one knows what he's been up to.
Bruce is running out of time, though. A visit from "Catbird" has tipped him off to the doctors wanting to preform surgery on him, so with the narrow timeframe, Bruce decides to get the last ingredient he needs for the antidote, and break out of Arkham... whose got the ingredient? Poison Ivy, who was immune to the Scarecrow's toxin from the beginning.
Ivy isn't that happy to see Batman, claiming if he had listened to her to begin with, none of this would be happening, but she appreciates the chivalry, and gives Batman a kiss. Bruce does his best to shake off Ivy's effects, telling her that she needs him as much as he needs her to get out, so controlling him would be useless. While the two synthesize the antidote, Bruce learns from Ivy that Scarecrow made Gothamite's fear go away, just so he could produce a much more pure terror out of them, when their daily mundane fears are no more. So that's where Scarecrow goes every night, into Gotham, terrorizing its citizens, who are the ones that have been killing themselves.
With the antidote synthizied, Bruce puts a batch of it into the air system of the asylum, along with a sedative, knocking everyone inside out, except for Ivy and himself, who remains immune to the sedative, thanks to Ivy's kiss... Oh yeah, there's also Killer Croc, whose brain is so small and reptilian, that the toxin didn't effect him, but Bruce and Ivy take him out pretty easily, as the sedative did have a slowing effect.
The escape from Arkham isn't going to be easy though, as Scarecrow is outside waiting for Batman. Of course Bruce gives the "I'm putting an end to this" line, but Scarecrow tells his old foe he's just getting started, and Batman should ask his friends. With that, Catwoman, Batwoman and Talon all show up, under Scarecrow's direct control.
I'm really enjoying Gothtopia, it's got that weird Layman flavor, tons of guest stars, and plays with little details of previous continuity really well, a great mix for an entertaining Batman read. The contrast between Gotham and Gothtopia fun, especially for someone who likes alternate Gotham stories, only this time, it's actually in continuity. Probably should have expected it, but it was also pretty cool to see Batman and Ivy team up to such an extent, as it's a team-up that while it isn't exactly new, isn't seen too often. Then you had Layman referencing details and stories that will probably never be referenced again, like the Batman Annual, which is the stuff I'm really going to miss from him writing Batman stories.
I got a handful of things that were minor, but nevertheless, a bit bothersome.
There seemed to be a bit too much unnecessary recap of what happened last issue, Batman getting caught, admitted, etc. It's almost as if it was expected that maybe some people wouldn't have read #27, but I hardly think that'd be the case.
There's also some question of time, because it seems like once Batman gets put into his cell, he goes straight to work, but that's not the case, as it shows a flashback from 8 hours ago, where he got a visitation. So Batman was in Arkham for a quite a bit, but it's not clear until later.
When Morrison villains aren't characterized correctly, I get really bothered for some reason. Both Pyg and Flamingo were so distinct in Batman and Robin, but everything that made them who they were have seemingly been thrown out the window. Pyg is coherent and shows no signs of his PCP fueled madness, meanwhile Flamingo is talking, where last I checked, I believe he was lobotomized or something, to the point of being a pure killing machine. I guess you could make the argument of Gothtopia being Gothtopia? But Flamingo just sitting there watching surveillance cameras really made me mad.
I like Aaron Lopresti's art, but I'm not sure how I feel about Art Thibert inking him. Thibert has a pretty thin line, but I prefer Lopresti's work with heavier line work, like when Matt Ryan inked him.
The Bottom Line:
It's going to be sad to see Layman leave this title, and Gotham in general once his Eternal issues are published, but at least his last solo story has turned out to be really fun so far. This issue, while having it's minor faults here and there, sets up what is sure to be a crazy conclusion, while providing entertaining team-ups we don't get to see too often, like Batman and Ivy. Really looking forward to the conclusion, that's for sure.