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)
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Continuity-wise, The Long Halloween sort of follows Year One‘s story-line, continuing Batman and Gordon’s quest to rid the city of crime. The Long Halloween, like Year One, was a huge influence on the Christopher Nolan films Batman Begins and The Dark Knight; in fact, there are a couple of scenes in the graphic novel that were translated directly to The Dark Knight. While Year One introduced Batman and Jim Gordon, well, The Long Halloween introduces pretty much everyone else, from Catwoman to the Joker to the Riddler and so on. We even see Harvey Dent’s transformation into Two-Face!
Christopher Nolan, director of the newest Batman film trilogy, called The Long Halloween an “epic tragedy”, and that description is right on the mark. A murderer who comes to be known as “Holiday” starts killing people on holidays, and everyone tries to figure out who is doing it, including The Joker and The Riddler…a “this town isn’t big enough for the two of us” kind of thing. It’s bloody and dark.
The art in this graphic novel is fantastic. Everything is so sharp and dense and, though I hate to use this word, gritty. It’s got a sense of realism that makes the story all the more compelling, and the limited color range of the artwork adds to this even more. The darker, more bland color scheme gives a sort of crime noir feel to it.
Bottom line: The Long Halloween is one of the top 5 best Batman comic story arcs of all time, and it heavily influenced the Nolan Batman films that we all love. It’s dark, brutal, and completely engrossing; if you’re a Batman fan at all, you’ll love it.
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
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The Dark Knight, though it is a “superhero movie”, transcends that stereotype and becomes something so much more: it’s a crime epic.
Let’s be honest: Heath Ledger’s Joker is what makes this film so good. Not that the rest of it isn’t good…that’s not what I’m saying. But Ledger’s Joker is the first thing that people remember about this film, and for a good reason. Ledger dedicated himself more fully to the role than I’ve ever seen an actor do before, and it certainly shows onscreen. This interpretation of Batman’s most infamous adversary is scary and twisted; from the grimy hair and smeared makeup to the gruesome scars to the obsession with knives, The Joker is a character that you so badly love to hate. Despite how unsettling the character is, Ledger delivers his lines with a dark humor that makes you laugh in a “why-am-I-laughing-at-this-this-is-horrible” kind of way.
Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent/Two-Face is great as well. Watching Dent throughout the film is interesting because, if you’re verse in Batman-lore, you know that Harvey Dent and Two-Face are the same person, but you don’t know if he’ll get there in this film or not. For the first half of the film, we see how strong and determined he is to clean up the city, but, as things get worse, he begins to change. Eckhart does a fine job with showing his character’s deterioration; in a way, it reminds me of Anakin Skywalker’s decline into Darth Vader. It’s his love for Rachel and his anguish at her death that drives him into madness, and Eckhart plays Dent’s strong emotional downfall fantastically.
Batman’s incorruptibility is put to the test in this film as he faces both of these men; he doesn’t know if it’s something that he can survive or withstand because, for a while there, the more days go by that Batman doesn’t reveal his true identity, the more people die because of him. Bale brings all of Batman’s emotions across magnificently in this film, a certain improvement over the previous film when there was little emotion to come across.
Overall, The Dark Knight is what every superhero film should strive to be: dramatic, personal, and real. We see the best of people (on the cruise ships with the detonators) and the worst of people (The Joker), but Batman stays strong through it all and stands for what he knows to be right, no matter whether it reflects on him in the best light or not. With Heath Ledger’s best performance ever and a supporting cast of incredible actors doing an awesome job, The Dark Knight is a force to be reckoned with.
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for intense sequences of violence and some menace
P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, here!
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