Patrick's Reviews > Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman by Alan Moore
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Jul 24, 08

bookshelves: books-read-in-2008
Recommended for: People who enjoyed 'The Dark Knight'
Read in July, 2008

Although I'm still something of a neophyte when it comes to the world of Graphic novels, I can certainly see the appeal to people of all ages.

This is the second full length graphic novel I've read, both by Alan Moore (the other being his opus, 'The Watchmen'), and both have been excellent. Both seem to re-imagine the superhero world as one with real, flawed people trying to reconcile their humanity with their jobs as protectors of the public at-large.

'The Killing Joke' picks up with the known quantities of the Batman universe and injects them with new blood. It begins with Batman realizing that his drawn out battles with the Joker are doomed to end in the demise of one or both of them, and he would like to give one final try to understanding each other, hopeless though it may be. Meanwhile, the Joker has escaped Arkham and is bent on doing the exact opposite--proving that anyone can be driven to madness under the right circumstances, using Commissioner Gordon as his test subject.

It's an interesting time to read this novel. I read it prior to seeing 'The Dark Knight', and grew up with Tim Burton's original 'Batman' as my favorite superhero movie, and it's very clear both 'Dark Knight' writer and director Christopher Nolan and Burton both read this novel as well, and it had a huge influence on the way they made their films. The difference is the way these influences were applied, and it's what makes 'The Dark Knight' far superior to Burton's 'Batman'.

Tim Burton took 'The Killing Joke' and applied it superficially to his characters, providing the Joker with the backstory of falling into a vat of chemicals after being pursued by a fledgling Batman and going insane. The subtext of the Joker was more or less lost in Jack Nicholson's enjoyable, but somewhat campy performance. He was a lovable--if still quite dangerous--trickster, but not all that frightening.

Nolan, conversely, takes the heart of Moore's story and crafts it around his own take on the characters. Subtle things, such as Heath Ledger's Joker gleefully providing many contradicting backstories to his prey, the Joker's sick enjoyment of his cat and mouse game with Batman, and of course, his almost casual employment of brutal violence, all harken back to Moore's characterization of the Joker in this novel. And while Nolan dug deeper to the heart of Moore's story, he also clearly used it as a template for the story itself, plugging Harvey Dent into Commissioner Gordon's role, while also changing the results.

In short, as seems to be the case with Alan Moore, there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye. It's also worth mentioning that Brian Bolland's art is amazing. The edition I read was restored and re-colored, and that may have had an effect, but the artwork was very sharp and crisp, with bold colors leaping off the page. The artwork complimented the story in ways that most comics rarely do, in my experience.

Finally, I just wanted to say that the ending of this book was awesome. Just awesome.
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