Batman : The Killing Joke

Anyone familiar with the original graphic novel The Killing Joke must be thrilled that it is being given the animated treatment and I’m glad to say that they have every reason to be. I read the book written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland and like everyone else who has read it, loved it. It is a stark, gritty and disturbing glimpse at Batman’s most famous arch enemy. It painted a tragic portrait of a broken man pushed to the brink and falling into a dark pit of insanity, forever transforming not only his life, but the lives of many others in the future.

While the art of the movie doesn’t compare to Brian Bolland’s artwork, it is nonetheless effective. The story is deepened for context and it makes the entire project all the richer for it. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say it offers us an aspect of the original story we were not aware of before. I’ve always been a big fan of the DC animated movies, as they are usually superior to their live action offerings, and this one hits all the marks. The best part is the return of voice talents Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in the roles of Batman and The Joker, respectively. With their work on the original Batman TAS, they have pretty much marked the characters as theirs and they fail to disappoint once more. Mr. Conroy’s voice is getting darker and smokier (a word?) as the years go by and Mark Hamill really knows how to bring The Joker to life. Tara Strong joins the cast as the voice of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl and she has some pretty choice moments, proving that she should get her own feature soon. We’ve only scratched the surface of Ms. Gordon.

The animation had its rough spots, but on average is was one of DC’s better efforts and did the source material justice. The script followed the story near perfectly but still was able to afford a few surprises here and there. When I first read the book, I honestly could see it in an animated format. I envisioned it, but in those days the best animation I had seen up to that point was ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ so what I saw in my head was vastly different than  what I saw tonight, but I think that’s for the best. This was a special engagement, but the movie will be released on video I think this week or next, and I strongly urge you to get a copy. Any animated Batman movie deserves a place in your video collection, but this one in particular. It’s a seminal work, and while you’re at it, go and try and get a copy of the graphic novel as well. As good as the movie was (and it was) the book is a whole other experience and Alan Moore is one of the best writers the industry has ever had the privilege to witness and paired with the exceptional images from Brian Bolland, it becomes a  masterwork of literature of any kind.

Audience: I’m pleased to say that this audience came to this show with great respect for the work and there was no chatter or phone ringing. A rarity in this day and age, but then I was stuck two rows from the screen so maybe I just didn’t hear them.

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Batman: Endgame Review

The latest story arc in DC Comics’ Batman has ended and it seemed to serve as almost a sequel to the previous Joker story arc ‘Death of the Family’, also written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo. The premise is that the Joker has returned to Gotham after he was defeated in the ‘DOTF’ story. It seems he’s been masquerading as an employee of Arkham Asylum for months and has been watching and waiting to strike. He begins his attack by creating some kind of Joker infection and infects members of the JLA and set them against Batman. Things go from bad to worse as the Joker reveals himself, much to Batman’s shock, and proceeds to unleash his virus upon Gotham as a whole, plunging the city into complete chaos. It’s a race against time for Batman and his allies to find a cure and save the city.

Okay. On the whole, it was an all right story. A Joker story is always worth a read. There was quite a bit of technical jargon that really didn’t add anything to the story, but I guess the writer had to make sure we all knew how smart he was. Mission accomplished. The story was well paced and it did manage to have me hanging on for the next chapter. The art, as usual, was incredible. Mr. Capullo was a revelation during his years on Spawn and time has only sharpened his skills. No one can do jagged teeth like Greg.

There were issues however, and at this point I warn of spoilers ahead. If you haven’t read the complete story, along with the back up stories in the first five books, be warned. That said; let us continue.

I can only say that I HATE what Snyder did to the Joker. To attempt to re-create him as some supernatural, immortal being is without a doubt the worst idea ever. The Joker is a homicidal maniac. Simple as that. That is the beauty of the character. No powers. No supernatural elements. Just a twisted mind with way too much creativity. That has always been the Joker’s strength, much like Batman’s strength has been that he also has no powers. Just a man who has pushed himself to extraordinary levels of excellence. I grew to miss the Joker of the pre-52 era. It interested me to see what he would do knowing he was just a man, which made his crimes all the more heinous.

I am also mixed on the ending of the story. I understand that Snyder is setting up the next story arc, but I feel the whole Batman’s missing thing has been done to death. Did he really kill Batman? Is this going to be the most risky gamble in the history of DC Comics? I don’t know. It seems almost every writer has had his ‘faux-Batman’ story and the list of characters who have worn the cowl in Bruce’s stead has been growing rather long over the years. I fear that this is just an attempt to make a bold, controversial change simply for the sake of change and making some claim on the character.

On the whole, I liked the story, but truly pray that there is something up the road that can repair the original status of the Joker, because if what they’ve set forth sticks, I don’t think he’s going to be as interesting anymore. But all that is a discussion for another time. Until then, go ahead and pick up the issues, or wait for the paperback collection. The hardcovers are way too expensive.

Happy reading!