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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Comic Book Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum


Halloween is just out the door so I decided to read a lot of Batman novels. Well just two so far . I like how spooky his rogues gallery is and how dark his stories are, perfect for the said holiday.

Alright, we got Batman: Arkham Asylum (not the game, but the graphic novel the game was based upon), also known as Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth. (I like the latter.)  It is written by superstar writer Grant Morisson (All Star Superman) with the art done by Dave McKean. I don't know who McKean was until I read this book, never heard of him and I believe this is the first novel that I ever read with him as the artist.I   was surprised because frankly, this comic book is out of the ordinary. Nothing that I've ever read before.

From the cover obviously you would say that the book is dark. That goes for any Batman novel anyway so its not really surprising. But this is real different.

The Joker and the other inmates of Arkham Asylum (Gotham's notorious mental facility and penitentiary) have gone out of their cells and are rampant. Commissioner Jim Gordon informs Batman about the situation and The Dark Knight immediately gets a call from the clown himself, then tells Bats that the hospital staff will be killed unless he meets up with them inside the Asylum. (Joker thinks that the Caped Crusader is just a freak like them who deserves to be in the facility too, but just won't admit it to himself.) Anyway, our hero agrees, and goes through a game of hide-and-seek with the villains, only to find out that there is more in the Asylum than meets the eye.

(This rendition of the Clown Prince of Crime gave me some serious chills)

Morisson's writing challenges the reader to think about who and what Batman really is through a journey inside the big house, meeting several of the most recognizable villains in Batman lore, with Killer Croc being the most memorable. He also tells the story of Amadeus Arkham (the Asylum's founder and previous owner) through a series of flashbacks, which plays an important role in the plot.

Dave McKean's art is totally out of this world. I have never seen a book that as dreamy as this one. Its like the book is a big whirling puzzle that is confusing - constantly spinning around and you feel like you're trapped in a different dimension. He creates a puzzle that pulls you to the depths of the story's abyss.  Mind boggling, its horrific, its grimy and totally dark. I think there parts in his illustrations that we're confusing, - maybe because he used a lot of symbolisms - but that doesn't change the integrity of his illustrations. Bats and Joker we're given justice here too which was very nice to see.

 ("The Bat". no face this time, just shadows)

The Morisson-McKean tandem totally upped their game here and focused on bringing readers a unique comic book experience. I enjoyed all the confusion,  the action, the crazy art.. everything. No wonder why this is one of the greatest Batman novels of all time. 

Finally a question: Is Batman just as mad and insane just like the Joker? Or is he really a freak too just like his enemies but with a stronger sense of justice? That's something to ponder.

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