I needed to read this novel and see what all the fuss is about- after all it is on our Recommendations list. Did it live up to all the hype? Yes and no.
First and foremost, I am not enamored of Batman for he’s grumpy and skulks around in the shadows. I am not typically a DC fan, so I am not aware of some of the background history of Batman lore, although I do know who Barbara was and will become. One of the reasons this novel is considered a stand out is that in 1988 the level of violence was more extreme than other comics in the past. But after reading Locke & Key and The Walking Dead recently, the violence in this novel did not strike me as excessive ( I am desensitized to it, which is actually kinda sad) . All of this already puts me at a disadvantage starting the story.
I was reading the deluxe edition, that is both drawn and re-colored by Brian Bolland. In this edition, his original concept is now done the way he envisioned it. The illustrations are beyond good, with eye popping bold colors added in contrast to the more sepia colored panels. Joker is a vision, and I liked this rendition of him better than others by other artists.
Alan Moore is a legend, so you know the origin story for Joker is golden, although highly suspect. Some of Joker’s dialogue is spot on such as:
“So when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember there’s always madness…madness is the emergency exit.”
“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy” His statements actually make…sense.
In the end, Joker’s manipulations don’t have the desired effect on Commissioner Gordon, but they just might on Batman. The ambiguous ending between Joker and Batman can be interpreted in many different ways. This draw your own conclusion setup is what elevates this story. On my first read through, I thought the story was just meh. On second read through, I understood some of the nuances and got a lot more from it.
This deluxe edition has a lot going for it including a introduction by Tim Sale and an afterword by Brian Bolland. Bolland also adds a bonus story that true aficionados will enjoy, but did nothing for me. While this story did not even come close to making me a Batman fan, I do see why this story was groundbreaking and is loved to this day. As such, it was tuned into an animated movie recently, with mixed reviews.
Kathleen- I am calling you out, for I now have read several DC novels, and you have yet to review a Marvel one. I have been pleasantly surprised at some of the DC storylines, so now I want you to find a Marvel book and enjoy it!