Comic: "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Grant Morrison
Artist: Dave McKean
Plot: The inmates of Arkham Asylum are holding it's staff hostage. Their final request: Batman.
Review: Once the most successful graphic novel ever released by DC Comics, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (also known as Batman: Arkham Asylum) was first released in 1989 to much critical acclaim. A collaboration between writer Grant Morrison and artist Dave McKean gives birth to a book full of symbolism and surrealistic artistry, a tale that makes us question just who is to judge which of us is sane and those who are not.
I admit it, I am a sucker for a good Batman story, and Grant Morrison has been known to give us just that, but Arkham Asylum isn't one of those, at least not to me. I may be biased since I did read this book twenty years after it was first released, but it seems as if Morrison and McKean tried to shove so much imagery into the book, it comes off as gaudy and disoriented. I understand just how much good artwork plays into making a successful graphic novel, but when your font is just barely legible against said art, there is a problem. Morrison is probably for just as much as McKean is for how the art played out, given his dictation of exactly what he wanted to accompany his script.
Once again, it may be a case of DC's other writers over-indulging in stories set within the walls of Arkham Asylum over the years since this book was first released, but I still find myself enjoying other stories and plot-lines that have taken place in the asylum than the one Morrison gaves us here. It's a pretty cookie-cutter affair: Inmates escape and hold the staff hostage, they force Batman to come inside in some attempt to prove that he is just as insane as they are, all the while excerpts from the journal of Amadeus Arkham plays out in-between. Surprisingly, Amedaus' story is the only really interesting thing about this book. Sadly, you still have to put up with the happenings of the present day to read them.
Some Batman fans will probably be slightly perturbed when they notice how conflicting Morrison and McKean's take on classic characters are to the established canon. I've always thought Batman would need to spend more than one page taking down the likes of Clayface or Doctor Destiny. I also believed that Batman was not one to sit and listen to his villains before casually letting them go about on their merry way. Though, it is amusing to watch Two-Face so utterly confused and broken without his silver dollar that he urinates on himself, or to see Maxie Zeus offering Batman power in the form of his own feces bucket, this treatment takes away everything that was super about these super-villains. In the end all you have is story about a man in a bodysuit beating up on people who cannot even care for themselves, it is really hard to root for a guy like that.
McKean's artwork, while fantastic, can be pretty hit and miss. I couldn't help but notice throughout the story that he never really decided on just how to draw the Joker, or basic human anatomy for that matter. I suppose it all plays into the abstract artwork of surreal world they were trying to create, but to me it just seems sloppy, like a two different projects slapped together hastily in order to cash in on the fad of presenting superheroes in a different light that was all the rage back in the '80s. If you wanted to read something like that you would be better off picking up a copy of The Dark Knight Returns, or The Watchmen. Don't misunderstand me, it is still a good read if you're a fan of Morrison's writing or McKean's work, but for the rest of us, it's just another graphic novel.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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