Batman is mad. How else can we describe a billionaire who dresses up like a bat in order to defeat some frankly ridiculous villains? He may be acting in favor of what he sees as the greater good, but at the end of the day, he is as crazy a man as his enemies.
Despite the many different additions to the Batman franchise over the years—from comics to series to movies—there has perhaps been no better attempt to explore this madness and challenge it than The Killing Joke.
The 1988 comic book masterpiece, written by veteran comic book author Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland, has long enthralled readers of every generation since its publication.
The Joker has just escaped from Arkham Asylum and exacts his revenge by capturing Commissioner Gordon—wounding his daughter Barbara in the process. He lures Batman to a place where he sees and hears Gordon being tortured to the point of being driven insane.
In parallel, the origins of the Joker are revealed in a series of flashbacks that accompany the main story.
Following a series of events that led to an ordinary man becoming the Joker, the world’s most feared villain, the reader is treated to a thrill as the villain tries to make Gordon experience an event traumatic enough to drive him insane—much like the Joker did.
We can draw an interesting pattern here with Batman, who also experienced such an event years ago when he saw a stranger gun down his parents before his own eyes.
In that sense, one can’t help but wonder whether Batman is as mad as the Joker. Could they both just be crazy lunatics playing a stupid and violent game that has been dragging on for years?
The comparison between the madness of our two main characters is the main theme in this comic.
Alan Moore’s writing is extremely powerful in conveying said comparison. The more we delve into the comic, the more we understand that after all, Batman is maybe just an equally crazy but less twisted version of the Joker.
Thanks to the detailed flashbacks, we end up sympathizing with the Joker to the point of fully understanding his terrifyingly true views on life.
Bolland’s tactful artwork enormously contributes to the eerie atmosphere this story builds—a perfect compliment to Moore’s dialogue and vision.
The Killing Joke is recommended to everyone as it is an exceptional entry in the Batman canon.
It takes a character mostly popular with children and builds a powerful story out of his origins and his relationship with his nemesis.
This offers us an ultra-violent, aggressive, and moving tale that delivers a unique insight into the mind of two of pop culture’s most celebrated icons. Never will one see Batman, the Joker, and comic books in general the same way after reading Batman: The Killing Joke, a timeless classic.
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