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Batman: The Killing Joke - Alan Moore
Member Name: T4imbo3107
Batman: The Killing Joke - Alan Moore
Advantages: Excellent art and story.
Disadvantages: Violent and quite bloody.
The plot of the story is simple, The Joker wants to see what it would take for a man to simply snap, or in his word "to have a bad day". The Joker is a character that has no boundaries and so you know straight away from the cover that the character is going to go full out to reach his achievements and this is the foundation of the story. A dark, twisted and quite disturbing tale that simply focuses around Batman and The Joker in their on-going struggle, by the end you do see that the two are the perfect match for each other and while the book itself has a number of stories that acts as sub-plots that are told in terms of flashbacks you get to see how different forms of madness have been dealt with by both men and how Batman keeps it under wraps while Joker decides to use this as a tool for his evil trade.
The story that is set in the present is quite short in terms of pages, yet the added value here is the inclusion into the story of flashbacks to see The Joker in his previous life. Up until Tim Burton's 1989 film, you never really knew much about the green haired, chalk skinned villain except that he was the arch nemesis of Batman who like Superman's Lex Luthor kept making an appearance to be thwarted, well here it's a little difference as you witness how Joker became The Joker and the events leading up to the unnamed character falling into highly toxic chemicals. The background is fleshed out like never before as we find out that Joker had a pregnant wife, was living on the poverty line and was mentally on the edge. Desperate to protect his family he decides to assist in a crime that goes horribly wrong when he is set up as the target rather than the accomplice and so The Joker is born. It doesn't mean that Batman takes a back seat at all as the story heavily involves him in the rescue of Commissioner Jim Gordon who is being used by Joker as a lab rat to induce a state of madness upon him, the catalyst being Gordon's daughter, Barbara, who The Joker deliberately makes a target of to try and force Gordon over the edge.
The story is dark and at times gory and bizarre as you get a ticket to go inside Joker's head, the scenes that can only be described as torture are graphic in nature, yet don't necessarily cross the line to become unnecessarily shocking in nature that the reader is repulsed. As you can imagine this is not the Adam West bright coloured Batman from the sixties, this is more of a psycho thriller and certainly not suitable for the younger reader at all given its approach and use of violence that gets a strong message projected to the reader.
The artwork has to be seen in this book, the colouring throughout reflects the sombre and dangerous theme throughout the story; dialogue is sharp and doesn't follow a standard B-Movie script at all. The best way to describe it would be that there is enough going on to capture the reader from cover to cover to tell a story. Batman looks like Batman should do, big, muscled and has that presence that you know straight away that if you come face to face with that you are not only under-skilled but also in a lot of trouble. Quite correctly The Joker is the complete opposite, bright, colourful, and energetic and totally off the radar in terms of personality. His appearance is spot on with dark green hair and chalk white skin wearing the obligatory garish coloured suit, the one thing that I always notice is his stance and the manner in which he holds himself at an angle and is never really full upright, this is evident late in the story when he is face to face with Batman. The definition of other characters in the story has been done very well, Gordon being held against his will in a cage has a shocking impact as he is being treated like an animal and is stark naked as part of The Joker's torture methods. The story culminates in a disused fairground and this is the perfect setting for the climax.
There are a few nice touches that have been added, on the first encounter when Batman is at the chemical plant you see Batman in the original 1930's uniform that fits in with the cover of Detective Comics when Batman made his first appearance. This gives the flashbacks depth and gives the story a wider scope than before and eliminates any boredom as well as it catches the audience's eye when the book is being read, also the Batmobile is an early model rather than a high performance model that was being used at the time in the comics when the book was released. I like the fact that these nods to nostalgia have been added as it does pay respect to previous renditions. The brief scenes set in the Batcave are good and give interaction between an unmasked Bruce Wayne and Alfred, Wayne's long term Butler, assisting with the investigation.
Tragedy is a key word in the story and the fact is that the two main characters in the story have had that by the bucket load, this story adds Jim Gordon to that list as the experience he goes through can only be described as traumatic. In fact without spoiling the details this is something that the weekly writers picked up on and through the weekly publications the Batman stories were defined further to take into account what happened in this book. One good example is Barbara Gordon's character of Oracle in the Birds Of Prey comics and her inclusion in Justice League as a non-costumed character who makes up the minority of disabled characters in the DC Universe.
This is truly adult reading and the fact this is aimed at the more mature audience means the story can be much darker than normal, in fact this is a 15 certificated publication. Not only because of the violence but also because of the swearing as well that is used in the correct places and gives a dose of reality that removes itself from the "nicey nice" approach that has literally been thrown out of the window. This is one book that the collector should have in their collection and one that repercussions are still being felt today, although the recent reboot of all DC titles has eradicated this from certain areas. It delivers everything that the reader would want to see in a Batman comic as this is about one man's path to find an answer that he will strive to find at any cost.
Overall this is what I want to see in a graphic novel and can see after reading this a number of times that the story of this calibre has never been surpassed at all with a story like this that releases a plethora of taboo's in the name of entertainment.
Summary: One of the benchmark Batman/ Joker stories.
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