Quick Thought Review: Graphic Novels (9)

This is a short one, but it’s been sitting as a draft for months and I now feel terrible that I haven’t completed it. So here we go! A few Batman reads (of course) and a fun and light read with magic!

The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told

Who doesn’t love an anthology focused on the Clown Prince of Crime? He’s Batman’s greatest villain and, in my opinion, one of the best villains in comic book history. The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told is pretty self-explanatory.

It seems like a difficult task to choose which stories are the greatest, and of course, because of size, there are a few missing (The Killing Joke, in particular), but they managed to do a pretty good job. It is an interesting piece because it truly shows the development in story, as well as art. Different artists, different writers, and readers get a pretty good illustration as to the development of the character. The Joker is a complicated character; sometimes the clown, sometimes the anarchist, and sometimes the psychopath. He has had a truly interesting career. It is not until later comics, when the themes of Batman become darker, that the Joker becomes darker as well.

This leads to one of my only complaints. Earlier Batman comics were quite jokey and over-explanatory (honestly, think the ’66 Adam West Batman television series). Quite a large portion of the anthology is from this time period, so it got a little tedious. I was hoping for a more evenly spanned timeframe of the Joker: early, mid and current. The focus of The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told is definitely the earlier appearances of the Joker. As such, he is more the clown than the psychopath/anarchist that I enjoy.

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

This piece is certainly not what I thought it was. Not a streamlined story, Supermutant Magic Academy is more a series of snapshots of students within this magic high school (think Harry Potter only with X-Men-like teenagers). It is completely random, and while that usually doesn’t work for me, it certainly worked with this piece. In fact, I’d say that the randomness makes the book pretty awesome!

It is such a quick read but it is also so relevant. Everybody who reads this can probably relate on a deeper level. There were ‘snapshots’ that had me laughing out loud and sighing with nostalgia. It is high school, and we’ve all been there. We may not have been Supermutants, but we all did the awkward teenage phase, and this work examines it superbly.

If you are looking for a science fiction piece with a bunch of magic and spells, though, you may be a little disappointed. That is certainly not the focus of Supermutant Magic Academy. And I guess it makes sense that if you are looking into a world in which magic is an everyday thing; it may not be the main focus to those that have the ability to use it. When it does, it appears in the hilarious and awkward way that it would when being used by teenagers.

A very enjoyable, cute read. It’s good for a laugh, which is something we all need to be able to do when thinking of high school.

The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

Batman is pretty dark on a good day, but I have to say that The Killing Joke is probably one of the darker comics in the Batman universe. According to the back, all it takes is one. bad. day.

batman-the-killing-jokeThe Joker breaks out of Arkham (not a huge surprise), but then he goes on one of his darkest and more vicious sprees with a goal to prove that the difference between sanity and insanity is simply one bad day. If you haven’t read The Killing Joke (what are you waiting for?!), I won’t spoil how he attempts to prove his point, but just know that it involves many of the main characters in the Batman universe and it changes their world forever. It is violent, disturbing and nightmarish. It is the psychotic Joker that people flock to see but cringe at when he makes such an appearance. This is the Joker on a mission, and that is always the scariest thing of all.

Art-wise, it is glorious. It is beautiful and so well planned out. The colours are bright and vivid. If you pick up a copy, please pick up The Deluxe Edition, coloured by Brian Bolland as he originally wanted it to be coloured. It adds to the atmosphere of the story and makes the images all the more vivid and shocking. This story is definitely not for the faint of heart. In fact, I wouldn’t say that this is a bad day; I’d say that it is one of the worst days that an individual can experience.

I’ve read this graphic novel three times, and each time it cuts me to the core. As Booklist states, it is “a genuinely chilling portrayal of Batman’s greatest foe.”

To say that this is an iconic story is an understatement. Alan Moore, whether he wanted to or not, cemented certain story lines into the Batman lore. Whether you want to accept the background of the Joker’s beginning as truth or a fevered untrustworthy memory, it is certainly used quite often in writers’ attempts to explain how the Joker came to be. And certainly, I think it is one of the most original and yet, ironic of backstories for the character. He was made this way, because of one bad day. Other characters are irrevocably changed and Moore, possibly unwittingly, created new story lines for them. The effect on the Batman universe was on par with that of A Death in the Family.

The ambiguous ending is probably my absolute favourite. I love not knowing and each time I read it, my mind goes a different way as to what happened once things pan away from the characters.

The Killing Joke is a powerful portrayal of, in my opinion, the greatest villain in comic book history. It illustrates the dark nature of the relationship between Batman and the Joker, and it shows how close to the abyss Batman is, and how hard he tries not to simply jump in.

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