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Batman: Arkham Asylum: A serious house on serious Earth

December 26, 2008

One of the comics that I got for Christmas was Batman: Arkahm Asylum. Quick review.

Background: AA was written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Dave McKean. Morrison started doing comics in 1978 with the magazine Near Myths. He has also worked on 2000 AD in the 80s and runs of New X-men and JLA. He became famous from Animal Man and Doom Patrol stints. He also created The Invisibles and The Filth. 

McKean was the artist behind Mr. Punch and Sandman with Neil Gaiman. He also has his own series called Cages. Beyond comics McKean works as a designer for movies, Cds, etc. 

The Comic: AA follows the story of Batman being forced to enter Arkham Asylum after the inmates are freed and take over the complex. 

Joker forces Batman to play a “game” in the Asylum forcing Batman to face his own madness. The story switches between the present as Batman wanders the corriders of the Asylum and the insanity riddled diary of the namesake of the Asylum.

The story is supposed to be a study in madness but I think that the art takes away from it. Also some of the color choices make reading dialogue almost impossible. The Joker’s red dialogue is terrible to read with the way the comic is colored. Personally, I hate the art. The comic would be tons better if the art was better. I understand why the art was done in the way it was but it doens’t make it a good decision. 

Here are the main problems with the art style of the story:

– Action that is in the story is lost in the artsy feeling of it.

– Dialogue is hard to read in the colors. 

– Switches between present and past are hard to tell because everything looks the same and not in that ironic way that indicates madness

The writing on the other hand is at least decent. Although it isn’t without problems. Maybe it’s the art but I feel that the story moves way too quickly. It doesn’t really develop into anything either. Sure there’s a begining, end, middle, all that but it doesn’t do anything. Yeah, yeah you could argue that the way the story is told is a reflection of the madnesss within but again that doesn’t make it good. 

The problem is that Batman is supposed to be facing the real demons of Arkham and his own inner ones but you never get the sense that he is. Sure, he agrees that he’s just as crazy as the villians in Arkham but is his character changed in any way? Do we learn anything about Batma or his various villians. Not really. In essence Batman goes and comes out. Exciting yes? Not really.

I’m having a hard time understanding why this book is controversial and critically acclaimed. As a story it suffers from a lot of things and artistically it just kills.

My recommedation: Read it if you want to. It’s vaguely interesting but there are so many ways in which this story could have been told better.

♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣


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