Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing JokeI should start by saying that prior to reading this I was not a fan of DC Comics or Batman. I've always found Batman to be too simple to warrant the title of a superhero. I mean, let's be honest: He's really just a rich ninja with a lot of cool toys. But this book changed my mind on Batman and DC Comics.

The novel is set in Gotham and features three parallel story lines. The main plot involves the Joker shooting a family member of Gotham's famed Commissioner James Gordon, the Commissioner's subsequent kidnapping and the terror that ensues.

Along with this, we see the telling of the Joker's past life experiences. Through flashbacks, we learn how the Joker became the Joker, why he creates so much pain and chaos, and what his motives are.

The final and most disturbing story line is that of Batman's motivation. The interactions with the Joker inevitably lead Batman to final questions about life, justice and the true relevance of everything he holds dear.

The entire novel seems to me to be an examination of the human condition. The Joker, Batman and even the commissioner are tasked with asking themselves several all-encompassing universal questions.

The Joker, having realized that everything is for naught, has become determined to prove his understanding of the world to everyone through madness and violence. His story line relies heavily on the ideas of a sorrowful life versus a life of madness and bliss.

Commissioner Gordon is left somewhere in the middle. He finds himself struggling with whether or not madness is a feasible option.

Batman remains vigilant. He, unlike the Joker has decided that although he knows (and likely agrees) that everything is indeed for naught, he chooses the pain and sorrow of life over a life of madness.

It turns out that Batman and the Joker are two sides of the same coin. They are literally fighting the same demons. Batman repeatedly tells the Joker that eventually one of them will kill the other (a reiteration of the running "all for naught" theme).

With that said, I strongly suggest this title. It's a stand-alone graphic novel that reads very quickly. The violence can be graphic at times, but the underlying questions about sanity, life and, "the meaning of it all" are far more disturbing -- and engaging.