“You’re doing what any sane man in your appalling circumstances would do. You’re going mad.” -The Joker
Oh boy, Batman: The Killing Joke, now here’s a sick and twisted ride for the ages. First off, let me tell you, if you are having any kind of major depressive episode, you may want to sit this one out. In fact, I insist. Go read some old school Betty and Veronica, and wait until your dog returns back home safely before you venture into Gotham’s very bad day.
Although most of the major plot points are quite well known throughout comic fandom, these scenes don’t hit any less hard. Actually, since you know they are coming, a slight dread crawls into your stomach right before they make impact.
In the first few pages, we see Batman storm into Arkham Asylum with his usual determined look and stance, to keep an unscheduled appointment with his greatest foe, and star of the story, the Joker. Basically, Bruce wants to sort things out. Put everything out on the table and determine where to go from this point on. After all, he doesn’t want to kill the Joker (pesky morals), nor does he want to be killed either.
But, of course, good old pale face isn’t locked up where he should be. No, instead he is on a business venture to purchase an out of business amusement park. Why is it I have never seen a dilapidated amusement park in real life, but every fictional town seems to have one?
This scene cues the first of several flashbacks, the possible origin of the Joker. Turns outs, this clown may have started out as just another hack comedian with dreams bigger than talent. I guess the stress of not getting laughs can really get to a guy. Who knows what would of happened to Jerry Seinfeld if no one understood his humorous observations?
The first appearance of a sinister side glimmers through this plain Joe Schmoe, as he comes to the realization that he can’t support his wife and unborn child on just a few breadcrumbs. He stares out the window in desperation as the rain falls, reaching for any kind of hope, but all he gets is a generic line from his woman about being good in the sack. If only that could legally pay the bills.
When we return to present time, we see Jim Gordon pasting Joker articles into a scrapbook, while chatting with his daughter, Barbara. They share a petty squabble and a mug of hot cocoa before there is an ominous knock at the front door.
We all know what happens at the scene here. Sinister smile, bang goes the gun, Barbara falling to the ground. I’m no doctor here, but it looks more to me like she was hit in an ovary than the spine, but what do I know.Then there is blood, camera flashes, and a double kidnapping.
There is of course, debate here on why the Joker strips Barbara naked. I believe he is more about mind games above anything else, so that is my two cents. Since nothing is shown, it is up to interpretation, and your imagination can fill in the blanks.
This scene dissipates into another flashback showing our hopeless comedian meeting up with two local crooks over lunch. A business meeting of sorts, while munching on crayfish. Can anyone really have a decent conversation while sucking on the head of a crustacean? Probably not, but maybe that’s the point. Plus, nervous energy can be spent cracking those blasted things open all day.
Basically, a crime is going to be committed, and the talentless wonder is going to be the fall guy, if and when, things go awry. Of course, he doesn’t know that, but as avid viewers of action movies since our tweens, we kind of get a sixth sense for these things.
At the end of this memory, we meet back up with Jim Gordon, as he awakes in the Joker’s newly purchased amusement park. He is surrounded by numerous rejects from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves outtakes. They prattle and prod him about the park in his tighty whities, as the Joker sits and watches in pleasure. It all seems like a nightmare to Jim, until he finally remembers the extracurricular activities of the evening.
This again launches back into the past, as our future villain gets some terrible news about the woman he loves. Apparently, there was some sort of accident. Nothing really gets explained here, and it seems randomly thrown in just to make things worse for the poor guy. I think it would have been better to connect her death someplace else down the line, but you can only do so much in 46 pages.
I feel some of these flashbacks might have worked just as good if they were together instead of separate. Sure, they make for some good pacing in the story, but if they were whittled down and pasted back together, the action of the current happenings might be a little more cohesive.
Back to the now, Jim Gordon is forced into the Hall of Horrors, which the Joker makes sure lives up to its namesake. The things he shows to Jim are quite depraved and reveals the lack of morality in the villain’s heart. We really finally see how bad the Joker can be. Lines are crossed that should never be crossed, and it makes you wonder how anyone can call the Joker their favorite character with a clear conscience.
Once Jim is completely broken, the Joker’s henchmen stuff him into a cage like an animal, as they wait patiently for Batman to arrive. This appears as though it is the end of the Joker’s merciless plot. Seems kind of odd to me. Almost anti-climatic for such a devious villain.
The final flashback takes us through the end of a once innocent man’s trip into insanity. A confrontation with the Caped Crusader himself. I won’t spell it out for you, but just know that it ends with a splash.
When Batman eventually arrives at the cage of Jim Gordon towards the close of our story, he is in no mood to mess around. The Joker doesn’t stand much of a chance against the storm of rage that is brooding inside the Dark Knight. It seems as though he figures this out pretty quickly, because it isn’t long before the Joker pulls out the gun he used on Barbara and points it at his rival.
For me at least, the ending leaves much to be desired. It isn’t exactly a stalemate, but it kind of just peters out. The final lines of dialogue end with a joke that will give you a chuckle, and then we are left with the enigmatic final panel.
No definitive answer has ever come to a head on what happens in the silhouettes of our two main characters during the final panel. A pat on the shoulder? Or was that a fatal stab? Since this book is now viewed as canon instead of an elseworld comic, someone should really explain once and for all what the intention was when this book was printed.
Nonetheless, this book is well worth the trip to your local comic shop. It gives great insight into the life long battle between two of the greatest nemesis that ever graced our favorite glossy pages. If you can stomach the violence and the abuse towards women, then give it a once through. If you are unsure, maybe borrow it from a friend before shelling out the 20 bucks. But needless to say, please keep this book very far away from your 8 year old nephew