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The Book Peddler

  • Writer's pictureGraphic Grim Reader

The Killing Joke Book Review

The Killing Joke Book Cover

Title: The Killing Joke

Genre: Superhero, Crime

Audience: Adult

Page Count: 67

Author: Alan Moore, Brian Bolland

Artists: Brian Bolland, John Higgins

ISBN: 978-1401294052

Publisher: DC Comics

Series: Batman


This review contains soft spoilers.


"The Killing Joke" by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland has a high reputation as a seminal work in the Batman mythos and its exploration of the Joker's origin story. I anticipated a harrowing and thought-provoking journey into the depths of madness and despair. However, upon reading the graphic novel, I found myself deeply conflicted, as while it undoubtedly has moments of brilliance, its ultimate impact left me feeling unsatisfied and even disappointed.


At its core, "The Killing Joke" is a tale of obsession, madness, and the thin line that separates hero from villain. The narrative follows the Joker as he embarks on a sadistic scheme to drive Commissioner Gordon insane, all while grappling with his own fractured psyche and tormented past. Meanwhile, Batman finds himself confronting the darkest aspects of his own nature as he races against time to stop the Joker's rampage and prevent further bloodshed.


One of the most striking aspects of "The Killing Joke" is its stunning artwork. Brian Bolland's illustrations conveying a sense of menace and foreboding. From the shadowy alleyways to the twisted visage of the Joker himself, every image is imbued with a sense of dread and unease that keeps readers on edge throughout the narrative.


Similarly, Alan Moore's writing is as sharp and incisive as ever, with his trademark blend of wit, intelligence, and dark humor shining through in every line of dialogue. The Joker's monologues, in particular, are a highlight of the graphic novel, offering a chilling glimpse into the mind of a man driven to the brink of madness by a cruel and indifferent world. Moore's exploration of the Joker's origin story is both tragic and disturbing, shedding new light on the character's motivations while leaving readers with more questions than answers.


However, for all its strengths, "The Killing Joke" ultimately falls short in its execution, as it builds up to a climax that feels ultimately hollow and unsatisfying. While the graphic novel is undeniably gripping in its depiction of the Joker's descent into madness and Batman's struggle to stop him, its ultimate resolution feels rushed and anticlimactic.


Part of the problem lies in the graphic novel's treatment of its female characters, particularly Barbara Gordon, who is tragically reduced to a mere plot device in the Joker's twisted game. Barbara's brutalization at the hands of the Joker serves as little more than a catalyst for Batman's confrontation with his arch-nemesis, robbing her of agency and autonomy in her own story. I've never been a fan of Barbara Gorden's character and role as Batgirl, but she was in the story just to be tortured.


While "The Killing Joke" undoubtedly has a great build up of tension, its ultimate impact is undercut by its rushed and unsatisfying conclusion. While Alan Moore's writing and Brian Bolland's artwork are undeniably impressive, the graphic novel ultimately fails to deliver on the promise of its premise, leaving readers feeling as though they've read the story just to find out how Barbara ended up in a wheelchair. Despite its status as a classic of the genre, "The Killing Joke" ultimately falls short of its potential.



The Killing Joke Book Review Ratings and Recommendation

Rating: 3/5

Recommended: Yes - Since it's such a staple in Batman comics.


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The Grim Graphic Reader - Jennifer Swartwood-Walker illustration and signature

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