(SPOILER ALERT – This will contain points about the plots of the graphic novels. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED, :-D)
I wanted to give you all my three favourite graphic novels in the Batman Universe. However I was beat to reviewing one of them by my buddy & fellow reviewer who is writing about my all time favourite and one of his Batman: The Killing Joke. Check out McDoodils review in his area on the Cave of Man. So I still want to point out my other two favourite stories – Batman: R.I.P. and Batman: Arkham Asylum.
These are the next two right behind Killing Joke as my favourite stories, and I think it’s mainly because of the enemy – The Joker. Long before Heath Ledgers now legendary portrayal of the Joker, I loved the guy. His smart quips, his hatred of the Bat, how he tortured civilians, his laughing gas, and mainly his chaotic destruction and non-plan planned approach to how he does things. This is the epitome of a bad guy, inflict as much trouble as possible without a care in the world.
Although I bought many a graphic novel between the a killing Joke & R.I.P, none of them stood out the way these two did. Grant Morrison was the man behind the R.I.P story and also the brains behind the Final Crisis magnum opus, which is also another favourite of mine, but we’ll come back to that at a later time. “Place your bets, ladies & gentlemen! Tonight, the Batman breaks” this is the tag line greeting you on the inside sleeve of the novel. R.I.P collects Batman issues #676 – #681 and also includes Final Crisis tie ins #682ʫ (these pick up again in Final Crisis #5)
R.I.P. tells the tale of our hero against The Club of Villians. They treat murder as an art form. Pitching one man against his enemy and betting on the outcome. Behind this club is, The Black Glove, five members rich and powerful they bet on life and death, and this is the biggest bet to date. Batman Vs The Thin White Duke of Death aka The Joker.
I don’t want to give away too much as I want those of you who chose to go and get this story to enjoy it as much as me. The twists and turns from start to finish make it an extremely enjoyable read. You’ll find yourself asking who is the Black Glove? What do they really want with Batman? And is the Joker up to something? No matter what I always find myself asking these questions of the story. Then there’s Doctor Hurt. Having previously worked on a Batman replacement program he sub consciously created a trigger mechanism to break Batman and again unleashes it in R.I.P against him. However, due to the metal training that Batman went through over the years, such as Thögal, Batman does not succumb to this attack.
There is so much to this story that if I go into anymore detail, I risk spoiling it for your enjoyment. The artwork is as per usual amazing. Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea, Lee Garbett & Trevor Scott, come together to produce an amazing piece of artwork to depict such a good story line. From the green hair of the Joker to the black & Red petals in the Asylum there isn’t a part of this novel that doesn’t capture the eye of the beholder.
All in all I rate this a solid 4/5. As usual the artwork grips you from the first
page showing Batman in Arkham interrogating the Joker as he deals a Dead mans hand. The story is as compelling as the Killing Joke, however you will have to do some back story research at times as this is intertwined with other comics in The Batman series thus hindering it from 5/5. But in saying that you will enjoy the story, and even though your first impression of the Joker will give you one idea, this doesn’t stay for very long, as we have become to expect from the Joker.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
My third favourite story is another Joker vs Batman (in case you haven’t worked it out yet, he is my favourite villain). Once again written by Grant Morrison, it tells the tale of Joker taking over Arkham with only one request – the Bat must “be turned over to them, and become one of their own.”
Reading this story again made me think that it was the basis for the frequent game Batman: Arkham Aslyum as it follows the same idea, just not the same storylines. The Joker being the crazy bastard that he is, takes control of Arkham with the staff as hostages and the help of various foes of the Dark Knight – Two Face, Clayface, Killer Croc. Not only does it tell this story but also intertwines the Journals of Amadeus Arkham, founder of the now legendary asylum. Once again I don’t want to give away much, but it is an entertaining read from start to finish. There may also be parts whereby you don’t know what’s going on but fear not, need guidance the Internet can guide you where needs be.
The telling of the story itself stays true to Morrisons form. Keeping you on the edge by never giving away more than is necessary on each page, it thoroughly grips you from the first to last page. The Joker’s lines stay true to his persona, say what he likes no matter how crazy, case in point being his April Fools joke he tells Batman just before revealing part of his plan that gets a hostage killed.
The artwork for me was a bit strange to start with. I am used to the current artwork. Sharp, colourful, and dark when needs call upon it, but Arkham Asylum is different. With less colour, more blended artwork, shapes were also not as wholly drawn and I didn’t take to it at first. Then after reading it again I felt it was appropriate. This was after all about a mental asylum. It’s most Mental Patient. It’s Founder who went crazy. Then it hit me, is this the way it’s supposed to be. Now this may not be what the artist wanted to convey, however, personally this is how I feel. I know people who wouldn’t like this at all but look at the points I raised a few sentences ago. It’s about a man who turned his family estate into a mental asylum for the criminally insane, which was then over run in a plan designed by its most famous and craziest inmate (remember, no one has been able to work out why the Joker is as he is and also don’t forget he turned one of his doctors into his most loyal and devoted ally – Harley Quinn), who had to be stopped by his adversary who started his vigilante spree due to the killing of his parents in front of him. If that doesn’t spell mental breakdowns on the highest level. Upon thinking about this I came to accept the artwork.
I have to give this a 3.5/5 rating. Whilst never reaching the high points of Killing Joke or R.I.P, it still is a great story with appropriate artwork due to the nature of the story. From start to finish it seems that the outcome is clear as day, but you will still read onwards as you want to see how the clear as day story pans out.
So there you have it. In a week where all anyone seems to be talking about is the Dark Knight Rises I give you two of my favourite all time stories. There are so many more out there which I still want to get, one of which is to do with Bane, these two are my favourites along with the mighty Killing Joke. So check them out when you get a chance, and don’t forget to head over the McDoodils corner in the Cave to get his take on the Killing Joke.