Author: Grant Morrison
Illustrator: Dave McKean
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: October 28th 1989
Pages: 216 (Paperback, 15th Anniversary Edition)
In this painted graphic novel, the inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken over Gotham's mental illness detention center on April Fool's Day and demand Batman in exchange for their prisoners. Accepting their demented challenge, Batman is forced to live and endure the personal hells of the Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Two Face and many other of his sworn enemies in order to save the innocents and retake the prison. During his run through this absurd gauntlet, the Darknight Detective's own sanity is in jeopardy.
I bet you're looking at the front cover of this book and thinking, Nina, what you doing, gurl? Yes, I know this looks incredibly out of place among the love stories and the YA novels, but I just had to write a review on this graphic novel! Yes, the cat is out of the bag - I have an obsession with comic books, especially anything Marvel and Batman. My dad bought me Arkham Asylum for Christmas after my request, and I screamed I was so excited. What is possibly better than a Batman comic? Oh yeah; a Batman comic with The Joker as one of the main characters!
I have to say, what first attracted me to the book was the cover. It's gorgeous. I'm sure a lot of you reading this won't be that keen on the actual storyline, as I have to say it is a bit wacky and out there. But you've got to admire McKean's artwork; it is gorgeous. His interpretation of the different characters is unique and amazing. The Joker, for instance, I found was so accurate, yet he made him his own - McKean contorted and twisted his features, made the skin around his eyes very red and strained, made him look even creepier than usual. It was like something out of a horror story, which I felt fit together well with the history of the Asylum, which is what the story is based around.
Admittedly, I did find it difficult to follow at some points. Some of the storyboards were all over the place - some might argue that, again, it situated the mania of the Asylum, but personally I found it a challenge at times to understand what was going on - and that's not something you want in any story, especially a graphic novel. I liked that for the different character's lines, McKean changed the writing style and the speech bubbles - however, I found some of it just too difficult and stylized to read. One of these was The Joker's - it was red and stylized, which situated his attitude, but considering that a) he was one of the main characters, and b) a lot of the pages were black or dark, it was stupidly hard to read what he was saying, and I actually found myself squinting, which was a shame. Well thought-out, but just not carried out quite right.
Now onto the actual author, Grant Morrison. I loved the plot - it was the kind of thing that I always wanted to happen in one of the films; Batman has to confront practically all his enemies at once. I mean, who doesn't want to see all of them in one room? The Batman world has always had fabulous villains, ranging widely. Seeing them all together was something I just couldn't afford to miss out on. However, I think it fell a bit flat, which was disappointing. None of the characters - not even the Joker or Batman - were properly developed or at least not to their full potential. I was expecting to learn a lot more about their backgrounds, and the different aspects of their madness...but no. We learnt a bit about Two-Face, a tiny bit about Batman, and most about the Arkham family - but still not enough. Looking at it from just a story perspective, it was disappointing.
Overall, the graphics were gorgeous and the initial idea was fabulous. However, I feel as if the graphics were created with the script in mind, and that how the reader would cope with it wasn't considered - which was a shame, because if it had been easier to read this, I think I would have had to rate it five stars. For my first graphic novel, it was good - but it just needed something extra.