Friday, December 27, 2013

The Killing Joke, by Molly Trimmer


1.         The illustrations in the 2008 recolored version of The Killing Joke are extremely detailed and expressive.  A mostly cool color palette creates an eerie, shadowy tone and it causes warm colors, like the yellow of Barbara's shirt and the red of the blood, to pop dramatically.  The flashbacks are illustrated in black and white, with one item in each sequence colored red.  The black and white flashbacks, which offer one explanation of Joker's psychosis, make the transition to his discoloration (coloration in the comic) especially striking.  The original 1988 version is ultra colorful and feels psychedelic and trippy.  Each coloration sets a completely different tone even though the illustrations and words are almost completely the same in both versions.

2.         Batman and Joker originated in comic books, so a graphic novel is the most legitimate form a Joker origin story could take.  In comic form, the reader is free to stay on the page as long as necessary to pick up on the details and really absorb the creepiness of the story.  Scenes like the carnival owner murder, Barbara's shooting, the Joker's accident, and the end of the duel with Batman require still frames for the total dramatic impact.  Joker's demented expressions and the flashback transitions would not narrate effectively in a traditional novel, and a film would bring too much focus to the gore as opposed to the psychological intricacies.

3.         The only words in this graphic novel are presented in dialogue.  There is no outside narration to transition between the flashback scenes, but the difference in the styles of illustration render further clarification unnecessary.  The perspectives of every character are present in the comic, and the honest expression of thoughts and feelings through dialogue and illustration are most effectual without extra narration.  Also, the lack of guiding narration leaves the reader to put the pieces together and attempt to understand the Joker's madness on his/her own.  It can be suggested that the Joker is the narrator as the flashbacks are from his memory, and the first words of the story are his joke at the end of the comic.  The story certainly feels like it is guided by Joker, but he's an unreliable narrator if there ever was one.


4.         The entire graphic novel is important to the history of Batman and Joker because of the rare revealing of Joker's origin, but the very last scene of The Killing Joke depicts a specific, significant interaction between Batman and Joker.  After a particularly aggressive psychological and physical battle, it seems that Batman has the upper-hand and could easily eliminate his nemesis.  However, Batman suggests rehabilitation for the Joker, who proceeds to tell him a joke regarding a lunatic asylum.  The final joke gets Batman to laugh and reach his hand to Joker, but the final frames make the conclusion ambiguous.  To reference the Grovel review of Batman: The Killing Joke, "It's hard hitting enough, but it's incapable of squeezing out of it's own shackels." (<http://www.grovel.org.uk/batman-the-killing-joke/>)  The lack of finality is disappointing to some, but one could argue that having the ending open to interpretation is favorable.  

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