The Killing Joke

Posted: March 2, 2015 in Comic
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  Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s most popular oversized single issue of Batman.

The start of it has The Dark Knight going to Arkham Asylum, walking past inmates and members of his rogue’s gallery to have a heart to heart conversation with The Joker.

With the way Bruce acts, this story has to take place near the end of Batman’s era. You know the time in a relationship when one person realizes the whole thing is just a miserable unhealthy existence, so they try to be an adult and talk it over. Batman even starts out the heart to heart by saying, I’ve been thinking about us a lot lately. Of course in this case when he says that one day eventually either I’ll kill you, or you’ll kill me, sooner or later, The Caped Crusader is talking about literal murder and not just giving them a beating.

That’s partly the reason when the person sitting across the table “fnapping” playing cards amidst a game of solitaire turned out to be an impostor, Batman got real mad. Partially because an insane criminal had gotten loose, but also because that other person in the conversation he was trying to have wasn’t there.

The insane escaped criminal in question was out, buying an old dilapidated carnival as a place to carry out his

own twisted plan. Which is one of the most iconic events to happen in this book and resonate throughout other story lines. The Joker shows up at Commissioner Gordon’s home and shoots Barbara Gordon point-blank while she was opening the door, paralyzing her from the waist down. It happened so fast, that by the bottom of the page The Joker was already in Gordon’s living room telling him that his daughter was most likely never going to walk again.  I think this was done on purpose, to show how life can change in a blink.

One of my favorite things in Batman is when he gets shown as a detective. Sometimes writers won’t show Batman going through the puzzle and just skip to the end, or Robin will figure it out and Batman is two steps ahead of everyone. It is nice to see The Dark Knight go through some detecting work, in this case talking to some of the underbelly of Gotham to get leads, culminating in him driving the Batmobile up to the carnival where his arch nemesis is and trying to have that heart to heart conversation again.

The Joker, who at this point kidnapped James Gordon, and before leaving the scene at the Gordon’s home had stripped the defenseless Barbara of her clothes and taken pictures of her, just to see if he can drive her father into madness. Who The Joker had caged and naked, only to be brought out and tortured emotionally by being forced to face the pictures of Barbara. Because The Clown Prince of Crime thinks we’re all just one bad day away from turning out like him, that even the most level even headed person could be pushed to insanity.

All this is being juxtaposed by a few flashbacks of The Joker, and how he had a normal life at one point. Well, “normal” as anyone can conceive of, he has a wife and baby on the way trying to make it with his comedy act. It is not an act any of the clubs want to show, so to get money to provide for his family The Joker turns to organized crime. Things go real bad the day of the crime, both personally for The Joker and when the heist goes down. The chemical plant The Joker used to work at, and the target for his shenanigans, hired more security and Batman shows up. During the chase from the altercation, Batman helps create the green haired clown we know as The Joker. I’m not real keen on having a solid background for The Joker, but the slice we see works for the story.

In the present, we have The Joker projecting what happened to him and it is not working. James Gordon still has some sanity left when Batman arrives.

The hero arrives, he’s not diving into the fray to kick-ass. Batman enters the scene, confronting The Joker, and starts with his “we need to talk” speech. The two tussle and The Joker runs off into the carnival, but before Batman goes after him commissioner Gordon tells him to bring him in by the book, to show how ineffective his plans were.

Off Batman goes to find The Joker, with full intentions of completing the “one day one of us is going to kill the other, but let’s talk and see if we can get over that” talk. There is a bit of a battle, Batman tells his adversary what he’s thinking, how the Commissioner moments before hand told him to do things by the book, and after The Joker pulls a gun on Batman with intention ro shoot him, but it turns out to be the wrong gun, he tells one last joke, Batman starts laughing. Then the camera pulls both characters out of shot and the laughing stops.

The way Batman acts, says that one day one of us is going to kill each other, sooner or later, you could imply Batman took care of it right there and killed The Joker on the spot. I think the way batman felt he needed to have that discussion, he already made up his mind about what he was going to do, and in the flashback scene where The Joker first emerges as the clown, you can see his reflection in a puddle. At the end, there is focus on a rain puddle, but no reflection. Maybe to imply Batman caused this creature to be born, and was the reason he was taken out.

Of course you could say none of that happened, if there was an extra last page Batman just punched The Joker out because he was fed up with him  yeah, you could say that, the end does not put a definite cap on the situation. However. Having Batman take things into his own hands and stopping his greatest foe permanently is vastly more interesting than, say having the same Batman/Joker story end with the bad guy sent to be locked up, only to escape and have a never-ending repeating story.

Should you read The Killing Joke for yourself? Totally, it’s worth the read, and it’s not super long either so it won’t take that long.

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