Monday, December 11

Evis T Reviews Batman: Arkham Asylum (Graphic Novel)

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I actually feel violated by what I’ve just read. How anyone can enjoy this fetid mess is a mystery to me. This is going to be a stream of consciousness as I try to make sense of the abysmal graphic novel I have just had the misfortune to pay £7 for.

First of all, the art work. It’s bad. Really, really bad. The images themselves are good, and the stylization fits the dark, gritty, gothic tone the comic is going for. The problem is that they utterly fail as comic images. They are messy, nonsensical, and half the time are actually covered in stupid doodles. I don’t mean images on walls e.t.c, I mean actual scribble patterns over the work. Everything clashes together so you need to spend quite some time just trying to interpret a frame. And I don’t mean symbolism or dual meaning- I mean figuring out just what the hell you’re looking at- think one of those magic eye pictures and you’ll get the idea.

I think I’d like Dave McKean’s artwork a little more as stand alone pieces. He’s got a brilliant gothic style that really conveys a strong sense of atmosphere. The problem is that this just isn’t right for comics. It’s too hard to look at and make sense of. I’ve got no problem analysing visuals, but I need to stress again, there’s a big difference between reading into an image and just trying to figure out what the hell you’re looking at. This is one of the earlier images, before the whole thing gets totaly nonsensical.

Still, this fails in comparison to my biggest complaint about the artwork- the lettering for the joker. He has no speech bubbles. Speech bubbles exist for a reason- to make text clear and legible. When you remove them and then make the text a hugely angular red capital style font, with varying size, superimposed over the images already previously discussed- and the end result is eyestrain. I can appreciate that maybe the artists where trying to covney the joker’s voice in a visual way- a laudable thing to attempt but for God’s sake, when I need to squint ant hold the book up to my nose to read it, you’ve gone WAY too far.

Then there’s the writing. So, so many plot holes. So, so many character inconsistencies. Right at the start the Joker releases his hostages- it turns out he has more inside, but that’s three pages later. Why doesn’t Batman kick the crap out of him and drag him back the commissioner? Batman’s supposed to be a force of fear, showing no fear himself. Why is he emo raging to commissioner Gordon, terrified that going into the asylum will ‘feel like coming home’? I get it’s supposed to be an exploration of the idea that Batman is insane- a very interesting plot point that writers have made good arcs out of, but he’s not an idiot.

I’d like to remind people of the iconic line from Batman’s backstory: “”Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot, so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible…”

Here our Dark Knight spends more time languishing in insanity and superstition than anyone else. He’s also an idiot, Thinking it’s bad that the psychiatrists are trying to cure 2 face by taking away his friggin’ coin. Hell, it one scene ne actually stabs himself through the hand with a shard of glass.

That’s right kids! Batman CUTS!

But of course, the whole thing is utterly nonsensical and follows no real order or reason. I think the creators where trying to make it sort of dreamlike, but at the end of the day all that does is make this putrid mess even worse as it’s now impossible to fathom any sort of narrative. Why is Maxie Zeus there? What is he doing? Was he beaten? What’s he talking about? Who’s there with him? Why should I care?

Oh dear Lord in heaven I have no idea how to convey the ending. I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say it’s just as awful as the rest of this comic. It makes sense, but it’s painful how Morrison has taken the whole idea behind Bob Kane’s greatest creation, and left it beaten and violated, face down in a gutter in some broken alleyway. Bats’ response a psychiatrist killing a patient? “He got what he deserved.”

That. Is. Not. Batman.

I’ve got no problem with characters being pushed to their limits and tormented, and I have no problem with them breaking their boundaries and character traits either- but there needs to be reason for it. Here the reason is that “Arkham does things to people.” Really? That’s it? Oh come on “A wizard did it!” Is a better explanation.

Honestly, this comic has one target audience- Goth teenagers. The sort of people who read Johnny the homicidal maniac, or anything by Johnny Vasquez for that matter. And you’d better hope they’re not batman fans or they’ll see right through this literary refuse.

To conclude, it’s awfully written, it doesn’t star batman, the images are good artistically, but have no business being in a comic, and the overall POINT of the story is just as schizophrenic as the inmates of Arkham.

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