Review — Why the Killing Joke isn’t funny

I thought this was a good opportunity to review the graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke, since the movie had been released on Monday, and I went with Nya to the cinema. We had a great time (we surely enjoyed the gold class, with the recliner luxury seats and the free popcorn) but I will talk more about it another time for the movie review. Today, the spotlight will be on the graphic novel. I will review the deluxe edition from 2008 as I haven’t had the chance to read the original one.

Batman: The Killing Joke is a psychological horror story of 48 pages. Batman comes to the conclusion that his relationship with the Joker will end with one of them killing the other. The mad criminal escapes from Arkham and kidnaps James Gordon with the purpose of driving him insane. This is one bad day for the commissioner who must be rescued by the vigilante of Gotham as the clock is ticking. In this deluxe edition, Tim Sale grants us a personal introduction while Brian Bolland does the afterword.

I have only read this edition and I have to say that Tim Sale’s introduction is a perfect starter before we get into the story. He tells us how it was back then, during the time of Watchmen and The Dark Knight. He describes his feelings about this insane story about the Joker and how this reprinted edition is different — in a good way — from the original. Then he tells us the chills he gets; the ones you start having too as you turn the page. And right there the story begins, with two pages devoid of dialogue where we see a determined Batman on his way to the asylum on a rainy day. And it feels as if we were there with him.

Through the comic, you can only witness precision. Brian Bolland gets you into this story through his detailed lines and impeccable colours. He is an incredible penciller and an amazing colourist. Nothing is random and everything suits Alan Moore’s style. The plot is captivating. It only takes 48 pages to live through a bad day of the Bat and his Nemesis, also involving commissioner Gordon and his daughter. But we also learn a story about one of the origins of the Joker as we get some flashbacks from his previous life. We discover what kind of person he was before and what turned him into “this”. We even start feeling for him because of the tragedy he lived. But this is only one interpretation about his transformation. As we know, the true mystery of the Joker is that he has multiple pasts. In fact, he prefers his past to be “multiple choice”. He doesn’t stick to the memories, so he embraces insanity. The only fact we know for sure, is that for this insanity to happen, all it took was one bad day. On the other hand, one bad day made Batman forge himself (we all know his bad day was having witnessed the murder of his parents) Instead of falling into insanity like the Joker, Batman decided to fight and give a meaning to his life despite what happened. But as they are polar opposites, they are both the creation from a tragic event and this is the whole point of the Joker. This is where their psychological fight stands. Everyone can go mad. It only takes one bad day.

The afterword is only a few pages written, penciled and colored by Bolland that doesn’t directly connect to the Killing Joke. We can see that as a simple extra, even though I didn’t feel really thrilled about it. In fact, it’s a little bit of a turn off to read it after Moore’s story. But the art is still pleasant.

Madness is the emergency exit.

This graphic novel is brilliant. It’s 48 pages of an intense chase between Batman and Joker resulting in the end of this relationship. The beauty between the two is how similar they are in their experience, but opposite in what they became. While Moore drags us into his deep and twisted story, along with the tragic past of the notorious villain, Bolland brings the required atmosphere to fit. He managed to give deep emotions to the characters. Some close-up are astonishing and we can only empathize with the characters. We feel pain and terror all along. The pace accelerates and the tension grows as we dive into insanity. Tim Sale’s introduction is a perfect starter and the format is impeccable. Just like the whole story indeed.

Final Verdict:

To me, this is Platinum.


French geek. Let’s get this straight. I’ve put my ass in front of a computer at the age of 4 or 5. I couldn’t even read but I could put a password on the family computer. My first videogames were Pacman/Galaga/Pole Position trio (& Dig Dug for the bonus). I’ve always been a gamer. Aging, I’ve started expanding my horizons.

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Originally published at on July 27, 2016.