Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) – Alan Moore/Brian Bolland

I’ll start off with this: The Killing Joke is not for kids, and even teenagers should be discretionary. This is mature material..heck, the back of my copy even says “SUGGESTED FOR MATURE READERS”. You’ve been warned.

Also, I should note that I read the new re-colored Deluxe Edition. Same panels, different colors than the original.

The Killing Joke is short but far from sweet – in fact, it’s actually pretty disturbing. This graphic novel is more a story of the Joker than of Batman, giving us a glimpse into the back story of the character. The evolution of a failed comedian into a crazed madman are presented as flashbacks throughout. These flashbacks are presented in black and white with an occasional item colored in, which is fantastic: when the big first reveal of the newly-created Joker appears, the contrast of the stark black and white to the vividly green hair, red lips, and pale white face sends a chill up my spine.

In fact, I would say that the artwork/coloring of The Killing Joke is the best part. I haven’t read the original from the 1980s with the different colors, but a comparison can be found here. Just based on those quick comparisons, I must say that the recolored edition looks so much better than the original; for me, the colors seem more realistic, and making the flashback sections primarily black and white helps to better follow what is and isn’t “present-day”.

All of that being said, though, the story is pretty interesting as well. The story revolves around the Joker trying to make Commissioner Gordon go insane. Why? Because he’s the Joker and that’s the kind of thing he does. Christopher Nolan actually gave Heath Ledger a copy of The Killing Joke as a reference for the character before filming The Dark Knight. Some men just want to watch the world burn – this graphic novel definitely shows that the Joker is one of those men.

The Killing Joke, as mentioned, is disturbing, but it’s interesting and compelling all the same. Though it explores the origin of the Joker, easily the most famous Batman villain of all time, it also explores the relationship between the Joker and Batman. In fact, it starts with Batman visiting the Joker’s cell in Arkham Asylum to talk about their relationship – about how they’re probably on a path to killing each other, a sentiment that is echoed in Nolan’s The Dark Knight when the Joker says, “I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” It’s a combination of the artwork, the Joker’s origin story, and this relationship between Joker and Batman that makes The Killing Joke such a great Batman graphic novel.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

-Chad

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