Batman: Arkham Asylum (15th Anniversary Edition)
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In this groundbreaking, painted graphic novel, the inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken over Gothams detention center for the criminally insane on April Fools Day, demanding Batman in exchange for their hostages.Accepting their demented challenge, Batman is forced to live and endure the personal hells of the Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Two-Face and many other sworn enemies in order to save the innocents and retake the prison.During his run through this absurd gauntlet, the Dark Knights own sanity is placed in jeopardy.This special anniversary edition trade paperback also reproduces the original script with annotations by Morrison and editor Karen Berger.
- Amazon Sales Rank: #2620 in Books
- Published on: 2005-11-01
- Released on: 2005-11-01
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: .38" h x 6.60" w x 10.24" l, .96 pounds
- Binding: Paperback
- 216 pages
- ISBN13: 9781401204259
- Condition: New
- Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! BUY WITH CONFIDENCE, Over one million books sold! 98% Positive feedback. Compare our books, prices and service to the competition. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
An inside look at a madman's nightmare.
First, there are two things anyone interested in purchasing or reading this title should know about it beforehand. One, that it is probably not for everyone's taste as it isn't your traditional Batman vs. the villain-of-the-week sort of story, but rather a darker, more disturbing kind of tale that focuses on a deep, complex exploration of madness, told alternately from three different points of view: that of Amadeus Arkham, founder of the asylum, that of Batman and his other persona, Bruce Wayne, and of course, that of all the madmen locked up at the asylum, including the super villains.
Two, that it is "Suggested for Mature Readers" on the back cover as it's probably one of the most unnecessarily violent and ghastly graphic novels ever published under the Batman title, although, I definitely think - regardless of it being at times a bit too disgusting for my taste - that it's also one of the most original and beautifully illustrated narratives ever created for the genre. The superb artwork is perfect for the story with its surreal, dreamy, and suggestive look, even if, on occasion, it gets a little difficult to follow, especially with certain clashing combinations of colors and typographies. Still, the lavish intricacy of the compositions and the broad range of techniques used by the artist are a spectacular visual feast worth the price of the book alone.
The dual story, told in a nicely interwoven parallel, on one hand, explores Arkham's past and how his reasons for founding the asylum derived from decisions he made during the most crucial points of his life, and on the other, focuses on Batman's present day mission to go inside the asylum and, while confronting the insecurities about his own sanity, regain control of the facility after it's been taken over by the Joker.
Arkham's story is from beginning to end an emotional journey through the situations and escalating tragedies that can slowly drive a man insane. It's marvelously shrouded in a veil of mystery and superstition, and brilliantly placed in time during the beginning of the 1900's both by the overall mood of the art and the historical details sprinkled here and there, including, among others, having Arkham meet and learn from both Carl Jung and Aleister Crowley.
Batman's story, told from both his point of view and that of the inmates' is, on the other hand, a lot darker, more twisted and sadly less consistent. Our hero's mischaracterization, present throughout the whole story, is obvious from his first line of dialogue, with which he's not only portrayed as a constantly daunted man, but also as one who reacts with shock and disbelief to the inmates' atrocities and maniacal behavior that he's so used to fighting. Contrastingly, the clever analysis of Joker's psychosis is brilliant right to very last page of the book, even in spite of the endless sexually perverted innuendos from him - who even hints at a homosexual relationship between Batman and Robin - that somewhat lessen the impact of the story's emotional momentum.
The story concludes with the most satisfactory ending I've so far encountered in any graphic novel - worthy of a 5-star rating on its own -, an excellent comparison of the contrasts and similarities between Arkham and Batman's sense of duty, the ghosts of their pasts, and the skeletons in each one's closet.
As you'd expect from the title, along with the Joker, a fair amount of villains make an appearance, enriching Arkham Asylum's decadent milieu, among them Two-Face, Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Clayface, Prof. Milo, Dr. Destiny, Maxie Zeus, Black Mask, etc. The constant references to April Fools' Day and Alice in Wonderland, the changes introduced to Two-Face's alter ego, Harvey Dent, and the re-imagining of some of the other super villains, are truly delightful as well. But where the most pleasant surprises of the story lie for me are on Batman's iterated questioning of the "cures" administered to the inmates by the asylum's doctors, and the contemplation of the possibility that madness might not only be a physical illness but that it could also be a contagious disease.
Despite the fact that this book could use some degree of fine-tuning in a few places and a little less unwarranted violence in others, overall it holds its own and delivers a fantastic story about how different people perceive the world around them when they see it through their own biases.
This 15th Anniversary Edition includes a section with the original sketches and story conceptualizations done for this title that presents an amazing view of the artists' creative process.
Definitely a must-have addition to any serious Batman collection.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar
The Dark Knightmare
"I see now the virtue in madness" begins Amadeus Arkham, locked in his own family home which he spent his life converting into a home for the mentally deranged only to later descend into madness himself. "I pity the poor shades confined to the Euclidean prison that is sanity. All things are possible here and I am what madness has made me. Whole. And complete. And free at last..."
"Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth" is a nightmare vision featuring The Batman and some of his most deadly foes as you've never seen them before. Not a typical comic book by any means; this is art, plain and simple. A psychological exploration overflowing with oblique symbolism, jaw-dropping and stylish artwork, imagery meant to terrify, and prose meant to provoke. Some readers may be turned off by the out-of-character situations and reactions of some of their favorite characters or the mind-twirling nature of the story progression and art, but this is the creepiest and most avant-garde comic I've ever read and that alone makes it a must. This is not a superhero story; this is pure unadulterated psychological horror of the highest caliber.
The story is actually two concurrent tales. One is an illustrated reading of the journal of Amadeus Arkham exploring his life, his death, his ambitions, and his succumbing to the very thing he dedicated his life to curing. The other follows the exploits of The Batman, called to the most storied sanitarium in all of fiction to face some of his greatest foes -and greatest fears- alone. The two overlap at times with Arkham's words adding symbolism to the events during Batman's journey into the heart of darkness.
The look of this book is jarring. Outstanding. Amazing. It's like real life bleed into a classic painting to create this surreal abstract art style. I figured Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight would be the one to haunt my nightmares. I was wrong. From his very first frame here he looks positively demonic; not a man at all but a grinning atrocity with frightening eyes and a horrific countenance. The very embodiment of Satan himself: a fitting representation in this context. Clayface is not the shapeshifter we know here, but has become a living symbol of disease and corruption, a pathetic being like many of the other villains residing within Arkham's walls. After successful therapy, Two-Face has been weaned from his coin-flipping habit and now makes decisions based on tarot cards, offering him shelter from the black/white absolutes of his criminal past. The problem: he can no longer even go to the bathroom without relying on his cards to tell him what to do. The end result is messy. Scarecrow makes a brief, but frightening appearance, and The Caped Crusader does battle with Killer Croc as well. The Mad Hatter shows up in true Lewis Carroll form (but with more pedophilic undertones) and offers up the solution to the mystery of this bizarre version of Batman's existence; confirming what I had suspected.
If there is any chink in this book's armor, it's that the symbolism overpowers the story much of the time. Fans of David Lynch, David Cronenburg, and H. P. Lovecraft will eat this up, but anybody looking for a traditional linear good vs. evil story may want to think twice. This is an exploration of the psychology of Batman; his fear that he is the reason Arkham is overflowing with madmen, or worse: that he is no different from those he puts behind it's walls. There are several recurring themes that are shared in the past experiences of both Amadeus Arkham and Bruce Wayne that are pretty fascinating. All of this insanity is held together by the outstanding art. "Arkham Asylum" is a complete package that requires multiple readings and a patient mind to unravel, but it is well worth the effort for those who want to get down to the elemental core of the Batman and gain insight into his thoughts and feelings. At first read, there is a lot that will be very off-putting the the Batman faithful, but once you understand the true nature of the book, it is an amazing work.
This 15th anniversary edition features a real treat. The back pages are full of commentary by the creator of this beautiful mess who shares a ton of insight in entertaining fashion. But the real gem is the original script for the comic, which reads a lot like a screenplay for a film. Anyone still in the dark about writer Grant Morrison's intentions with this story would do well to give it a hard read. It really lays out the symbolism and references that would otherwise fly over most anybody's head and answers any remaining questions the reader may have about any given scene. A brilliant addition. Here's one little factoid for you: The Joker's mouth was originally to be drawn as a reference to the fabled vagina dentata. The concept never made it onto the page, but you're welcome for that mental image. Thanks, Mr. Morrison!
So there it is. If you've ever questioned Batman's (or your own) sanity then this is the book for you. It's a nightmare of ink on paper and a deep, thoughtful look at the mind of one of the most iconic heroes of all time. It's dark, brutal, chilling, and downright gorgeous in the most disturbing possible way. It will change the way you look at the denizens of Gotham City, I can tell you that.
4 1/2 stars, rounded up for treating comics as an adult medium.
A total nightmare
It's hard to believe that Grant Morrison's defining look at Batman is over 15 years old, but even so, Arkham Asylum: Serious House on Serious Earth, is a masterpiece of comic horror. It starts off like one may think a Batman comic would: Bats is called in by Commissioner Gordon because the inmates at Arkham have taken the staff hostage and will release them on one condition: Batman must join them. Featuring the most psychotic of Batman's rogue gallery: the Joker, Two-Face, Black Mask, Mad Hatter, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, Doctor Destiny, Clayface, and Professor Milo are all here, and they all have plans for the Dark Knight. During the story, the tragic tale of Arkham himself is told as the origin of the construction of the asylum is built, and Morrison's examination of the inner demons of Batman in comparison to that of his villains is simply brilliant. His interpretations of the Joker, Two-Face, and Clayface are unlike anything else done by anyone else with the characters, maybe except for Alan Moore's use of the Joker in the Killing Joke. Add to this the haunting and visceral artwork of Sandman cover artist and frequent Neil Gaiman collaborator Dave McKean, and you get one of the greatest, and most chilling, Batman stories ever told. There's a nice assortment of extras thrown in as well, including Morrison's complete original script with new notes, and his hand drawn storyboards to boot.