Grant Morrison’s, Arkham Asylum was one of the first books back in the 80’s that redefined batman into a more gritty, psychological turmoil character that we know and love today. In this groundbreaking, painted comic, the inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken over Gotham’s detention center for the criminally insane on April Fools Day. They then demand Batman to come to Arkham in exchange for the hostages that are held captive there. Eventually Batman is forced to live and endure the personal hells of his villain roster. From the Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Two-Face and several other enemies, Batman must go through a sort of gauntlet in order to save the innocents and retake the mad house. Batman runs through these challenges that are both dangerous and crazy. It sort of parallel’s the essence of the Batman comics which is fantastic. This special anniversary edition also comes with the original script with annotations by Morrison and editor Karen Berger, which is really fantastic and gives us an insight on what the process was like in the creation of this story.
This book really is fascinating for a batman tale. There isn’t much fist fighting, or secret gadgets in this book. There is however a constant narrative of a dark, grim, psychological story that flows smoothly through the comic. Grant Morrison gives an incredible exploration into the psyche of Batman, as well as the cast of villains to boot, which is just wonderful. Then comes Dave Mckean, who is known for his covers for the sandman stories. His artwork is phenomenal, showing a twisted, creepy, version of not only Arkham Asylum but the characters that live in it as well.
If there is one flaw I could find with the book it would be Dave Mckean’s art sadly. Don’t get me wrong, 3/4’s of the time its outstanding. However there were be a few panels where it would get to chaotic, or confusing. It left me at times lost because I had no idea what was going on. Thankfully the original script at the end of the book gives insight as to what Mckean was trying to accomplish. Besides some issues with the art though, this book comes very close to being a flawless work of art.
Arkham Asylum really pushed boundaries when it was released and there’s no surprise to it. This book is an essential tale for batman and the batman mythos, as well as blending beautiful artwork with gripping writing. An incredible piece of work, that should be read for any comic book fan.