Batman: Killing Joke by Alan Moore (1988-05-01) Paperback – January 1, 1769
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What really sets it apart is how mature and well told the story is. The very first dialogue sets the scene for the whole book: what's going to happen between Batman and the Joker? They've been playing the same game for years and years, but when will it end, and how? Before now, we never had any reason to sympathize with the Joker. The Joker has always been an incredibly interesting and fun character, but the audience didn’t know what drove him, or even what drove him mad. Revealing his backstory is one-shot deal; you either please fans universally or lose all of their faith depending on how the story is told. But The Killing Joke nails it with flying colors.
Speaking of colors, The Killing Joke is rife with fantastic images and finely-crafted spectacles. Open it to any page, and you’ll find something iconic or stylistic. Every panel is given such a painstaking attention to detail, and that kind of dedication and consistency is one of the major selling points. These are the images that’ll stick with you well after you put the book down because of how they pop out of the page. When you see that first image of the Joker truly going mad, you feel it. It’s not “oh look the joker is laughing and totally losing his mind, sucks to be him golly gee,” it’s “That’s it! That’s the point of no return! He’s gone and I feel like I was right there next to him!” (Okay that was a little corny, I won’t do that again, promise). And that’s not the only one that sticks out: Joker in a hawaiian t-shirt holding a cocktail, Joker on a throne of baby dolls, Joker looking solemnly at an old broken carnival machine.
Now, you might’ve noticed a pattern there. “But where’s Batman?” Y’see, Batman has had thousands of comics, movies, books, and video games dedicated to his story and his experiences. We know his backstory as though it’s mythology. But until now, we didn’t know Joker. Batman even says so in the graphic novel. And now that the Joker’s finally gotten his spotlight, a true telling of his story, there’s no need to go any further. Sure, we could ask for more novels about Joker’s experiences, but this is the only one that needed to be about the Joker. This is the story about how his life got flip-turned upside down (sorry). All the ones after this one, he’s already insane and we don’t learn anything really new. But here we see it all through his eyes. It doesn’t need a sequel. In fact I hope it never gets a sequel. There’s nothing more to tell with this story, especially with how it ends. The Killing Joke is an exceptional piece of literature.
The Joker, of course, is up to no good. He has bought and fixed up a carnival. But first, he goes to Commisher Gordon's house where his librarian daughter Barbara is and he shoots Barbara and takes pictures of her naked and kidnaps Gordon and takes him to the carnival and puts him on a ride where he flashes the pictures of his daughter trying to drive him mad.
Batman follows the clues to find the Joker and the inevitable tete a tete happens between the two. The Joker is trying to prove that you can drive someone mad in one day. Interspersed between this story is a sepia-tinted story of a stand up comic and his pregnant wife trying to make it and how he takes a questionable job to try to make money to get them a better place to live. This comic doesn't hold back and I like that about it. It takes risks like shooting Barbara. But as Batman said at the beginning of the book the two will have their moment to either kill each other or not at the end and the author's choice for an ending is an interesting one. I do have to say that the use of colors is incredible with the theme of red following throughout the book which is the Joker's color. Also included is a short comic about a man who wants to test his theory on good versus evil out and is written and drawn by Brian Bollard. I have to give this book a five out of five stars.
I love Batman. Doesn't matter where he is. Nolan movies? Arkham series? Comics? They're all awesome, so of course I was gonna love Batman in this story too. The joker is also a stand out character obviously. I hate to love the joker because he's that awesomely terrible. It's amazing. This story isn't so much about Batman fighting bad guys as it is about proving the joker wrong. "All it takes is one bad day." Well does it? Batman (and Gordon) are pushed to their limits as they not only try to stop the joker, but prove him wrong. By the end of the story, you wonder who TRULY won that night. I won't give any spoilers, but the ending does make you wonder. You see what I mean? It's psychologically complex and disturbing. It really makes worry about the outcome of ALL the characters. One thing I liked from another comic, Batman: Hush, was the use of other DC characters to progress the story, but I really liked how The Killing Joke told another amazing story with less character in less pages. I also really like that short story after the end of the main story. I'm glad it was there.
There really isn't all that much bad. I mean I would have loved for it to be longer, but I still enjoyed it for what it is. That's really my only complaint. It just a little too short, and I wanted to keep on reading.
I don't know if it's the greatest graphic novel of all time, but I loved it and I think everyone else who reads it will love it too. I mean I read the whole thing is one sitting in less than an hour. I literally could not put the book down. BUT! There's a lot of very disturbing moments in the story, so know what you're getting yourself into. I mean the animated movie adaption for this book is rated R!
Top reviews from other countries
So, needless to say, though I’m a fan of the comic book genre, I’m not familiar with the typical structures and devices of a graphic novel and I have to say I did find it a bit odd.
Before getting to that though I should say I was grabbed by the story. It is an interesting, daring take on the origins of Batman’s arch nemesis, The Joker. The novel downplays the maniacal, blood-thirsty villain I’ve seen the Joker portrayed as before, and instead shows how any average joe could become a crazed psychopath after just one bad day.
To humanise one of the most caricatured of characters was a brave decision that was deftly achieved.
Avoiding spoilers, it is difficult to discuss my feelings on how the story plays out. But it does leave plenty of room for interpretation and thought. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, for many, it is exactly why The Killing Joke is such a classic work.
But as I mentioned earlier, I was slightly put off by how the story was told. The drawings and colours were fantastic and wonderful to drink in. But I do feel a lot of weight is put on the reader to decipher the writers intentions. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything for future readers but the graphic novel could have done with a bit more elaboration on certain scenes and points (and I’m not just referring to the ending).
Whereas a regular novel is often cut and shortened dramatically in a cinematic reworking, in order to hold the viewers attentions, it is clear that the opposite would have the be the case for a graphic novel like this, otherwise you would end up with a very short film indeed.
I should stress this is not a criticism as such, although it did cause some dismay on my part. As I said though, I’m not familiar with how graphic novels normal tell their tale and this may be the usual structure.
It's a pretty short graphic novel, probably one of the shortest out there, but the story is so well written and the characters so well formed it doesn't need to be any longer.
Not to spoil it for anyone, but the final few panels in the book are so well composed, there is little dialog in them, but the imagery of these panels paints such a powerful story. To a point that you can come to your own conclusion as to what the fate of Joker is in the end....
[SPOILER: Did Batman kill him?]
Also there is a fantastic artwork in a very unique style, which shows of perfectly the grim and twisted world it takes place in.
Much better then its movie counterpart, a little on the short side however.
Overall it's highly recommended, a compact but memorable comic.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 5, 2020