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Graphic Novel Review - Batman: The Killing Joke (Deluxe Edition) by Alan Moore

Natalie is a writer who works at her local library. She enjoys writing reviews, watching anime and TV shows, and playing video games.


Quick Info:

Author: Alan Moore
Publisher: DC Comics
Published: March 1988, deluxe edition published December 23, 2014
Page Count: 64 pages
This comic is suggested for mature readers!
Availability: buy on Amazon or at your local bookstore

Story Summary:

Batman: The Killing Joke is one of the best Batman/Joker stories ever told. It has a reputation for also being controversial because of what Joker did to Barbara Gordon.

Batman confronts the Joker in Arkham Asylum, discussing their relationship and how it’s going to end with them killing each other. He discovers that the Joker has escaped and goes out to look for him. Jim is visiting Barbara and she goes to the answer the door expecting her friend and instead sees Joker standing there and he shoots her and kidnaps James Gordon.

An iconic image from Batman: The Killing Joke.

An iconic image from Batman: The Killing Joke.

The Story’s Fascinating Because of Batman and Joker’s Relationship:

The relationship between Batman and Joker has always been fascinating, because it will never end, besides the obvious reason for needing to sell comics.

They’ve always been each other’s opposite, Batman is the order Gotham needs while Joker is the embodiment of Gotham’s chaos. This dichotomy makes them one of the most interesting relationships to read about in Comics because of they will never stop fighting each other.

Joker’s Character Changes According to the Writer:

I always find it interesting that Joker subtly changes his “philosophy” depending on the writer. For instance, in The Killing Joke, he sings about the “loonie preachers on TV” which is Alan Moore’s Atheism taking a shot at religion (Christianity, always Christianity, never any other religion mind you) and Judd Winick writes that Joker does believe that there is a Heaven because he expects “to be having pillow fights with Saint Peter by now”. It’s so interesting how people can write the Joker two different ways and yet it still makes sense for this character to flip-flop all the time on what he thinks about the world and his philosophy because he is insane.

The writing is good, but Alan Moore is somewhat overrated as a writer, even he said he didn’t like The Killing Joke because he felt like his story had nothing to say, which I find very interesting. He's overrated but it's not a bad writer. Fans tend to put him on a pedestal and that makes people have overblown expectations when reading his comics.

The writing is still very good and I do enjoy it.

The debate  about Barbara will never end.

The debate about Barbara will never end.

The Never-Ending Debate of Women in Refrigerators:

Batman: The Killing Joke also causes debate and controversy because of the Women in Refrigerators trope, that women are disposable characters and are only there so that traumatic things can happen to them to be a plot device for the story.

As a female who reads comics, bad things happening to women doesn’t bother me as much as the reason why the writers make it happen in the story. They can’t come up with creative ways to use female characters outside of them being superheroes so it’s the go-to trope when writers can’t think of anything creative to do.

I will mention that they did tone down the reprint. They didn’t show Barbara’s breasts compared to the original where they did. I find the original to be far more disturbing because Barbara is so vulnerable.

Alan Moore has also stated that Joker didn’t rape Barbara. Fanon tends to assume he did, but that’s just people wanting to subconsciously add more trauma. But I tend to believe Alan Moore over fanon.

Women still are offended by The Killing Joke and I think that people are getting too bent out of shape over this comic, it's been out for 29 years and women still continue to complain about it.

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But was Barbara being crippled the worst thing to happen to her? I don’t think so, she became one of the most iconic disabled characters in comic books next to Daredevil and Professor X.

This story doesn’t upset me, but it is definitely disturbing comic.

One of the most iconic Joker pictures drawn by Brian Bolland.

One of the most iconic Joker pictures drawn by Brian Bolland.

Brian Bolland’s Art is Fantastic, and the Recoloring is Very Nice:

Brian Bolland draws amazing artwork for The Killing Joke. I love how detailed it is and how each panel conveys the grim mood because of all the horrible things that are happening to Barbara and Jim Gordon.

The artwork, the coloring, shading, and lighting are all so unique that there was no way the Killing Joke (2016) movie could replicate it.

Brian Bolland is also very good at creating disturbing imagery for the audiences what Jim Gordon goes through is not a pleasant experience at all, and the artwork successfully disturbs everyone who reads the book. Some more than others, and that’s why people still discuss this comic today.

Reader Poll:

The Comic is great but it has been put on a Pedestal:

Batman: The Killing Joke has an enormous reputation because it’s been read by so many fans and after almost 30 years, it’s very easy to go into this expecting the best Batman and Joker story ever.

The story has been built up as one of the best Batman and Joker stories ever, and that’s very hard to live up to when everyone says it. While I really do love the writing and the story, it’s not my personal best Batman story, but it its very well done. Some people might see it as being too pretentious, but that's up to the reader.

The excessive hype around this story may cause new comic readers to come out of it feeling disappointed, but if you go into expecting a good Batman and Joker story, I feel you'll get that.

Final Grade: A:

Batman: The Killing Joke is a graphic novel that people still talk about. Not just because it’s a controversial story, but because it’s an excellent story. The writing can come off as pretentious, but I enjoyed Alan Moore’s writing a lot.

The artwork by Brian Bolland is very detailed and disturbing, even if the new edition did tone down Barbara’s nudity a little and that does detract from how disturbing it is.

I recommend Batman: The Killing Joke to anyone looking to get into comics or if you just want a fantastic Batman story to read.

There’s also a lovely side story that Alan Moore wrote about “Batman’s biggest fan” and it was in Batman: Black and White and it is colored in the deluxe edition of The Killing Joke and it's a nice bonus story to read.

The graphic novel was adapted into a lackluster animated film from Warner Brother’s Animation. It’s not that the Killing Joke section of the movie was bad but they decided to add a Batgirl prologue story that just fell flat because of the bad writing. You can read my review of Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) if you want me to elaborate on how bad the animated adaptation turned out due to Bruce Timm's need to ship Batman/Batgirl in the prologue and ruining the rest of the adaptation of the graphic novel.

The graphic novel is still the best version of The Killing Joke and it is still a must-read, must-own graphic novel for fans of Batman and Joker.

My Rating:

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Daiana Gauna on September 25, 2018:

I love The Killing Joke! It was the first Batman comic that I read!

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