Comicsphere: Arkham Asylum By Grant Morrison

the joker You always expect Morrison to bring a new spin to a character — to explore realms that others have left untouched, and as usual he delivers just that with a great deal of panache. Here the art by Dave McKean is the perfect vehicle for him to explore the darker recesses of Batman’s mind and the role he has had in shaping his villainous counterparts, and likewise the role they have played in the shaping of him. In The Invisibles one of the central ideas was the annihilation of opposites; the breaking down of that line that divides the world into easily digestible notions of good and evil. Here Morrison does a similar thing: taking the idea of the duality that hero and villain represent and at a pretty quick trot, through darkness and the catalyst of an insane asylum, he blurs the two together and shows us that there is very little separating the vigilante defender of Gotham from the people he has helped lock up. Batman has always been very pliable as a character and has always danced along that line where darkness and light meet. McKean, best known for his work with Neil Gaiman, makes the page sweat the feverish intensity of insanity, with a scarier Joker than has been written anywhere else. The clown prince here pulls the sickness out of Batman, seems an element of that Batman himself. Arkham Asylum is a map of the inside of Batman’s skull as much as anything — each character a totem for one of his psychoses. Of course Batman triumphs, and I don’t think it is giving too much away to say that, but can anyone ever look at him in quite the same way as they did before opening the pages of this book?

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