REVIEW: 'Batman: The Killing Joke' Written by Alan Moore and Illustrated by Brian Bolland

Batman: The Killing Joke (2008) written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland gets a make-over in this deluxe edition of a comic that was written 20 years ago.

On the cover, Tim Burton states that:

I loved THE KILLING JOKE…It’s my favorite. It’s the first comic I ever loved.”

Well, I enjoyed The Killing Joke. Must admit that the ending left me a bit puzzled.

As an aside, I finally went to go see The Dark Knight at the movie theatre last week and let me say that the movie was over-hyped. But before I ever saw the movie, I’d been buying my share of Batman comics by Frank Miller and the rest this past summer. I’ve enjoyed the revitalization of the franchise with the two movies that have been released thus far, thereby re-introducing the caped crusader to a new generation of fans. Christian Bale makes an awesome Batman, does he not?

Anyway, I wasn’t going to do a review of The Killing Joke but then I thought, why not? I mean I really enjoyed reading it and besides that, I had nothing else planned.

I’m relatively new to the comic book scene so I am easily won over. I tend to gravitate toward graphic novels that are dark and offer complexity and ambiguity in plot and character. More or less the same elements I look for in almost every book I decide to read.

Batman is somewhat of a dark character, no? I mean his parents were murdered right before his eyes. Instead of becoming a victim, he decides to be a hero in the guise of a bat that invokes fear in people. His actions aren’t always above board but he does work on the right side of law most of the time.

The Killing Joke isn’t about Batman, however. It offers up a Joker origin story that seemed far from what I had been expecting. You see, before The Joker became what he was, a criminal genius and the archenemy of our vigilante hero – he was just a common man, married, without a job, trying to kick start his career as a comedian and failing miserably. His story is told partly in flashbacks and alongside the events that occur in the present.

The Killing Joke (Original)We learn that The Joker of the past had been recruited by the mob to break into a chemical plant. The plan falls apart and thus the Joker is born. You could say that this was one of his bad days.

The Joker of the present day seems to hypothesize that anyone sane can be driven insane if given enough reason to do so like maybe injuring a wife or maybe raping her. The Joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon to test his theory and to prove a point.

The Killing Joke is a very quick read with plenty of dark humor, a bit of violence loaded with plots twists and an ending that leaves things somewhat, well, ambiguous. I mean, after the two men confront each other, duke it out for a bit – they share a joke at the end, standing in the rain. The joke was actually funny. But what happens next? That’s anybody’s guess. Does the masked hero give him over to the police? Let him go? What?

The story just ends with the hero and the villain sharing a joke in the rain.

The artist of the original comic, Brian Bolland, writes the afterword for this edition. He also re-colored the comic and it looks amazing. Bolland teases the reader into thinking that he would reveal the ending to this story but he doesn’t. I hadn’t expected him to but it would have been nice. He purposely leaves his thoughts off, mid-sentence, when he mentions the ending. I guess we are to come up with our own version of events. Come to our own conclusions. The artwork was fabulous – explicitly detailed – nice. My grade, B. This hardcover book is available now in the US for $17.99.

As an aside, I really enjoyed Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight movie. He was a nice blend of crazy, dark and funny.

*Sample artwork pic from Nighthawk Comics.

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About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Grade B Reviews, Graphic Novels and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to REVIEW: 'Batman: The Killing Joke' Written by Alan Moore and Illustrated by Brian Bolland

  1. ag says:

    I agree … Christian Bale makes an awesome, and slightly darker, caped crusader. I enjoy the movie revival … at least this round, the director attempts to bring back some of the gritty darkness from the comics. No lame jokes … that was a blessing. I enjoy the occasional manga (in Chinese), so it’s good to see book readers venturing out to comics.

  2. Avid Reader says:

    ag – yes, yes, yes. You hit it on the head for me as to why I enjoy these movies so much.

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