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Arkham Asylum: Living Hell is a 6 issue limited comics series, published in 2003 and set in the Batman universe. It was written by Dan Slott and features art by Ryan Sook, Wade Von Grawbadger and Jim Royal. Like many mini-series, it has since been collected into a TPB. The series presents us with an inside look on day-to-day life in Gotham's infamous madhouse.
Batman does show up a few times in the story, but his role in it is tangential at best. The series actually focuses on two entirely new characters.
The first is Warren White, an embezzler who pleaded insanity and got sentenced to Arkham. Initially, he smugly believes that he got the better end of the deal by avoiding a prison sentence. As he gets to know his fellow "patients", however, he realizes that this is very much not the case.
While all this is going on, security guard Aaron Cash is trying to cope with a near death experience and a devastating loss. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to do that AND keep Batman's Rogue's Gallery in order at the same time. Batman might catch them, but he has to live with 'em.
What neither man realizes is that the entire asylum is about to become a part of something very, very horrifying; and that they'll both have to work together in order to come out of it alive.
Definitely not to be confused with Arkham Asylum a Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean, although both books were used as source material for a certain critically acclaimed video game.
This work contains examples of:
- Action Survivor: Aaron initially is like this until the end where he reveals that he's a genuine Badass
- Arc Words / Running Gag: "You're the worst person I've ever met."
- Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Warren and Humpty
- Bedlam House: Amazingly, it's not Arkham this time.
- Big Damn Heroes: Both of the times that Batman thwarts Jane Doe
- Body Horror:
- All the people who get possessed turn into terrifying monsters
- Warren after he gets locked in the Freezer
- What Bullock finds in the cabinet of Jason Blood.
- Chekhov's Gun: Aaron left Arkham after Killer Croc bit off his hand, only coming back when Jeremiah points out that A). he's still gutsy enough to work there, and B) as long as he keeps it vaguely under control, he can abuse the more violent inmates to his heart's content. The problem with that is though everyone though Croc had swallowed it, Junkyard Dog kept the severed hand. Since he came back, inmates were able to use it as a key!
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Warren
- Covers Always Lie: Batman is barely in the series, but that doesn't stop him from being featured on the cover of issue 1 or the cover of the TPB
- Cute Ghost Girl: who lures her murderer to his death
- Demonic Possession
- Dissonant Serenity: Warren White becomes disturbingly calm and cheerful after he finally cracks. To the point that he's not bothered by the ghost of Humpty's grandmother.
- Earn Your Happy Ending:
- Dr. Carver is dead, but Aaron is clearly on the mend and things are finally looking up for him
- Eldritch Abomination: Cthugha
- Enemy Mine: Aaron hates Warren's guts (and rightly so), but he still has to work with him in order to save everybody.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The Joker, of all people
- Of course, since it's the Joker, he might have said that just to mess with Warren.
Warren: B-but you're the Joker! You kill people!
The Joker: Yes, but I don't take their kids' college funds! *whispers* You know, I could use your head as a commode and sell it on eBay...
- Evil Albino: The Great White Shark might not be a real albino, but he certainly looks like one by the end.
- For the Evulz: What Joker wants to do the next time he escapes Arkham-- namely, kill everyone in the phone book whose name is a palindrome.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Junkyard Dog. Oddly, he seems restricted to using garbage and refuse to make his gadgets, either by his mental condition or how his "power" works.
- Go Among Mad People: The entire plot. Warren White goes into Arkham as just another White Collar Crook. A few weeks in Arkham leave him without a nose, hair, lips, or a trace of sanity - thus making him eligible to join Batman's Rogues Gallery as The Great White Shark.
- Good Is Not Nice: Jeremiah Arkham. Granted, he never was nice to begin with, but it's implied his behavior towards Warren stems from the fact that he and the asylum were among the victims of Warren's scam. There's also the judge of Warren's trial, who was disgusted with the jury actually buying Warren's insanity plea that he put Warren in Arkham indefinitely.
- Halfway Plot Switch
- Handicapped Badass: Aaron
- Heartbroken Badass: Aaron, again.
- Hybrid Monster
- Insanity Defense: If White had been more familiar with Gotham City, he might have realized that pleading insanity in that town was a terrible idea.
- It Got Worse
- It's Quiet... Too Quiet: I haven't had a full night's sleep in years... Always some idiot on the phone with some new problem... "Dr. Arkham, the Scarecrow's trying to hang himself!" "Junkyard Dog flushed something, now all the toilets are broken!" "The Joker got hold of the cleaning supplies. He's going to kill us all!" It's always something. But tonight? Nothing. Quiet as the grave.
- Irony? The asylum is being attacked by demons attempting to open a portal to hell.
- Karma Houdini: Warren White, AKA The Great White Shark. The culmination of his Start of Darkness. As he's negotiated a deal for a cushy job in Hell when he dies, he can do whatever the hell he wants while he's still alive, as he'll never be punished for any of it.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: and loads and loads of subplots to go along with them.
- Mukokuseki: A rare and deliberate Western use of this trope for Jane Doe, which sort of makes sense for her. She's got a slightly dark-ish skin tone that indicates non-caucasian heritage... or maybe she's just a bit tanned?... and her eyes are vaguely Asian-ish... but not really. She even lacks large breasts (which is surprising for this universe), which allows her to pass herself off as a dude with relative ease.
- Non-Malicious Monster: Humpty. In all the years that Batman's been around, he is possibly the first and ONLY Rogue's Gallery member that actually fits the legal definition of insanity. He had no idea he was harming anyone. He's simply too dangerous to be allowed to roam free.He is still scary though.
- The Obi-Wan: Jeremiah Arkham and Dr. Carver both take turns being this to Aaron.
- Pet the Dog: Warren saving Humpty from his Grandmother's ghost.
- Prison Rape: Subverted.
- Warren finds The Joker in the same shower area as him. The panicked Warren drops the soap... only for The Joker to politely hand it back to him and chew him out verbally for using stock frauds to take other people's kids' college funds.
- Punny Name: Doodlebug's real name? Daedelus Boch, which sort of sounds like "Doodlebug" if you put your hand over your mouth.
- Serial Killer: A few are introduced here, most notably Doodlebug and Death Rattle.
- Start of Darkness:
- Since Warren goes onto become a regular member of the Rogue's gallery, this series is technically this trope for him. Not that he wasn't already evil, he just wasn't supervillain material (or crazy) at first.
- Also, Humpty goes from being a well-meaning, model inmate at the beginning to Warren's right hand man by the end. He, like Warren, makes future appearances in DC comics.
- See You in Hell: A rare non-vengeful use. The demon Etrigan, impressed at how cleverly Warren has wheeled and dealed for himself in both Arkham and his future afterlife down below, smiles and says, "Guile and style. You'll do well. Keep in touch, I'll see you in hell."
- Stripperiffic: Poison Ivy and Miss Magpie
- Token Good Teammate: Humpty is a legitimately kind and well-meaning person (despite the horrifying behavior his good intentions lead him to)., which makes him really stand out from the other Arkham inmates, and even some of the staff.
- Villain Protagonist
- What Could Have Been: In-Universe example, Aaron is angry with himself for not asking Dr. Carver out when he had the chance