Hello Internet. Welcome Back for Review #50. And for the first time in this half-century series of books, I’m opening my arms to the final installment in the list at the end of Rule #2. I hope you can all laugh along with me for my review of one of the best Batman comics ever made.
Now dear readers, I do not delve into comic books lightly. I am the kind of person to sell myself to every book I read, and comics (like Manga) are normally very large arcs concerning several armloads of characters and an infinite subdivision of stories which make up the overarching mythos. And while it is generally pretty bad when it comes to Manga like Dragon Ball, at least there you have a definitive start and end. Comic book characters as old as Batman have so many stories it’s hard to put a finger on where the man begins and ends. So this is why comics are my Kryptonite (yeah, I know, oldest Superman joke since the one with Wonder Woman sunbaking). If I wanted to, I could totally become a comic nerd. I probably could, the superhero archetype intrigues me and a large amount of superheroes are fricking cool to read about. But I won’t, because I’m terrified I’ll begin reading comics and five years later I’ll be in a comic book store wearing an Aquaman t-shirt arguing with another 20-something over the merits of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight verses the Joker encapsulated in The Killing Joke and as I step away from the argument I just won I would wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life.
Comic books are a rich, detailed part of Pop Culture History, and they take their rightful place as forms of literature thanks to epics like Watchmen. But the sheer amount of time someone has to spend to learn to enjoy these forms of novel is ridiculous, and I never have even enough time in the afternoon to down something as large as Alan Moore’s epic, mostly thanks to the fact I have too many things to do. Enter the one-shot comic. Now, comics are never my area of expertise. I’m not an artist, and I can’t really judge the quality of comic or manga art beyond the really cool spreads or the angular art style, but I can tell you that even though The Killing Joke is over several decades old it’s very well written and drawn (painted? coloured? I don’t know what you’d say here).
The Killing Joke is a comic book about arguably the most entertaining Batman villain ever, and while someone like me can’t help but read it in Mark Hamill’s crazy, terrifying voice (which was of course established after this comic), I can see how it rebooted the Joker into the lethal force he is now. The Joker is a classic tragedy villain but shown in a whole new light by this book, and the open-to-interpretation ending of this comic just makes his saga throughout this “slim” volume that much sweeter. His lines are memorable (“All it takes is one bad day…”), his danger shown to be as much the result of his incredible cunning as well as his insanity, and what is slightly sicker is the just desserts he receives in the end ([whether or not he gets killed by Batman, Commissioner Gordon won’t go mad that easily and the Joker’s plan is foiled]). The Joker laughs his way into the halls of literature right next to Adrian Veidt. The Killing Joke may be a Batman comic, but it’s better to call it the Joker’s comic.
The Killing Joke was published in 1988 by Detective Comics, and can be found on Amazon here.
Yours: J.M. Pear