Arkham City Part 18: Protocol 10

By Shamus
on May 25, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

Catwoman lifts the magic boulder off of Batman and he gets back to work. As he exits the steel mill, we get our first look at Protocol 10 in action. It’s horrible and spectacular. A dozen or so helicopters are sweeping over the city, firing machine guns and missiles at clustered inmates. The carnage is terrible.

Batman should be compelled to put a stop to this, but he’s going crazy thinking about his superfriend with benefits in the hands of Joker. He wants to run off and save her. Alfred and Oracle have to actually cut him off from the Bat-computer until he agrees to start acting like a superhero and stop Protocol 10.

Batman emerges to see helicopters blasting the crap out of the city. He`s holding his hand to his ear because he`s on the phone with Oracle and I guess the headphones inside the Bat-mask are really crappy.

Batman emerges to see helicopters blasting the crap out of the city. He`s holding his hand to his ear because he`s on the phone with Oracle and I guess the headphones inside the Bat-mask are really crappy.

Taken in isolation, I’m okay with this character moment. I’m willing to believe that Batman has moments of weakness. The problem is that this character beat makes no sense in terms of how Batman behaves later. This moment is fundamentally incompatible with some other scenes we’re going to see in less than an hour. Those scenes are part of the Joker plot, which makes me think that two different people were writing the Joker and Strange plots. In fact, this would explain most of my problems with this story.

Once he gets his priorities straight, Batman jumps onto one of the helicopters and swipes the access codes for the security zone where Strange and his Tyger guards are based. These helicopters have been patrolling the city all nightDid you know that in the early stages of the game you could blast them with the REC to piss them off and make them chase you around? No? Well, you’re not missing anything. But it’s kinda fun to prank them and swoop away., which means – based on what the game shows us – he could have done this at literally any point tonight. All he has to do is nab the code, hack the front door, and climb the tower. It’s not even a big deal.

Hi, Remember Me?

Hello again Batman. Allow me to re-explain my goals and motivations in one exposition dump, since I`ve been missing from the story since the opening credits.

Hello again Batman. Allow me to re-explain my goals and motivations in one exposition dump, since I`ve been missing from the story since the opening credits.

Once he gets into the security zone, Hugo Strange confronts Batman via the prison television system and talks about his goals. This is important, since right now he’s the main villain and we basically haven’t heard from him since the opening cutscene. Encountering Strange doesn’t feel like a long-awaited confrontation. It feels like cramming for a test you totally forgot about until the last minute. “Oh right! I’m supposed to be stopping this guy.”

Strange puts forth the notion that Batman is the reason Gotham is overflowing with psycho mass-murderers. “Your presence creates these criminals,” he says. This is very similar to the claim made by Vision in Captain America: Civil War:

“I’m saying there may be a causality. Our very strength invites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict… breeds catastrophe.”

In a meta-sense, this is obviously true. We make supervillains so our superheroes have someone to punch in the face. If we accept the notion that superhero stories are empowerment fantasies where we rage against the cruelty and injustice of the world by personifying those evils as villains with punchable faces, then a superhero does indeed require a good supervillain to make for a good story.

But from an in-universe perspective, this is obviously nonsense. Batman doesn’t cause decent people to turn to crime. That’s like suggesting that criminals commit crimes specifically and exclusively because they want to fight the police.

But of course, this twisted perspective works fine coming from Hugo Strange. In fact, it makes a lot of sense, since he considers himself an unappreciated superhero. He also seems to imagine that other heroes are in it for the glory and power, because that’s what motivates him.

Batman’s answer is perfect. He says nothing. No one-liners. No counterpoint. He’s just quietly waiting until Strange shuts up. Compare this with “blabbermouth Batman” from earlier in the evening. (When we were still in the Joker plot.)

This scene is so good, and there’s so much you could do with this particular idea. The stuff Strange is saying is so fresh compared to doing a “Joker poisons Gotham” plot for the 1,000th time. It’s a shame we wasted so much time on the Joker story. Strange could have made for such an interesting foil. The writer could have used him to ask questions about why Bruce puts on the Bat-suit every night, how he thinks he’s doing, and if he’s ever wondered if he’s doing the right thingYes, comic book fans, I’m sure you’ve heard those questions a dozen times by now. But that was in the comics. When it comes to movies and games, Joker is a joke being told for the tenth time, and Hugo Strange is a breath of fresh air.. We could have learned more about Strange and his Bat-envy. There’s so much you could do with a properly-developed rivalry between these two.

But no. We spent all night chasing Joker. Sigh.

Mastery!

I try to give you clear, clean screenshots to look at, but sometimes the game just misbehaves. This is a major set-piece confrontation, and we`ve got a tutorial message above Batman, more tutorial below him, a LEVEL UP message at the top, a save notification in the corner, and a couple of dudes glitching into each other on the right.

I try to give you clear, clean screenshots to look at, but sometimes the game just misbehaves. This is a major set-piece confrontation, and we`ve got a tutorial message above Batman, more tutorial below him, a LEVEL UP message at the top, a save notification in the corner, and a couple of dudes glitching into each other on the right.

While Strange rambles on about his plans, Tyger guards file into the room in groups, gradually surrounding Batman. If you’ve ever seen the elevator scene in Captain America: Winter soldier, this is a bit like that. It’s a slow, tense build-up to a massive brawl.

This is actually one of the hardest fights in the game for new players, and also a great illustration of just how much mastery this game has to offer. On my first time through the game I was playing on easy difficulty, and this fight was brutal. After three or four deaths, I finally squeaked through with just a sliver of health. On a later playthrough I was on normal difficulty, but by this point I’d come so far that the fight wasn’t even a big deal. Just before doing this write-up I went through on hard and was disappointed that I took a tiny bit of damage during the fight.

One of the reasons the fight is such a meatgrinder for new players is that this is your first time encountering guys with stun batons. This is the first enemy type that can damage you when you attack it head-on. Other foes (like shield guys) might break your combo if you’re a little too punch-happy, but these guys damage you, stunlock you, blind the player with a half-second of electricity distortion, and break your combo. That’s a serious punishment for making a mistake, and the player has never faced this kind of thing before.

Depending on your playstyle, all of your existing muscle memory may need to change, because your previous techniques are now bad habits that can cause you to kill yourself by repeatedly attacking the wrong guysIf you use a lot of gadgets, this is probably less frustrating. You don’t take damage when you fling batarangs at these guys, just when you punch..

I think a few more practice fights earlier on (or fewer batons in this brawl) would have made this less painful on that first playthrough. The baton guys are barely used. By the time you encounter them, you’re nearly done with the game. Which makes this doubly frustrating. You suddenly have to master a new enemy type, in the middle of an already challenging fight, and just about the time you’re getting the hang of it they vanish forever. Even if you keep playing post-credits to wrap up all the sidequests, you’re not going to meet any more of them.

The Strange Plan

Hugo is giving us exposition to catch up the entire Protocol 10 plot, because it`s been sidelined all night.

Hugo is giving us exposition to catch up the entire Protocol 10 plot, because it`s been sidelined all night.

How rushed is the Hugo Strange storyline? He reveals his big plan to his troops while we’re already on our way to stop him. Here we’re doing a stealth section and Hugo exposits over half of it. And we’re just a few minutes from our showdown with him.

On the way up Wonder Tower, we get our first hint of what Hugo’s long-term plan is. Hugo gives a speech to his troops and congratulates them for the destruction going on just outside. Again, the structure in this game is so strangeNo pun intended.. This is so late in the story to begin building up our villain. We spent 90% of the game not knowing what Protocol 10 was, and now in the last couple of scenes the writer has to establish the stakes, the antagonist’s goals, and his personal motivations.

The problem isn’t, “Batman wasted his time for 90% of the game”. The problem is that the writer wasted 90% of the running time.

Once Batman deals with the guards at the base of the tower, Strange begins threatening him over the PA system. Strange promises that once Batman is dead, he’s going to go to Wayne manor and drag Alfred into the streets to humiliate him. And yet Hugo doesn’t mention Robin, who I’m pretty sure has stopped existing at this point.

Protocol 10 is a plan which involves bombing the entire area into rubble to kill every single inmate within Arkham City. Dr. Strange seems to think that this will make him a hero. People will be so glad to have these creeps dead that his efforts will be celebrated. He’s planning to open new facilities in other major citiesIncluding Metropolis. Yeah Hugo, good luck opening an enormous murder-prison in the city protected by SUPERMAN. Doofus. once the dust settles here in Gotham. For him, this is the first phase of a large plan to rid the world of crime.

Is he correct that he will be celebrated as a hero, or delusional? Because in this universe it’s sort of plausible. In Gotham we have a never-ending supply of completely remorseless, violent, unrepentant murderers who can never be dissuaded or deterred by any level of rehabilitation or punishment. They’re strong, they can’t be reformed, and they gravitate towards jobs serving mass-murdering supervillains, who they will obey without question. They frequently outmatch the police, heal from brutal injuries, and regularly escape from prison. (And that’s assuming you can get the corrupt and overworked police to do anything at all.) Their actions frequently lead to things like huge explosions, mass mind control, large hostage situations, and chemical attacks. Joker and his peers regularly kill people by the dozens, and on some nights (like tonight) they kill by the thousandsI’m thinking of Joker infecting Gotham’s blood supply in this case.. It’s a miracle anyone lives in Gotham at all, given that it’s probably about as dangerous as a literal warzone.

There have been a LOT of explosions in Arkham City tonight. Joker blew up the church loft. Penguin blew up the bridge, and then he blew up the entire floor of the Iceberg Lounge. (It got better.) Harley blew up a wall to rob the GCPD safe. Joker`s goons blew up Vicky Vale`s helicopter. Then the Tyger helicopters blew up a bunch of random crap. Later Wonder Tower will explode. And that`s not counting all the small-scale demolitions Batman performs using his explosive gel.

There have been a LOT of explosions in Arkham City tonight. Joker blew up the church loft. Penguin blew up the bridge, and then he blew up the entire floor of the Iceberg Lounge. (It got better.) Harley blew up a wall to rob the GCPD safe. Joker`s goons blew up Vicky Vale`s helicopter. Then the Tyger helicopters blew up a bunch of random crap. Later Wonder Tower will explode. And that`s not counting all the small-scale demolitions Batman performs using his explosive gel.

Gotham seems to experience more bombings and chemical attacks in a year than the rest of the western world combined. In a world like that, you can easily imagine that when people talk about being “tough on crime”, they’re willing to include things like aerial bombardment.

Then again, it’s clear we’re not supposed to take the setting too literally. Just as Batman can slam dudes face-first into the pavement and never kill anyone, Gotham can endure repeated supervillain attacks without ever seeing a drop in population, full-blown economic collapse, a refugee crisis, a complete collapse of local government, starvation, disease, a complete failure of infrastructure, or any of the other hallmarks of sustained devastation. No matter how many people are killed by Scarecrow, Penguin, Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Bane, Zsasz, and the other freaks, everyone still gets up in the morning and goes to work. Everyone still goes out at night for socializing and entertainment. The lights stay on, police continue to do their jobs, and the government never goes broke.

The goons of Gotham are a renewable resource. Joker, Penguin, and Two-face regularly suffer serious attrition among their forces. Lots of goons die just trying to join. Of those that survive, many die fighting against the goons of rival supervillains. Of those that survive that, many die in the process of pulling jobs and escaping the police. Still more die as a result of accidents, pranks, super-science experiments, strategic sacrifices, infighting, and opposition from would-be heroes who don’t have Batman’s compunctions about killing. Since crime never goes down in Gotham, we can only assume there must be a metaphorical mook spigot somewhere spewing out a never-ending stream of goons to replace those lost. Which means Hugo Strange’s plan is doomed because next year there would be a fresh crop of goons to replace the ones he killed this year.

What I’m saying is that superhero worlds always get a little wobbly when you look at them too closely. When you start talking about trying to “fix” problems that are built into the setting it’s not at all clear what’s possible and what isn’t, because you’re examining things that aren’t designed to stand up to scrutiny. Asking about where mooks come from or how the city is still standing is kinda like asking why people don’t recognize Superman when he’s wearing glasses. It’s just one of those things we’re expected to roll with.

I love the ascent up Wonder Tower. It reminds me of the end of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, when you climb to these ridiculous heights to reach your foe.

I love the ascent up Wonder Tower. It reminds me of the end of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, when you climb to these ridiculous heights to reach your foe.

But even if we assume Hugo will indeed be celebrated as a hero for leveling Arkham City and killing its inhabitants, I think his plan is still ridiculousWhich is fine. He’s comic-book crazy. He’s allowed to have nutty plans because he’s got good character-based reasons for believing they will work... Is he going to pull the exact same trick next time? Is he planning to close off a section of (say) Coast City, empty the local prison into it, surreptitiously hand out guns, and then bomb the place into dust with attack helicopters? Is he going to pretend that the inmates “accidentally” got guns the second or third time he pulls this scheme?

Or maybe he thinks that Protocol 10 will loosen up the restrictions of law enforcement? Maybe he thinks that after he kills these hundreds of criminals, the public will unite behind him and he won’t need to pull a Protocol 10 next time he wants to kill some “criminal scum”.

It’s hard to say. This plot thread was given so little time to develop. Once the introduction was over, the entire Protocol 10 story was paused while Batman screwed around with the Joker for ten hours, and now we have to un-bury the main plot and shove it out on stage in time for the finale.

If this plot was less perfunctory, then maybe we could spend more time exploring it. We could talk to some of the political prisoners and see why they thought the prison was a good idea. We could eavesdrop of goons and Tyger guards and get their take on crime in Gotham. Oracle could weigh in.

I’m not suggesting we needed a Socratic debate. I’m just saying this plot would have more teeth if we understood the rules of the world and what people were thinking. I’m willing to accept the idea of a mook-spigotNot a LITERAL mook spigot, mind you. and the other contrivances and givens of the setting, but the writer never articulates a counterpoint to Strange’s position. This whole thing feels like an interesting idea that’s been hacked down to a stump.

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Footnotes:

[1] Did you know that in the early stages of the game you could blast them with the REC to piss them off and make them chase you around? No? Well, you’re not missing anything. But it’s kinda fun to prank them and swoop away.

[2] Yes, comic book fans, I’m sure you’ve heard those questions a dozen times by now. But that was in the comics. When it comes to movies and games, Joker is a joke being told for the tenth time, and Hugo Strange is a breath of fresh air.

[3] If you use a lot of gadgets, this is probably less frustrating. You don’t take damage when you fling batarangs at these guys, just when you punch.

[4] No pun intended.

[5] Including Metropolis. Yeah Hugo, good luck opening an enormous murder-prison in the city protected by SUPERMAN. Doofus.

[6] I’m thinking of Joker infecting Gotham’s blood supply in this case.

[7] Which is fine. He’s comic-book crazy. He’s allowed to have nutty plans because he’s got good character-based reasons for believing they will work..

[8] Not a LITERAL mook spigot, mind you.


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  1. Matt Downie says:

    His long-term plan certainly isn’t plausible in a real-world context with normal criminals.

    If everything works out as intended, this is what people think:

    1 He was put in charge of setting up a prison.
    2 The inmates got their hands on lots of explosives and assault rifles.
    3 He responded by slaughtering everyone in there, irrespective of whether they were actually endangering the public.

    Even in a world where step 3 is acceptable, I’m pretty sure step 2 would disqualify you from running any more prisons.

    • Retsam says:

      I haven’t played the game, but perhaps a more reasonable-seeming sequence of events is:

      1. Admittedly dubious circumstances lead to all the criminals in Gotham being slaughtered.
      2. Gotham becomes a criminal-free utopia
      3. Seeing the results in Gotham, people become open to the idea of murdering criminals, and widespread criminal-murder programs are enacted. (Not necessarily by Strange personally)

      I think both steps 2 and 3 have some serious issues with them, but I could see how this sort of plan might seem reasonable to a particular sort of individual. It’s a strange plan, but who am I to judge?

      It reminds me of Deathnote, quite a bit, actually.

      • John says:

        See, in a sane universe (or even the one we live in) your Step 1 there would result in the person or persons responsible for the prison getting hauled in front of some sort of commission or board of inquiry. Depending on how outraged people were, they might even be subject to criminal investigation or prosecution. So it’s hard for me to see how Steps 2 and 3 would follow if this were a sane universe. But of course it isn’t. This is a comic-book universe where Strange’s whole “turn a few city blocks into a free-range, open-air, privately-administered prison” somehow got the go-ahead in the first place. Can you imagine? This world runs on author fiat, not plausibility. So, yeah, you might be right. Strange might even be right. The populace of comic-book America is exactly as dumb as the plot demands.

        • Retsam says:

          I don’t think it’s that hard for Strange to imagine getting away with secretly supplying guns to the criminals. Certainly in a sane universe there’d be an investigation, but it might be hard to find evidence linking it to Strange once you’ve murdered the witnesses and bombed the scene of the crime.

          But even if Strange personally gets caught; he might be hoping that the ends would justify the means in the public eye, and that the whole idea will move forward of its own momentum, even if he’s out of the picture because he gets caught.

        • Xeorm says:

          There’s also the consideration that in this universe the criminals are very competent and very dangerous. Failure to contain them properly is almost to be expected, rather than a serious mark against the person in charge.

    • Ciennas says:

      Of course, there were a few explanations for some of it. Strange might even be allowed to walk like Quincy did in the previous game.

      1) Ra’s and his entire shadowy network of ninjas, spies, extortionators and other blackworks League of Shadows people bankrolled this entire endeavor. They got Quincy elected even after Arkham’s failure last year should have cratered him, they helped contract the walls and otherwise set this whole scenario up. Ra’s admits this in the finale, and even then he only went along with it to find a suitably murderous heir to his throne.

      Had Strange won, whatever political magic was worked to save Quincy would have been used again.

      2) Having all of these notorious and well connected villains in the same place was just asking for trouble. Hell, Penguins goons get mil-spec gear because he was still affluent and ‘respectable’ before he was a dumbass and got himself locked away in Arkham City. Even if Protocol 10 hadn’t been a thing, it is generally accepted that this would have been a matter of time.

      3) Clayface would make a convenient fall guy, especially by night’s end with him a corpse. A shapeshifter known criminal who can impersonate anyone well enough to fool anyone but fellow superhumans? Plausible deniability.

      -Or-

      Strange accepted that he would not be allowed to be the ‘face’ of this program, and would have retreated into the resources of the League of Shadows, whose goals lined up with his well enough. And hey, immortality and money and power meant he could play the long game.

  2. Robyrt says:

    In Chris Claremont’s X-Men run, he liked to include little asides from the civilians about this problem, like “Good thing I bought superhero insurance!” Even supervillains do their part to help clean up the city: when Juggernaut trashes the local bar, he tosses a wad of cash at the bartender to pay for repairs.

  3. Bloodsquirrel says:

    What I’m saying is that superhero worlds always get a little wobbly when you look at them too closely.

    Which is probably why big crossover events like Civil War can fall on their faces so easily.

    “Oh, hey, people suddenly started caring about civilian casualties this one time.”

    Getting too close to real-world issues in these universes tends to result in a lot of broken metaphors and unfortunate implications on account of how many absurd conceits there are of the settings that we’re willing to accept as long as the writer isn’t dumb enough to draw attention to them.

    Sidenote: Wasn’t there once an option to register here, letting people select their avatar?

    • Bubble181 says:

      The avatars here are gravatars. Uh, gravatar.com , I guess? Register there and when using the same name/e-mail you’ll automatically get your own avatar.

    • Matt Downie says:

      The ‘civilian casualties’ question is a difficult one because it’s often skipped over. It came up with The Hulk a while back – the Marvel writers started debating whether or not people died when he went on a rampage, or when him and a monster punched each other through collapsing buildings.

      One side said, “It would be ridiculous if nobody died. The Hulk is a being of uncontrollable rage – he’s not like Superman who can use X-Ray vision to make sure no civilians get in the way.”

      The other side said, “If there was a ‘realistic’ death toll, then Bruce Banner would have endless deaths on his conscience. He’d be trying to kill himself, not cure himself, and no superhero would ever team up with him. That makes even less sense.”

    • Joshua says:

      “Getting too close to real-world issues in these universes tends to result in a lot of broken metaphors and unfortunate implications on account of how many absurd conceits there are of the settings that we’re willing to accept as long as the writer isn’t dumb enough to draw attention to them.”

      The human casualties also makes little sense in the MCU. I haven’t seen them, but I believe the DC movies show the issue with Superman being that he’s an alien, and that people blame the casualties on him because Zod came to Earth specifically for him. In the MCU, the Avengers are simply showing up to conflicts underway and trying to stop them. Blaming them for collateral damage seems somewhat petty, whether it’s true or not. Now, Stark *is* ultimately responsible for the deaths in Sokovia, but that’s not public knowledge or he’d be in a lot more trouble.

      Beyond the casualties, there’s also the comic book logic that the world looks more or less the same as ours despite the fact that there are now alien invasions on a regular basis, beings some view to be gods walking around and causing havoc, and what are basically mutants wandering around the world (Inhumans in Agents of Shield). The world would likely change drastically from ours politically, culturally, religiously, etc. in response to all of these events. And yet, the MCU so far shows the world more or less acting the same until various nations get fed up with the Avengers causing collateral damage while trying to stop threats.

  4. Joshua says:

    The Vision quote was from Civil War, not Age of Ultron. That was his point for being in support of the Accords. The quote is sort of true…..for Tony Stark. Tony Stark created or is indirectly responsible for the villains for the three Iron Man movies plus Age of Ultron. Not so true for any of the other Marvel movies where the villains previously existed.

    • Shamus says:

      How the heck did I make that mistake? I looked up the quote on IMDB. I was on the page for Civil War and I still typed the wrong movie.

      • Dreadjaws says:

        Maybe you simply had the better movie in your mind?

        Now imagine if that’s how Protocol 10 had started. Hugo Strange had in mind with Protocol 10 to give inmates puppies and put them all into rehabilitation programs, but instead he pressed the Protocol 75 button, which was “destroy everything”, and since he didn’t have an “Edit” button he had to pretend that was Protocol 10 all along.

        “Yes, now marvel at my genius as I release the pupp… uh, oh shi… Oh… Damn, ah, uh, er… yeah, ha, ha! Marvel as I release my lethal weapons all over the prison, which was most certainly my plan since the beginning, ha, ha, ha! Ahem…”

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Civil War is better than Age of Ultron. I have honestly never heard the opposite before. I’ve heard of people not liking either one, but never that preference order.

          • evileeyore says:

            There was a lot of stupid in Civil War.

            Not saying Age of Ultorn didn’t have it’s stupids, but there were a lot less stupid moments.

            • Syal says:

              I also preferred Age of Ultros to Civil War, although it’s entirely possible that’s just from fatigue. Avengers 2 was the first one I saw where I felt the Marvel universe was starting to buckle under its own weight, Civil War was a continuation of that buckling.

              Doesn’t help I skipped a lot of movies between 2 and CW.

              (Plus, definitive villain versus antagonist shell game.)

          • Dreadjaws says:

            “Civil War is better than Age of Ultron”

            It’s probably the better liked film, but it’s certainly not better. The plot is absolutely bonkers, the villain is terrible and the characters are just misrepresented to serve the very poor storyline. It does wonders at fooling people into thinking it’s good, I’ll give it that. I wonder how many people who say it’s good have actually watched it more than once or taken 5 minutes to put it under scrutiny.

            I mean, Age of Ultron suffers from an excess of silliness, but at least it embraces and doesn’t try to hide it. Civil War pretends it’s being smart while in reality is infuriatingly dumb.

        • That is actually slightly less ridiculous than the actual plan, from the sound of things. Some prisons actually do have programs where convicts train rescue dogs.

        • Cinebeast says:

          Maybe you simply had the better movie in your mind?

          Age of Ultron better than Civil War? Them’s fightin’ words.

    • Daimbert says:

      Vision was actually referring to the increase in overall incidents, not just what we saw in the movies.

      Though I still think the argument — and the arguments in general — would have worked better with the Accords being based around the idea that the Avengers were seen as an American superhero group and other countries were thus mustering their own in response, while name dropping Alpha Flight and the Russian Super Soldiers.

      • Jon Wood says:

        I don’t think it would’ve been a good idea to introduce even more characters. Also, the Avengers were clearly an extranational group; they had a Russian, an alien prince, Vision, and a Sokovian on the team.

        • Daimbert says:

          You don’t need to run them as actual characters or show them, just mention them, with a scene before the Avengers meet between Ross and Stark:

          Stark: Why should we work under the U.N.?
          Ross: Because right now the world sees you as an American controlled group.
          Stark: And that’s bad because?
          Ross: They’re building their own groups to protect their interests since they think you’ll protect American interests and not theirs.
          Stark: Like who?
          Ross: Well, there’s Alpha Flight, in Canada …
          Stark: Please, a Canadian super group isn’t a threat. They won’t do anything that might offend anyone.
          Ross: … and the Russian Super Soldiers.
          Stark: …

          And the Avengers were based in New York (I think) and were led by a man who explicitly represents America — Captain America — and were also financed by a major American businessman who is also a bit of a loose cannon. Also. their first mission was saving New York, and they DIDN’T manage to save Sokovia (they saved a lot of lives, but not the city/country). That’s not going to comfort the rest of the world.

          • Joshua says:

            I thought an interesting aspect to Civil War was that it somewhat turns the standard narrative about the U.N. on its head:

            Should the U.N. intervene in other nations’ affairs, or should it respect their autonomy?

            If you come from a more isolationist perspective and feel that nations should be mostly left to handle their own conflicts, then you would be on the side of the U.N. and Slovakian Accords in this movie. These nations are complaining that some privately-financed mercenary group (American ties or not) are engaging in violent conflicts within their borders without prior notice or permission.

            On the other hand, most of the plot of Civil War is heavily contrived and does its hardest to arm-twist each of the characters into choices that will put them at odds with each other. The villain’s plan also tends to have so much luck associated with it that there’s a reason why TV Tropes lists the movie under Gambit Roulette. Fortunately, the acting and direction tend to obscure some of the contrived writing, especially on the first viewing.

            • evileeyore says:

              “Fortunately, the acting and direction tend to obscure some of the contrived writing, especially on the first viewing.”

              Didn’t obscure jack-diddly for me. I left Civil War so very disappointed with the movie makers.

    • ehlijen says:

      While Tony’s (ir)responsibility is certainly a fact, it should be noted that the Ironman movie villains did not come to be because Tony chose to become Ironman. They came to be because Tony Stark treated people badly and made poor decisions (or rather, his father did in at least one case).

      Vision’s point would have made much more sense if he’d said that the pre-existing bad guys will try to up their game if the heroes start an arms race (such as by building their own iron man suits). But as it was, in that movie he was just given a nonsense line to spout.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        It’s not a nonsense line. Vision is indirectly seeing Thanos’ hand in things, without realizing that that is what it is. Thanos has manipulated various situations to get worse in order to maneuver Infinity Gems into places where he can get them easily. That will come to a head in Avengers 3.

        • ehlijen says:

          Is that headcanon or from the A3 trailers? I haven’t seen anything like that in the movies, or the few shows I’ve watched. If anything, the movies tended to show the opposite:

          Thor tends to deal with threats far older than himself, who want vengeance on Asgard.
          Captain America was created to fight the Nazis, and later Hydra, who both already existed.
          Iron Man is threatened by people turned villain before he built the first suit. (Though he did give everyone the idea to build their own supertech).
          Loki/the ch’tauri attacked to get the stone from shield, who then summoned the avengers to defend themselves.
          Ultron was a dumb science project gone wrong.
          Other than the grey hulk thing being created to stop good hulk in his movie, the heroes were generally summoned/created in response to a threat, not the other way round.

          If vision sees a different world than that, then the movies showed it to us wrong.

      • Viktor says:

        Iron Man 1: Greedy dick steals Tony’s Iron Man design, tears us a warehouse and a major highway with a giant tank version of it. (Also sold Tony’s weapon designs to terrorists).
        Iron Man 2: Greedy dick teams up with a dude Tony’s dad mistreated, steals Tony’s Iron Man design, makes armed drones, tears up Stark Expo with them.
        Iron Man 3: I never saw this one, but the previews had a lot of Tony fighting his own armor.
        Age of Ultron: Tony builds Ultron, Ultron destroys a city.
        Cap America: Civil War: Whole plot wouldn’t have happened without Ultron, beyond that, it’s a lot more dangerous since Tony is so heavily armed.

        Avengers 1 and CA:TWS both had villains using Stark tech, but not relying on it.

        So while Tony’s personal flaws are a big source of conflict, the fact that he makes man-portable F35s doesn’t exactly make the world a safer place.

        • Nessus says:

          Iron Man 3: “Nice Guy” inventor Tony mistreated in the past creates exploding supersoldiers and fake terrorist to “I’ll show you” Tony; tears up Tony’s house, Air Force 1, and a city dockyard.

        • Nick-B says:

          Iron Man 3 has him fighting… Some guys that get a super power serum that makes them…. hot…? And someone steals the Iron Patriot armor, which is somehow Tony’s fault? All of this because Tony was smug drunk at a party and missed out chatting with a super nerd he accidentally blew off – at a big party.

          Anyway, it has him questioning the use of his tools, somehow, and he ends by self destructing his autonomous iron man suit collection (of which did nothing but save the day during the final fight) for no reason at all.

          • Nessus says:

            Also: bad guy’s super-serum gives Pepper Potts super powers. Tony fixes bad guy’s super-serum so it still works, but doesn’t make people explode anymore. Instead of curing Pepper’s “might eventually explode” problem but letting her keep the superpowers (which saved his live, BTW), he just cures her of the whole thing.

            Which would be fine if it was presented as some kind of package deal: the only way to cure the explodey problem was to flush the entire thing out, but that’s not how it’s presented. It’s explicitly stated that Tony fixed the formula so it still works, just without the instability, and it’s implied that he can use this to cure the instability selectively. So it ends up coming off as “having superpowers would be a horrible curse”, with, knowing Tony, undertones of “I’m not cool with my girlfriend being more badass than me”.

            This also creates a “Tony Stark now possesses a serum that can safely give anyone super-strength and fire powers” shaped elephant in the room, which future movies will probably continue to ignore/forget completely.

            • King Marth says:

              The serum also cures cancer, missing limbs, and possibly aging. Yeah, major case of ReedRichardsIsUseless here, scientific advancements in superhero universes only exist for the purpose of creating interesting-looking superpowered fights. Little things like infrastructure and healthcare never get to change based on the technobabble that explains the CGI.

              • Syal says:

                scientific advancements in superhero universes only exist for the purpose of creating interesting-looking superpowered fights.

                I’m imagining this as an actual side effect of science in this world.

                “Side effects include nausea, tiredness, and life-or-death struggles with archnemeses.”

        • Hector says:

          I don’t even buy that Tony Stark is totally responsible for Ultron. He was designing an AI, yes, but he never finished it, let alone turned it on. He certainly planned to use the Mind Gem, not knowing what it was, to complete the project – but was nowhere near that step. Of course, the Mind gem being what it was, it went ahead and “finished” Ultron. And created Vision from JARVIS. (It’s the Mind Stone – it’s what it does.)

          • Nessus says:

            I suppose it might also be worth asking how much responsibility Ultron himself has for his decisions/actions.

            I mean, when you see a mass-murderer, you might certainly suspect something was wrong with how they were raised, but you’d still send the killer themself to jail, not their dad.

            I’m sure there’s folks who’d say he has no meaningful agency, since he’s an AI, but the key thing is that he’s a [i]fictional[/i] AI (like all strong AI) that’s portrayed as fully sentient and sapient, with a human-like personality to boot. If the writers want him to be a person, then he’s a person, with all the moral/ethical ramifications and responsibilities that implies.

            • Worse, he’s an AI who is quite explicitly not designed and quite human. While Tony maybe shouldn’t have messed with unknown alien technology, he sure as heck did not design an Infinity Stone attacking Jarvis and absorbing parts of Jarvis to make an entity that represented his own Id.

        • ehlijen says:

          All of that was because Tony Stark is a bad person. None of it was because Iron Man ‘invites challenge’.

          • Tony “invites challenge” precisely because he’s a dick. I don’t think you can abstract out the fact that too many people gain power like Tony and that the Avengers was explicitly formed from a group of people who seemed to be morally ambiguous or anarchic (even if that’s mostly fluff given that it has a literally magically-confirmed good guy who’s also a god and a paragon of morality on the team). Moreover, the whole point of Iron Man 1, 2 and 3 is that, while Tony may be an ass (and that’s the drama), the logic is that this is classic shield-spear escalation. It’s in every movie: Stane tells Tony that he was an idiot for believing he could monopolize technology and that someone would eventually do what he did but bigger; Hammer is trying to make his own tech and gets someone who hates Tony to do it; and the Mandarin is the result of tech that tries to be more impressive even than Iron Man. Vision doesn’t see the drama, he sees the literal facts, and the literal facts are that Iron Man’s power evokes challenge. Tony could be a saint and Stane still would have wanted to make more weapons and Hammer would have wanted more money. The only person that might have had different motives in a universe where Tony had always been a good guy is Killian.

      • Joshua says:

        Basically what I was saying. Tony Stark comes the *closest* to matching Vision’s narrative. He pissed a lot of people off, and they engage in an arms race to match him since he uses the Iron Man suits.

        The rest don’t match Vision’s narrative at all. Red Skull, the Dark Elves, Hydra, Ronin, Dormammu, etc. all would have engaged in their plans with or without the heroes. Loki’s schemes are somewhat based upon Thor and their shared history, but not really about Thor’s powers.

        • ehlijen says:

          Actually, I think the plot of the Incredible Hulk came the closest to Vision’s line:

          That grey monster was specifically created to stop the hulk. And it turned into a villain, that hulk then had to stop. I think the moral of the story was: The US government likes pushing the ‘see what happens’ button.

      • Vision is an android. His point is to move past the entire blame issue and go merely to causes and correlations. Like Dr. Manhattan, he really is capable of understanding without condemning or condoning. In his mind, the Sokovia Accords are the best way to reduce chaos and imbalance, period.

  5. Dreadjaws says:

    To be fair, Strange is supposed to be delusional, even in the source material. Just like a guy who thinks that killing a woman’s husband will make her fall in love with him, he doesn’t really consider other people’s feelings in any realistic way. In his mind, killing Batman and taking his place will turn him into a hero. Or, in this case, killing a bunch of criminals.

    I mean, I know this is basically a comic book universe, but even there I don’t think there was a chance of his plans ever succeeding. In general, these stories are told to show how the villain would succeed in the short term but in the long term clearly they’d face opposition. Look at Arkham Knight, for instance. If Scarecrow had triumphed, he’d only be ruling Gotham for a while until the entire place was bombed or Superman came to take him down.

    • Scampi says:

      I love how your comment about Strange comes (at the time of this writing) directly below Joshua’s comment mentioning Dormammu. For just a moment I was in the wrong universe and wondered when exactly Doctor Strange killed a woman’s husband just to bed her (describing him as delusional didn’t exactly help distinguishing them)…then I realized I thought of the WRONG Doctor Strange to begin with…

  6. Darren says:

    “But from an in-universe perspective, this is obviously nonsense. Batman doesn’t cause decent people to turn to crime. That’s like suggesting that criminals commit crimes specifically and exclusively because they want to fight the police. ”

    I’ve always interpreted this idea as suggesting that there will always be crime, and if traditional criminal activity is suppressed by a superhero that supervillains will rise to fill the niche. It’s a rather odd concept that seems to have been subconsciously borrowed from evolutionary biology, but it works for comic book purposes and fits neatly with your mook-spigot idea.

    • Viktor says:

      Batman Begins had Gordon call it escalation. “We wear bulletproof vests, they buy AP rounds. We wear masks and jump off of buildings…”
      It doesn’t really work in my opinion, a lot of villains exist without any interference from the heroes* and the heroes are often reactive rather than active, but it’s a good enough explanation for why bad dudes suddenly have jetpacks and chemistry PHDs that I’m willing to accept it.

      *Except for movie Tony Stark, who is the single greatest threat to humanity shy of permafrost-preserved diseases.

      • Zekiel says:

        Yes I was going to mention this. Nolanverse Batman seems to be pretty explicit that Joker’s existence is a direct result of Batman’s existence. The Dark Knight kind of takes the idea and runs with it, with Bruce considering Batman to be a necessary evil for a limited time.

        Personally I think its a nice idea in a comic-booky sort of way because it allows you to have lots of ethical hand-wringing about whether the world would be better if Batman didn’t exist which is both interesting to think about and gives you the opportuntiy to have some nice character angst.

        • Viktor says:

          I like it in limited amounts. Jigsaw is a perfect Punisher villain, and Hank Pym* being such a screw-up that he creates Ultron is great, but I don’t want them to overdo it. Superheroes need to be making the world a better place or the whole thing falls apart.

          *Or MCU-Tony

          • Zekiel says:

            Yes absolutely. We live in a fairly cynical time in which popular culture likes to deconstruct heroes. It’s one of the reasons I love MCU-Captain America so much – he really is just a well-written good guy surrounded by other heroes who are morally compromised in various ways.

        • Syal says:

          On the other hand, Nolanverse Joker wouldn’t exist without Batman because without Batman Ra’s Al Ghul would have killed Joker and everyone else in the first movie.

          It’s sort of an interesting concept, but escalation is a two-way street; if superheroes produce supervillains, well, most superheroes are shown to be a reaction to ordinary villains (Nolanverse Batman is a direct reaction to Carmine Falconi), and surely if supervillains become prominent enough they’ll give rise to, like, ultraheroes or something.

          • ehlijen says:

            Technically, we don’t know that the Joker is even from Gotham, originally, in the Nolanverse. The way no one, from police to mobsters, know this guy with a clear criminal background by the time he shows up, suggests (but in no way proves) that he is an outsider who came to Gotham.

            Had Gotham been destroyed, he possibly wouldn’t have become the Joker, of course.

    • Hal says:

      It makes some measure of sense. If you want to be a criminal and you know you live in a world where a superhero might swoop out of the sky to stop you, you’re probably thinking you need some way to level the playing field.

      I mean, I can’t think of anyone whose origin story went along these lines, but it certainly makes a measure of sense.

  7. cavalier24601 says:

    It’s sad how much Joker’s taken over the Batman mythos. Joker’s become more important than Batman himself.

    • Joshua says:

      I’d argue that would be one criticism about TDK and TDKR: The first movie was explicitly about Batman, and the last two are more about the villains. That happened a lot with the first set of movies too. All of the internet arguments about how to make Superman an interesting character, but not as much about why Batman keeps getting side-lined in his own movies.

      • Syal says:

        I thought The Dark Knight was a find act 2 of a trilogy.

        Act 1, darkness rules with an iron fist, until a lone hero manages to become tough enough to give it a knock and shift the balance. Dawn of a new age.

        Act 2, darkness has been rattled, throws everything it has at the hero without regard to self-preservation. Climactic battle of wills, hero emerges triumphant, darkness is vanquished, the old order is fully ended.

        Act 3 (which didn’t actually happen), sunshine and roses rule unchallenged, until a lone villain manages to become strong enough to give it a knock and shift the balance. Possible next-generation heroes, Hero, vs. Anti-Hero, win or lose the hero is done heroing, dawn of a new age. (TDKR could have easily been that, Bane got all set up as the Anti-Batman in the first half, and then they went with… whatever the second half was).

  8. Cubic says:

    Goon spigot: The continuing disasters of Gotham City turn ordinary people to lifting and bar brawls, whereafter they become goons.

  9. Zekiel says:

    Regarding the difficult fight with baton-guys – I am amazed how tough brawls can get in the Arkham games, just by including a variety of goons in them. If you were just fighting baton guys (which I think you do at some point in Arkham Asylum?) you’d just be able to use the same moves repeatedly on them. But by including mooks with different weapons you have to keep using different moves to counter or attack them and I find that really tough.

    I’m playing Arkham Knight at the moment and have just decided to give up on a sidequest since I can’t win a fight with about 10 goons which includes mooks armed with knives, stun batons, riot shields AND guns.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      The best advice I can give in a mixed goon fight is to focus on your show stopping moves. Group stuns, gadgets that lead to instant takedowns, the weapon breaking move (ESPECIALLY for batons, guns, and shields), etc. The fighting is incredibly harder when you only focus on punching, countering, and dodging.

      • Zekiel says:

        I think this is probably great advice except that I can never remember to use my show-stopping moves! The only time I remember to use combo moves is if the game prompts me to do one, and then I can only do it if I can spare the time to look at the button-prompts. Even after playing AA and AC through twice each, plus about half of AK, I can STILL only remember the basic moves!

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Try some of the combat rooms just for practice. Honestly, I usually just memorized two moves and lucked into other ones. Weapon breaking and “instantly take down a guy” are two good ones to get down. Normally the combo moves involve mashing two buttons at the same time once you have a streak of at least 5 hits going, like A and B on the Xbox controller.

  10. Ninety-Three says:

    The stuff strange is saying

    Capital.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Shamus? You seem to have missed this typo, Strange ought to be capitalized here since I’m pretty sure you’re talking about the person, not the adjective.

  11. methermeneus says:

    I’d accept a literal mook spigot. Maybe not in Batman, granted, but that’d be a lot of fun in a super hero parody.

  12. pranav135 says:

    Although it is true that the vision line makes no sense in real world, but in comic book land, it makes perfect sense. Joker kills people because he wants to prove a point TO batman. Even to some extent, strange has become a villian to MATCH batman. And if you are not satisfied by this, just look at the countless villians and storylines in BOTH marvel and dc that exist to pose a challenge to the heroes. Of course, your example of people not becoming criminals just to fight the police is logical, but ONLY in the real world not in comics

    • Viktor says:

      This was one of the few good points of Morrison’s Batman run. Spoilers follow.

      Bruce dies, villains go nuts, Dick becomes Batman. Late in this run Joker turns himself in to the police because “it’s just no fun going up against this dude(Dick!Bats)”. Which would seem to support that view until Robin(Damian) shows up. Joker interacts with him for 5 seconds before breaking out into a massive grin. And then he beats Damian with a crowbar by the end of the scene.

      So what that establishes is 1) Joker needs a foil. 2) In the absence of Bruce, Joker will find a different oppt. 3) That oppt will probably lose, because Joker is really good at what he does.

      That’s a really good foundation for the world, because it means that Batman didn’t cause Joker, Joker would exist no matter what, but Bruce!Batman is necessary to stop him.

      • John says:

        I think that your argument is somewhat undermined by the fact that Damian is, like, 10 years old. Some opponent. But I will say that Dick’s total failure to be intimidated or even a little psyched-out by the Joker is one of my favorite things about that arc.

  13. Scampi says:

    Asking about where mooks come from or how the city is still standing is kinda like asking why people don’t recognize Superman when he’s wearing glasses.

    Considering the idea that Gotham is a lot like NYC, I like to imagine both the civil populace and the mooks might get refilled via immigration. The city gets terrorized by some super villain and large amounts of citizens die. Also, there is collateral damage to be repaired. As the city is (a bit) short in manpower, migrants see chances for employment rebuilding the city and filling the positions recently vacated. Still, there is not enough work to go around for everyone who would like to live there and the ones who either are predisposed towards this kind of employment or just see no other way to earn their living join the outfits/gangs to replenish the mook forces.
    Just an idea.

    • Bubble181 says:

      My mind went straight there, too, and it *seems* like a good-enough explanation at first….But can you imagine the backlash if a comic writer put something like that in their story?
      “Immigraration = main source of goons for villains” => “immigration is force for evil” => let’s say, politically somewhat problematic.

      • Grudgeal says:

        Not to mention, immigration into disaster sites/warzones tends to be low because most people aren’t suicidal. Sure, a city can (and will) rebuild from a one-time earthquake and recover, but Gotham seems to suffer a mass-scale terror attack at least annually on top of the ‘regular’ mass murderers, and was cordoned off as an U.S. disaster zone at least once. That’s not generally considered an attractive immigration target, not to mention the instability of the economy that must ensure. I mean, who wants to found an auto plant or a tech company in a city that has a reputation for annual massacres? Gotham should be more Detroit than NYC at this point with a net population loss from people emmigrating (no offense intended to the good people of Detroit).

      • Scampi says:

        I see it the same way. I also don’t think immigration in this context would be a force for evil, as immigrants would arrive in hopes of making a life in the city, but parts of them (and possibly preexistent citizens who lost their homes in a bombing, for example, might go the same route) couldn’t make it in legal ways. I’m not saying all migrants are a criminal threat, I’m saying a) there are some rotten apples in the lot and some are forced into taking whatever way they have to make a living.
        Also, some may have heard it before that “Terrorist Attacks are part and parcel of living in a big city”. Still, most immigrants seek out the big cities and urban centers despite being the places with the highest crime rates in reality, as well. They are industrial centers, home to lots of employment opportunities and well known places internationally. In a way, crime in Gotham is, you might say, par for the course for criminality in DC Universe.
        My point was not specifically along the lines of “migrants are criminals”, more along the lines of “migration keeps the population from drastic reduction to allow crime to continue despite being a generally horrible scourge on the city”. As I said: I’d assume Gotham would attract a mix of people who either want to make a better living for themselves or who know Gotham has a huge criminal underworld. Migration would also not necessarily mean “international migration”, but also, for example, people who come from smaller communities etc.

  14. Vi says:

    A literal mook spigot–what a creative idea! I wonder if it would work well in other settings.

  15. Jokerman says:

    I was playing along with you on this series… but now i’ve broke my thumb, Batman is not a game you can play without a thumb (with a controller anyway) i can fight ok… but the exploration… na, to painful.

    • Scampi says:

      I tried the same but was cut short by a bug. I renew my plea (for a last time-sorry for repeating it): Please, if anyone knows a solution how to get rid of the Tyger Encryption Bug, where Batman is not able to use encryption on the entrance to Wonder Tower, please let me know.

  16. Jabrwock says:

    “Is he correct that he will be celebrated as a hero, or delusional? Because in this universe it’s sort of plausible.”

    I don’t want to get too into political views, but “if you didn’t want to get murdered by the police you shouldn’t have run” is a very real and scary argument in the US right now. So it’s not that far fetched to go “if the inmates get guns then of course you have to carpet bomb them, they deserve it”.

    • Jabrwock says:

      As to what his future plans are, I assume this gives him justification to implement “shoot to kill” right off the bat at future facilities. “See, I need permission to be heavy handed, look how rowdy they were at the last facility!”

  17. thak says:

    Should be “Your presence creates these criminals…”

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