Brad's Reviews > Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman by Alan Moore
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Jun 06, 12

bookshelves: comic-books, graphic-novel, detective, about-violence, about-madness, pb-and-j-dipped-in-hot-chocolate
Read from June 01 to 05, 2012, read count: 100s

When I read this back in 1988, while everyone was still wetting themselves over Frank Miller's Dark Knight concept from 1986, I was wetting myself over Alan Moore's one-shot bit of Joker genius, Batman The Killing Joke.

I read it numerous times during the nineties, then put it away (my reading copy nestled next to my mint, Mylar-bagged, first edition) and kept hold of my memories.

For me Killing Joke was much more interesting than Dark Knight because Batman was interested in understanding his enemy (and reconciliation) -- a concept that is much more foreign to literary figures (and real life people) than one might think -- and because I understood where Joker was coming from, and I thought that humanizing a dastardly villain like Joker was a brave thing to do.

Today I am a massive fan of From Hell, I've taught Watchmen and V for Vendetta countless times, and I fully expected Moore's Killing Joke to be as wonderful today as I remembered. I was confident I would still love it at least as much as Watchmen and V and maybe even as much as From Hell, but it was not to be.

It's good. Batman's attempted reconciliation with Joker is there. Joker is still struggling to make the world see that anyone could become him under the right circumstances. Barbara Gordon's shooting is still a shock (and important since it was the birth of Oracle). And Batman keeping his fists to himself when faced with Joker is an impressive achievement of the author's imagination.

But it doesn't do it for me anymore. It is good. Better than most writers can pull off, and the art is lush. But it's impossible for me to avoid comparing Killing Joke with Moore's other work, and it doesn't achieve Moore's personal level of excellence. Good for more is great for others, but it isn't great for Moore, and I expect great.

In 1988 this got ★★★★★ stars.
Today, if this were anyone but Alan Moore, it would get ★★★★ stars.
But it is Alan Moore, so it only gets ★★★.
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