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Batman: Arkham Asylum Paperback – 1 Apr 1990

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books Ltd; New edition edition (1 April 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852862807
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852862800
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 0.6 x 25.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 101,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

If comics are the modern mythos (a pretentious statement, maybe, but what other art form allows so many storytellers to work with a handful of established characters?), Batman is Gilgamesh--the man of a thousand faces. Portrayed as everything from costumed clown (the Bat-Mite years) to vengeance personified, he is one of the two pillars of the DC Universe--the ultimate in human achievement, as opposed to Superman, the impossibly powerful near-deity who struggles to live as a man.

At the series' best, Batman's writers and artists have portrayed the struggle between the man and the mission--the scarred child who donned a cowl to overcome his fears, and the realities that come with his (let's face it) completely implausible existence. As with any fantastic fiction, a certain amount of suspension of disbelief comes with the territory--and in the case of Grant Morrison and Dave McKean's Arkham Asylum, that's a necessary thing. Morrison, the creator of off-key series The Invisibles and probably best known for his work on The Justice League of America, here spins a tale of the titular institution, the home-away-from-home for the members of Batman's Rogue's Gallery. Psychologically intense, the story is split between Batman's ordeal in an Arkham overthrown by the inmates and run by the Joker (easily the most unstable nemesis for our hero) and the heretofore untold tale of Amadeus Arkham, founder of the Asylum.

McKean's painted artwork is both detailed and impressionistic (a nice duality in itself) and even more disturbing than the facts of the story; this is a story that, as told, could not creditably exist in another medium. It's a triumph of both art and craft--but, like P.J. Harvey's Is This Desire?, it may be a triumph of art over enjoyability: reading this book can be unsettling, if not disturbing. Further, Morrison's treatment of the regulars is clearly subject to the conceit of the story--neither Batman nor Two-Face are really "in character" here (for that matter, neither is the Joker, though his mental instability makes it tough to argue against any behavioural pattern). Ultimately, Arkham Asylum is a creation unto itself, best remembered as a singular work of art that is only by necessity a part of the Batman universe. --Randy Silver

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "predator1000" on 28 April 2003
Arkham Asylum tells the dual story of Batman as he ventures into the mental institue that has been taken over by inmates, whilst also telling the story of how Amadeus Arkham founded the asylum in the 1920's. A note at this point: This is a purely adult style comic and both the graphical style and the storylines subtle twists will only be appreciated by older readers. The version of Batman portrayed here is also quite unique- more in line with the 'Dark knight' than comic book hero. Complex, and often insecure with his own personal demons, this Batman is a figure plagued by inner torment who finds that he is not so different from the inmates he has struggled to put behind bars over the years.
Whilst the writing is great, what makes the graphic novel stand out is the stunning artwork by Dave McKean. It is one of those rare works where each panel could easily stand in a modern art gallery. The dark and forboding atmosphere of the corridors and chambers of Arkham are brilliantly represented, as is the manical set of characters that Batman encounters.
If you are interested in a real storyline and a different take on the character of the Batman, as well as a sublime portrayal of madness and insanity, this comic is highly recommended. I have a fairly large collection of comics but amongst all of them, this one stands out as one of the few that is truly special.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sam Quixote TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Feb. 2014
Based solely upon his 2006-2013 run, Grant Morrison might be the greatest Batman writer of all time. But he wasn’t always so brilliant as his first Batman book, the mega-selling Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, shows.

The inmates have overrun the asylum and are holding civilians hostage. With Joker running free with a knife, Batman goes into the asylum to stop him and enters a nightmarish netherworld. Meanwhile, the troubled life of the asylum’s founder, Amadeus Arkham, is explored.

The story is one long rambling mess, which is part of Morrison’s intent. It’s designed to be dream-like and to read like a song and therefore, as a comic, it’s difficult to follow or really understand. I get the impression the symbolism of the tarot is important but the book didn’t make me interested enough to want to pursue a deeper understanding of it. Batman’s characterisation is a bit off too – how was he beaten by a deranged doctor!?

Some readers might scoff that Morrison’s comics are always like this with his drug use, but he actually wrote this before he began using drugs and alcohol – he writes in his afterword that he stayed up for hours on end to achieve the altered state of consciousness he wanted before sitting down to write. So it’s official: with or without drugs, Morrison writes weird comics! Hear that, poseur artists, you don’t need vice to produce art!

Dave McKean’s artwork matches Morrison’s bizarre story well but it still looks a bit too avant-garde for a comic. McKean’s best known for being The Sandman’s cover artist and his art is well suited to that format. But for page after page of interior art? It’s just headache-inducing! And when he does draw distinguishable figures, they look like poor Simon Bisley facsimiles.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Master O. L. Rahman on 22 July 2006
Artistically, this graphic novel is fairly unique. A Dark atmosphere is created using heavy ink and watercolours, which perfectly describe the story of Arkhams journey into insanity, and Batmans confrontation of some of his most and least famous enemies. Clockwork cogs over dark backgrounds, with slightly smeared white sketchy lines, batman is often just drawn as a dark shadowed silouette with the recognisable mask. The Joker is a terrifying cavorting bloodless figure with red painted eyes and lips,arithe with dark sexual intent.The mad hatter is a pipe smoking hallucigenius with a lined face and lank wisps of hair under his hat, claiming to "have things to tell" batman. The novel realistically breathes life into batmans villains in a way that is more fantastic yet more terrifing.

The thing that really struck me about Arkham asylum is that it cannot just be limited to describing the artwork, the writing is easily just as astonishing. The book fascinated me in the morbid way i enjoy watching horror films, it delves into batmans psyche and that of Amadeus Arkham.Inparticular there is a moment at the beginning where batman reveals his fears to jim Gordon- he is afraid that when he walks through the asylum gates it will "feel like coming home", providing the first suggestion in the book that batman is possibly as equally insane as his foes.

Arkham asylum stays with me, and i recommend it to anyone who is interested in a dark strangely compelling batman tale, but i warn you that this is not a fairy-tale. It has grotesque moments, but they all contribute to this remarkable piece of work.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 4 Aug. 2003
Not following the modern path, but rather choosing a 2200 year recipe, Grant Morison made a story to remember.
The play is strictly governed by the rules of an ancient Greek tragedy. Characters are tragic in the original term. Their future is decided from the very beginning. That they may know, deep inside, what they are and where they will end, makes no difference. They must endure the whole path of apocalyptic events that will drive them to the inner illumination and the completion of their struggle. Not being strong enough to divert from their line of destiny, even when foretelling is quite obvious, characters are distilled and remade through the process and their agony to postpone the inevitable, which is to face the oncoming revelation of oneself. At the end, redemption rarely comes, and each character confronts truth in its own unique way.
Morison masters the plot effectively, and even uses the more complicated tool of the ancient tragedy: the choir (look for the voices of the madmen). This tribute to the oldest rules of western theatrical play comes to completion when Batman finally passes through a gate with the inscription "ÃÍÙÈÉÓÅÁÕÔÏÍ", which is ancient Greek and translates as "to know yourself".
Take all that, add the astonishing artwork by Dave McKean, and you result in a piece of artwork one rejoices to study. The 9th art in one of its finest moments, and a marvelous story where one can even "smell" the psyche of the heroes
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