Comic Review: Batman, ‘The Killing Joke’ – by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

Now that was a batman comic. Though it has its’ errors, that was a beautiful representation of what a comic should be like. Movement, action, speech and sound came together in a robust harmony that allows you to really look into the character of the Joker. The one question you end up asking yourself, however, is: ‘wasn’t that over the top’? I mean, sure he’s the Joker. Sure, he’s meant to have a level of insanity about him but it’s pushing the point a little too much. The way the Joker portrays himself doesn’t quite fit with the view of the Joker we’ve come to see, especially now after the Christopher Nolan portrayal, which causes an instant comparison.

The Joker in ‘The Killing Joke’ seems to be completely unhinged, self-proclaiming that he is insane and that everyone can become insane to escape their problems. He tries to prove tis by capturing a man and mentally torturing him in an abandoned theme park. While this is all well and good, it’s very small-scale stuff. It also doesn’t feel clever enough for the Joker. The Joker, for me, is an extremely clever villain who carries out series of delicately linked, twisted events. However, in this comic, while what he’s doing to the man he captures is pretty crazed and… well trippy, it’s not clever enough. It doesn’t make enough of an impact. However, even though the modern portrayal of the Joker was a little over the top, we did get some snippets of backstory which were really interesting.

The other characters in the comic were good. I liked the involvement of batman and how the scenes kept skipping back and forth between ‘Joker action’ and ‘batman action’, until the grand finale. There was also a clever little loop of repetition, with parts from the front of the book appearing again later. This was a nice little technique and added drama and suspense. The comic was also very fast-paced and there was always something going on, which made for a pleasant read.

The ending, while dramatic, was a little off for me. It’s a little bit of an anti-climax. The Joker makes his big speech in the front-off, batman replies and it’s looking really tense…and then laughter? Ok so both characters had made their statements, it linked in to the start of the comic and it was all wrapping itself up. But, really? It just… ended. Perhaps to add more drama, perhaps to have some sort of audience effect… but for me? I want that little bit more.

Overall, this was an enjoyable batman comic. It had the right levels of action and pacing and, while I’d have preferred a plot with a cleverer ‘Joker-plan’, it was quite a brilliant story. The art-work is beautiful and the movement has that edge to it that makes ‘The Killing Joke’ truly crazy.

Rating: 6/10

Comic Review: Batman, ‘Death by Design’ – by Chip Kidd and Dave Taylor

The inspiration for this comic came from a demolition of a building in Pennsylvania. The plot? It forms around the demolition of the Wayne Central Station, following the construction union representative who wants to use the land for his own enterprises, and Miss Syl who wants to preserve the building. So… to get this straight, this comic is about the building industry with a little bit of batman on the side. Is this a good comic? Not in my opinion.

This is the most mundane batman storyline I have experienced; surely Kidd could have come up with something a little better than that? You know it’s going to be bad when you could pretty much take Batman out of it, and it would be a business document. It follows the world of construction business and then, quite confusingly, we suddenly see the joker sticking his nose in. You start to even wonder why Batman or the joker is there. They could be off fighting each other in a much more interesting and twisted series of events, but instead they’re interfering in the business between the union and Miss Syll: who we have no reason at all to care about besides her feminine wiles.

The one good thing I can appreciate in this comic is the artwork. The drawings are beautiful and highly detailed. However, they could still do with a little bit more colour: though I guess grey fits the mood for the plot. And I’m unsure whether this is a general comic representation of the Joker, but he looks like he’s aged horrendously and been converted into an android. And his ‘twist’ entrance is completely confusing and unnecessary.

Overall, I’m disappointed that beside the drawings, there’s little good I can say about the comic. I was expecting great things from DC, but this just didn’t meet my expectations.

Rating: 3/10

Comic Review: The Walking Dead, V1 Days Gone Bye – by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore

Robert Kirkman said he wanted to ‘explore how people deal with extreme situations and how these events change them’, in his introduction to volume 1 of ‘The Walking Dead’ series: ‘Days Gone Bye’. I think he achieves that aim quite nicely with this comic. Ignoring the fact it has an awful pun for a title, I think this volume is a beautiful example of the art of comic writing and I am proud for it to be my first branch into the genre.

The first striking thing about The Waking Dead is its lack of colour. Not only does this set the scene for the horror genre, it also gives a satisfying step away from the bright, bold KAPOW-type comic form of Marvel or DC. Whilst the comic could have potentially gained from some moody greens and browns, the black and white format sets a tone to match the dark storyline. The pictures themselves are intricately designed (by Tony Moore) and they show a lot of detail: especially in the mass-zombie images and the facial expressions. One negative that could be pointed out here, is how it’s fairly difficult to keep track on the passage of time in some scenes. There are some fantastic night-scenes that are drawn in a darker shade, but aside from this (unless mentioned in the storyline), it can be difficult to tell if something took an hour or six hours, or if events occur on different days or on the same day. This, however, may be intentional… but I think if intentionally used, it doesn’t work as well as it might have sounded in the board meeting.

The second most striking thing about this comic lies at the heart of Kirkman’s intentions: the characters. Character development and group relationships are the keys to this narrative and they’re effectively portrayed.  While we don’t get to find out much about the history of the people we meet, we are quickly thrust into the group and we feel their tensions. The jealous friend, the mother who feels her control is slipping, the mysteriously reserved one, the innocent children and the girl group: just some of the collection of characters that make up Kirkman’s social web. While the social interactions we see are effective, we don’t get to see much about the individuals’ lives before the crisis. If the focus was to see how people change, it might be nice if we knew who the people were to begin with. It must be difficult to portray so many characters individually in a short space of time, but some characters just don’t have enough conflict: making them one dimensional. Presumably they’re developed more in this way as the series continues.

The story itself is good, with variations between scenes of social interaction and scenes of action. There are enough lively scenes there to keep you entertained while the less action-packed details are span. The general ending is fairly simple, as the narrative is heavily pointing in that direction, but there is a pleasant twist which makes up for predictability. The overall horror doesn’t really bring a scare, its more centralised on the people and plot than the ‘horrific zombies’: and rightly so. To try and create a truly scary zombie would be a risky strategy as, on the whole, zombies aren’t all that terrifying. The most effective zombie films/comics either have adapted ‘the zombie’ to make it scary, or followed ‘The Walking Dead’s’ route of focusing on how people react under pressure. This decision was made well and has helped make an entertaining, woven tapestry that is highly recommended.

Rating: 10/10