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DC’s Darkest Comic Arkham City Captures Plight of Healthcare Workers

As Dr. Joy attempts to save her patients, her emotional ordeal harrowingly mirrors the dangers frontline healthcare workers face on a daily basis.

Warning! Spoilers ahead for Arkham City: The Order of The World!

As the real-world reels from the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, Gotham City continues to deal with the fallout of A-Day and Fear State. DC’s Dr. Jacosta Joy scrambles to keep her surviving patients safe from harm in an increasingly hostile city, and her plight in Arkham City: The Order of The World poignantly captures the many emotional and mental stresses faced by healthcare workers from all walks of life.

In Arkham City: The Order of the World by Dan Waters, Dani, and Dave Stewart, Dr. Joy (a former psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum) scours the city hunting for her former patients. Following the events of A-Day, many of her patients are loose in Gotham, presenting a danger to both themselves and others. Fearing for her patients’ safety, Dr. Joy teams up with detective Stone, and The Ten Eyed Man, one of her former patients. As Dr. Joy attempts to safely apprehend her patients and get them the care they need, she finds herself and her charges hunted down by Azrael, and a city dedicated to “get even” with the “freaks” that have terrorized it for so long.

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While the various denizens of Arkham are responsible for many of the tragedies that befall Gotham, Dr. Joy reminds readers that these “villains” are oftentimes victims as well; Dr. Phosphorus, for instance, was exposed to high radiation in a freak accident and has become a walking nuclear meltdown with a fractured psyche. Dr. Joy believes that these people need to be helped by society, not at its mercy. Her deep care for her patients predates the horrific events of A-Day, evident by her office décor that serves as a stark reminder of how society has historically treated neuro-atypical persons. While the series isn’t over yet, it’s evident that Dr. Joy is pushing herself beyond her limits for her patients’ sake. Her behavior has endangered her physical wellbeing, made her a target for a bloodthirsty Azrael, and obstructed police efforts to safely recover the missing Arkham Asylum inmates. While her heart is in the right place, Dr. Joy isn’t just playing with fire, she is courting the whole inferno.


Tragically, Dr. Joy’s trajectory from caring professional to haggard caretaker mirrors the trajectory many healthcare professionals in the real-world face today. As the pandemic pushes healthcare systems to the brink, healthcare workers from all walks of life face many dangers both physical and mental. A particular affliction many healthcare workers close to the pandemic face is “compassion fatigue”, sometimes referred to as empathy burnout. In a nutshell, after caring so much for others, and sharing in their trauma, healthcare professionals’ mental state suffers greatly. Among the many symptoms of compassion fatigue, poor judgment, sleep disturbances, and anxiety can be found, all of which seem to be manifesting in Dr. Joy as she continues on her quest to save her patients. While there are interventions in the real world that can help healthcare workers suffering from compassion fatigue, Dr. Joy finds herself more isolated than ever, and in her case, the only way out is to weather the storm of Fear State, hoping that she doesn’t lose too much of herself in the process.


While Gotham City and the DC Universe may be insulated from some of the harshnesses of reality, the constant battle healthcare workers face with death, trauma, and their own psyches are truly unavoidable. Dr. Jacosta Joy is not just trying to save her patients’ bodies and minds; she finds herself in a tenuous battle for her own wellbeing, grimly mirroring the plight real-world healthcare workers face every day.

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