Monday, September 12, 2011

Graphic Novel Review - Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean (4.5/5 stars)

Batman: Arkham Asylum (15th Anniversary Edition)Reading level: Adult
Genre: Graphic Novel/Horror
Size: 216 pages
Publisher:  DC Comics
Release Date: November 1, 2005
ISBN:  978-1401204259
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Swapped through
 4.5/5 stars

I have been wanting to read this graphic novel for awhile and was excited to get it through paperbackswap.  This is a very dark horror that was wonderful, but a bit disturbing.

I think pretty much everyone is familiar with this story.  Batman is called to Arkham Asylum to face down the Joker and all the other depraved inmates there.  As he goes through the asylum Batman is forced to consider his similarities and differences to the crazy lunatics of Arkham asylum.

This is definitely an adults only book; it is disturbing, depraved, violent, scary and overall just plain creepy.  The artwork is a very dark style of Dave McKean's typical.  I love McKean's artwork it is always interesting to look at and has elements that are unpredictable and surprising.  The tone of the artwork matches the story well and gives it even more depth.  McKean's artwork is perfect for this creepy crazy story about Batman's trip through Arkham Asylum.  Absolutely beautiful, haunting, and did I say creepy enough yet?!

Morrison's story is excellent as well.  The story has predictable elements of creepiness that one would expect from an asylum full of criminally insane people.  It also has unexpected depth to it and a lot of darkly clever elements.  At points it gets a bit confusing, but the script notes at the end help to clarify some of that.

Batman is forced to face his similarities to some of the insane folks and questions of what it means to be insane versus sane are raised.  This is a Batman story that emphasizes the rather disturbing elements you'd have to have as part of your personality if you wanted to run around dressed like a giant bat.

Additionally there are some wonderful scenes; for example where the psychiatrist has weened Two Face from a coin to a set of tarot cards to make his decisions just so his decisions won't be so black and white.  Of course there are seriously disturbing Arkham himself parading through the halls wearing his mother's blood covered wedding dress.

Additionally this version has the full script notes from Morrison.  These are a great read and clarify some parts where it is a bit unclear what is going on in the story.  There are also thumbnail sketches of the story Morrison wrote up.  All of this is a great addition to the graphic novel.

Overall just an excellent read.  This is a story that is disturbing and dark, definitely creepy...but it also takes a deep look at some societal issues like what it means to be sane vs. insane.  It also dives into Batman's mind and takes a look at what made Batman the dark character he is.  Highly recommended for fans of dark fantasy, horror, and the darker side of Batman.

This goes towards the following reading challenges:

Batman: Arkham Asylum (15th Anniversary Edition)

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