When Joker escapes once more from Arkham Asylum, he’s out to prove a point: that any man can be driven to insanity in just one bad day.
Batman: The Killing Joke is one of the most iconic Batman comics today. Dubbed by many as having the the best version of Joker, it often receives high praise and rave reviews. And it’s easy to see why, with stunning artwork and a hooking story line, so horrific you never want to look away. Joker is truly Joker in this comic, and doesn’t shy from the most gruesome of acts to prove his terrifying point. But even though I enjoyed The Killing Joke, I felt like there were a few fundamental issues that made it less the comic I thought it would be. Issues that often get lost in the parade of fan fare that follows this iconic piece.
The Joker is out to prove a simple point, that even the sanest man can be reduced to lunacy with just one bad day. He jumps through hoops to prove this, and does things that make your stomach drop with sickness, abusing and dehumanizing some of the most beloved characters in the history of Batman. We truly see how evil The Joker can be. But another layer is added to the plot that shows us the Joker’s deeper motive behind his insane crusade when we get a back story for the Clown Prince of Crime.
There are two areas where I think this would be excellent plot fell flat. The first is in the heinous acts committed by the Joker. While you get some people complaining that he was too cruel, I don’t feel that way. The Joker gave up to soon. He didn’t push far enough. And, in the end, he didn’t prove his point. One of the most chilling things about Heath Ledger’s Joker (excuse me for comparing a comic to a move) was when he succeeded in proving the cruelty and insanity lying dormant in every man. His success made it all the more powerful when people overcame him. In The Killing Joke, The Joker doesn’t get a victory. His point is not proven, and it waters down what could have been a bone chilling story.
The second issue I find in the back story. I’m of the mindset that Joker shouldn’t have a back story. I feel it’s one of the things that gives him his power. But I was willing to accept one should it be as dark, demented and terrifying as the villain himself. What I got was not what I expected. The backstory is rather generic and I didn’t find it satisfying at all. He starts out as a failing comedian who’s married and expecting a child. SPOILER His wife dies, he gets caught up with some criminals and ends up falling into a vat of chemicals, which is what turns him insane. SPOILER END I don’t like this version because it removes the Joker from his choice of going crazy all on his own. And the Joker’s ability to choose insanity is what I feel makes him a powerful villain.
As far as how the Joker acts in this comic, it’s golden. He’s completely twisted, with no sense of morals and is willing to do anything to prove his point. He is cruel. He is unpredictable. He is insane. He is the Joker. And I loved every second of it.
The same goes for Batman. He acted himself and I enjoyed him when he was on stage. Unfortunately, we didn’t see as much of him as I would have liked. I feel like the Joker’s experiment should have been directed at Batman, but it wasn’t and the paradigm shift felt odd.
The experiment was actually directed at Jim Gordon, who I also felt was very in character and played his part well. If I would complain about anything, I’d say I wish he was a little more emotive. He’s dragged through Hell and back in this comic. I wish it would have caused him to crack, just a little.
Barbra is a topic of much controversy in this comic, because of the terrible things that happen to her. She doesn’t play a big role other than the victim, which I admit was a bit irksome, because we all know that Batgirl can kick butt. But the way her character acted was understandable, and I enjoyed her during the moments she was center stage. She has one very touching moment with Batman, while in the hospital, that I found absolutely heart wrenching.
The art was stunning and the colors fantastic. It did its job, setting a mood for the story and is possibly my favorite art in a comic yet. It also has some interesting history, as the current version in print is not the same as the version that was first printed. During its first printing the line art was done by Brian Bolland and the coloring by John Higgins. Latter, Bolland had the opportunity to go back and recolor it (he also made a few tweaks to the original line art) to better match the feel he’s originally wanted for the story, and boy am I glad he did.
I love the premise of this comic because it’s so very Joker. “All it takes is one bad day.” It’s a wonderful and terrifying promise, but I do think it fell flat because of the delivery. Good triumphed too easily. And perhaps that sounds sadistic of me, but for a comic centered around the Joker I feel a larger struggle was needed.
It should be noted that this comic is graphic. It’s violent. It’s gut wrenching. It’s not for the faint of heart. I strongly urge anyone who isn’t comfortable with violence and the dehumanization of characters to stay away. This is serious Joker, guys.
I liked the Killing Joke, but because of a few issues I fell just short of love.However, it’s an iconic, thought provoking comic and well worth the read. I recommend it to any and all Batman enthusiasts.
As a side note, I would like the thank the Constant Collectable team for welcoming me into your ranks. I’m so excited to start working with you guys! Looking forward to all the reviews to come.