Batman: “You’re free. You’re all free.”
The Joker: “Oh, we know that already. But what about you?”
Given that this book has been out for fifteen years now, it amazes me that SBC has yet to cover it. So, here’s the excuse for doing so now – a brand spanking new edition, about twice the length of the original. So you’re not just getting your 128 page graphic novel here – one of Morrison’s most accessible, yet still thought-provoking, works – but a shed load of extras too. More on these later.
This could possibly be the definitive Arkham Asylum story – the Joker plus his bonkers inmate friends take over the asylum and do a deal … they will release all the staff/hostages if Bats just walks in through the front-door of his own volition, and plays a game with them. Crazily some staff members opt to stay behind; the opportunity to examine madness face-to-face is too great for them to pass up. This of course makes one question whether such intimate proximity to madness has a leeching effect, of drawing the observer and the observee closer together over time? Morrison certainly appears to be making the case for this here, and it lends an added air of menace to the book – not only does Batman have to contend with the lunatics, he has the supposed norms to look out for too.
The Joker makes Bats run through hoops once he’s finally in Arkham; driven to the edge of madness (and Bats has a nasty solution to prevent himself going over the edge) Bats fights his way back and turns the tables at last…or does he?
The extras provide added depth to the storyline – Morrison’s full script not only shows his original intentions and where McKean deviated from same, but it’s also extensively annotated by a modern-day Morrison, looking back over the changes and what happened to his original work, discussing his intentions and providing insight into the influences and meaning behind particular panels or snatches of dialogue. Of somewhat less interest are a few pages of Morrison’s breakdowns which accompanied his script – these only take up a few scant pages, fortunately, it’s the script that’s the meat of the extras, and the value this adds to the book is incalculable.
It’s worth every penny of the asking price, if you don’t own this book go and order it now – if you only have the paperback, sell it on EBAY and pick yourself up a copy of this lush hardcover edition.