Looking Inside the Brains of Two Amazing Madmen

KillingjokeAlan Moore isn’t a writer you’d normally associate with the Batman series, but in 1988, he combined with Brian Bolland to produce one of the best stories in the series’ history. “The Killing Joke,” while a bit shallow at points and underdeveloped, ranks as an influential piece of lore and is worth reading for a ton of reasons. A one-shot story, it’s a quick read, but is marked with several moments that have changed the series forever.

Channeling the path of the Joker, who is hellbent on showing the Dark Knight just how similar they really are, this story is one that will force you to think more about the relationship between these two characters than ever before. While the length of the story itself [42 pages] doesn’t allow you to analyze it to the level you’d like, Moore does a great character study here that not only serves as a main inspiration for “The Dark Knight,” but one that truly asks the question: Can the way someone perceives the worst day of their life affect them forever?

When looking for the answer for this question, you’ll also have a front-row seat to the striking visuals of Bolland, which were already grand before being recolored for the deluxe hardcover edition of the story. Bolder and without a doubt more striking, they make an already solid entry into the Dark Knight canon a memorable one.

However, much like the art work of Jim Lee in another excellent Dark Knight story, “Hush,” the art takes a back seat to the writing and it is the story that separates it from the countless other Batman stories in print.

The opening pages wet your palette and put you in a situation to question the Dark Knight’s humanity: Why does he continually try to help a man that wants to kill him? And why does the Joker continue to push Battie’s buttons when he knows he won’t kill him? Just like Heath Ledger said in his portrayal of the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” this is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

This time around however, there’s an answer – they share a laugh.

Funny, don’tcha think?

This moment alone makes for a magical reading experience, but the other moments away from the main story arc are equally as important.

For one, it not only marks the end of Barbara Gordon’s tenure as Bat-Girl, it also sees the emotional journey of Commissioner Gordon, one that directly inspired the descent from greatness of Harvey Dent in “The Dark Knight.” Because of this, we can see how one small story not only inspired Hollywood, but also ended up affecting the series as a whole.

For that, it ranks as a special one, in spite of its flaws.

And flaws there are.

Moore himself wasn’t completely happy with this work and after reading, you’ll understand why. While the psychological elements are engaging, there’s no real sense of urgency in this tale; it’s almost as if you know the Joker is going to get caught and Gordon will be able to fight his inner demons for the sake of the code he lives his life by. Sure, the rants the Joker goes on throughout the story, which aside from being prophetic and mesmerizing at times, do a phenomenal job of getting inside the readers’ head, but his plan to ruin Gordon on its own lacks the type of polish we’d expect from a man who has killed and pillaged his way to our hearts for over 60 years. The same can be said for the bulk of the origin section of the tale, as it borders on the generic and cookie cutter and is far from anything Moore has produced in other works.

Nevertheless, it is the psychological elements produced in this tale that make it a memorable one and one that is sure to continue to inspire readers for another 20 years.

Just like the Bee Gees, our villain started a joke, which started the whole world crying, but when he truly begins to cry, the world and his enemies begin laughing.

Because the joke, in the end, is on him.

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About Patrick Hickey Jr. 12087 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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