‘Classic Comic Review’ Batman: The Killing Joke Deluxe Hardcover Edition

Written by Alan Moore

Art by Brian Bolland

Published by Titan Books

“See, there were these two guys in a lunatic asylum…”

Short but sweet is perhaps the best way to describe Batman The Killing Joke, Alan Moore and Brain Bolland’s tour de force weighs in at just 64 pages, but crammed into that relatively short page count there is a horrific story of physiological warfare waged between arch enemies Batman and the Joker.

The original graphic novel was published in 1988, and although was not strictly part of the Batman continuity, it was considered a prestige title, this story would have ramifications for the DC universe for years to come, it can also be seen as the origin story of Barbara Gordon’s character of the Oracle as well as an origin story of sorts for the Joker which harks back to the original incarnation of the Red Hood from the 1950’s. However you need to bear in mind that the Joker may be an unreliable narrator as far as his origin story goes and as he says in the end of the book

“Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another…If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice…”      

This is the idea that was used to such great and grisly effect in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight film.

The books begins with Batman visiting the Joker in Arkham Asylum, and sees Batman in a reflective mood questioning why he and the Joker are such enemies and that their confrontations will surely lead to the inevitable death of one of them. But all is not what it seems and once again the Joker has escaped the less than secure Arkham Asylum and his latest evil scheme is put into action.

The Joker’s dastardly plan in the Killing Joke is a simple one, given the right circumstances any sane individual can be driven to madness over the course of one bad day. And unfortunately for Jim and Barbara Gordon, the Joker picks Jim as the main player in this evil plan. What happens then is truly unnerving and shocking and graphically illustrates the true psychotic nature of the Joker. But coupled with that I guarantee you will also feel sympathy for the unnamed character that will eventually become the Joker – truly a victim of circumstances beyond his control and a man who ultimately suffered one bad day. 

Then there’s the ending, which although utterly ambiguous is utterly brilliant. After witnessing the aftermath of the Jokers sickening plot, Batman finally snaps and realises that the Joker needs to be dealt with once and for all. Even after having a pretty shitty day Jim Gordon still pleads for the Joker to be dealt with by the law, does Batman listen?

Does he hell, he kicks the crap out of the Joker.

Batman then appears to have a change of heart and tries to reach out to the Joker and reason with him to give up his life of crime and again tells him that he believes that they are fated to kill each other. Ignoring Batman’s appeals the Joker starts to tell a joke and what a joke it is, the final couple of panels are brilliant and suggest to me least that Batman is as unhinged as the Joker, one of the panels shown in silhouette depicts Batman and the Joker grappling with each other, both laughing hysterically and both looking scarily alike – great stuff.

No review of this book would be complete however without mentioning the genius of Brain Bolland’s sublime art work – yes I’m a bit of fan. The attention to detail on show is staggering and the artwork itself is beautifully drawn, I could go on and on and on, but if you want example check out the panels in the bar scene in one of the Joker’s tales you can clearly make out the story going on in the background between a drunk at the bar and the barman, outstanding.

This edition of the book has also been re-coloured by the man himself and it is absolutely stunning throughout however in a particularly brilliant touch Bolland has washed out all of the Jokers back story in shades grey of grey with only one item in each story coloured starting in a pale orange and moving to blood red in the last part of the Jokers story. Both striking and effective.  

Bundled in the back of the Deluxe edition of the Killing Joke is a one shot written and drawn by Brain Bolland called ‘An Innocent Guy’ which documents the plans of an ordinary citizen of Gotham City to commit the ultimate crime and examines the idea of good and bad and the line that everybody walks in day to day life and the fact that you could fall on either side of the line. I found the end of the story to be extremely powerful and though provoking.  Overall it’s a great story with some brilliant artwork (naturally) and acts as a nice companion piece to the Killing Joke.

Although Alan Moore has since distanced himself from the Killing Joke saying it’s just another ‘Bat book’ I think that he is doing the book a disservice there, yes it’s no Watchmen or V for Vendetta but as a one shot I think it encapsulates perfectly the dynamic of the ultimate enemies Batman and the Joker, also the effects that one bad day can have on the human mind, how sometimes we are all victims of circumstances beyond our control and finally there’s the art work, so really what’s there to moan about ?

GS Rating 5/5 – Another Classic Batman story.

Dry Slaps – None.

GS Reviewer – Nick Roberts.

More from the world of Geek Syndicate

%d bloggers like this: