Telltale’s first foray into the everlasting mythology of the caped crusader was nothing short of a success. It took characters that you thought you understood and changed them into unique, fun house mirror versions of themselves. It also put the focus of the story as much on Bruce Wayne as on Batman, a unique approach that paid off in dividends that are still resonating today, in its sequel: The Enemy Within.
To say that the many versions of the allies and villains of Batman’s world are familiar would be a colossal understatement. Batman has probably had more exploration in terms of its heroes and anti-heroes than any other comic book franchise in the history of the medium, which is why it’s such a triumph that these characters still feel so fresh here in Batman: The Enemy Within.
Take a character like Harley Quinn. Generally Harley is defined as a character through her relationship with the Joker, and her desperation for his approval. It’s a relationship that occasionally ebbs into the realm of genuine abuse, with the meek Harley almost always on the receiving end.
However, in The Enemy Within, Harley’s a force to be reckoned with of her own volition. She leads a dangerous group of criminals called The Pact, and is a version of the character with as much brutality as charm and charisma. Not only that, but it is the Joker (who has yet to adopt that moniker in Batman: The Enemy Within, instead going by John Doe) who is obsessed with Harley rather than the other way around.
Speaking of John’s obsessions, as we saw in the first Batman Telltale series, he has a strong affinity for Bruce Wayne, a connection that pays off gloriously in The Enemy Within. To have John, as the Joker, being obsessed with Bruce Wayne, rather than Batman, keeps the story of this long overdone villain remarkably fresh.
I recall when I was playing through the first series, I was happy to see the Joker in such a minor role. In fact, if I’m really being honest, I was sort of dreading seeing him show up in The Enemy Within. As the focal point of nearly every Batman story we’ve seen over the last two decades, one could be forgiven for having a bit of Joker fatigue, especially if you’re a big fan of Batman, and follow his stories closely.
Again though, that’s what makes The Enemy Within so unique in its approach. Joker is left here without his usual power, his typical gags, or his oft expected grandiose schemes. Here he’s simply an unhinged lunatic, and a surprisingly likable one at that. You genuinely find yourself feeling sorry for John and you might even be tempted to build a real friendship with him as Bruce Wayne.
Now, you might recall a major strength of the first series is to draw a line in the sand in terms of how characters see you, whether you’re acting as Bruce Wayne or as Batman. The Enemy Within doubles down on that strength, especially as it relates to someone like John. You might be his bosom buddy as Bruce, then coldly sluff him off as Batman, or you might just manipulate him all along the way as both characters.
John and Harley are just the beginning, however, as there’s a shocking amount of characters introduced into the Telltale version of Gotham. Almost immediately Batman comes into conflict with a wizened and sadistic take on The Riddler, while Amanda Waller (who you might recall as the leader of the Suicide Squad task force) joins the fray pretty much from the get-go as well. Honestly, by the time characters like Bane and Mr. Freeze show up, your head will be nearly spinning.
It isn’t just through the subversion of our expectations that Batman: The Enemy Within succeeds though, it’s also through the genuinely surprising twists and turns it takes within the mythology of the world’s greatest detective. In the first episode alone, you will genuinely find yourself picking your jaw up off of the floor more than once. Also, without getting into spoilers, let me just say that this series is wasting zero time raising the stakes for this story.
Honestly, if you haven’t gotten into this series yet (and you could absolutely be forgiven for missing it in a year this jam-packed with show-stopping releases like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn) you owe it to yourself to dive into it, particularly if you’re as enamored with the Batman as this particular writer is.
Batman: The Enemy Within is proving to be not just one of the most exciting and unique versions of Batman we’ve seen in years, it also might be the best thing Telltale has put out since the glory days that saw us getting The Walking Dead: Season 2 and The Wolf Among Us back to back.