Posts Tagged ‘batman’

What Just Happened?

March 22, 2009

dark_knight_strikes-again-lFrank Miller and Lynn Varley’s THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN is truly a punch in the face. Where THE KILLING JOKE is a psychological dissection of Batman and his arch-nemesis the Joker, TDKSA catapults you headfirst into a gross orgy of heroes, monsters, sex and pop media. Miller wastes no time introducing the characters. In fact in a radical albeit fitting move, Batman is barely visible for the majority of the book, choosing instead to be more of an ever present shadow, orchestrating the masterpiece from behind the scenes (or beyond the panels).

I honestly can’t tell you what happened in its 246 pages. Batman was old. Superman was conflicted. Catgirl was hot. Braniac was a jerk. That’s as much as I really got, and truthfully, I don’t really know if what happened really matters. Whether or not I understood it on an intellectual or dramatic level, I felt it.

TDKSA was visually unlike anything else I have ever seen. Like the best punk music, Miller’s artwork gracefully toes the line between beauty and anarchy. The images do not convey information as much as transmit it on a visceral level. You don’t stop and stare at each panel as if in the Louevre, because Miller is telling you that there isn’t enough time. His lines are fat and bold and full of immediacy and danger. Varley’s colors are a day-glo Technicolor trip.  When Batman beats the crap out of Superman on pgs. 88 – 89, you really feel every blood-bursting bone-breaking “KRUNCH!” You don’t really view the page with your eyes and then process it in your brain. It simply socks you in the gut, and you understand and move along.

And all of that  is not to say that there isn’t anything intellectual about TDKSA. In fact, I believe that there is simply SO much – about war, about faith, about politics (and a president that doesn’t exist), about pop culture, about our digital society, about aging and death, about the struggle between men and gods (aka caped crusaders) – that it would take me at least two more read-throughs to have anything coherent or intelligent to say about the actual meaning of the book.

I’m pretty sure that TDKSA could only have been written now. It touches on lot of the fears and anxieties of today, but in no way is it heavy. Instead, it is light and strong and fierce and unforgiving – a frenetic burst of color that simply leaves you dumbstruck. I’m still dazed, but all I know is that I liked it. And maybe that’s all that really matters.

Laughter in the Dark

March 16, 2009

BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE is yet another example of Alan Moore’s genius. Along with artist Brian Bolland, Moore cleverly utilizes both visual match cuts (such as the reflected handshakes in the bottom panels of page 8 ) and wordplay-oriented match cuts (such as the Joker’s “Yes, I get the picture.” on the bottom of page 23) in its many transitions to seamlessly jump backwards and forwards in time.

But what I think makes the KILLING JOKE exceptional and allows it to stand out amongst stereotypical Batman stories (as well as distinguishes it as another member of Moore’s masterful canon) is its refusal to except the Joker as simply a “bad guy.” In fact at its core, the KILLING JOKE is the Joker’s origin story, and reveals much more about him than Batman himself. While detailing the Joker’s most sickening and devious crimes (certainly regarding the fate of Barbara Gordon), the KILLING JOKE also effectively humanizes him, tracing his insanity to “one bad day” in the life of a relatively innocent guy and effectively giving rhyme to his reason. I could imagine many diehard Batman fans being upset or perplexed by Moore’s rationalizing of a villain characterized by his lack of rationality, but if anything, this choice stands as further testament to Moore’s prowess.

Interestingly enough, I feel that there are similarities to be drawn between the Joker of the KILLING JOKE and the Comedian of WATCHMEN. Both appear to reflect a dark and sinister sense of humor along with a nihilistic view of the world around them. But interestingly enough, the Joker is largely considered a villain while the Comedian is grouped with the “heroes” of WATCHMEN. WATCHMEN was completed around the same time the KILLING JOKE was released (1987 and 1988 respectively), and I suppose this nihilistic temperament was on Moore’s mind at the time.

Batman gets "grabby."