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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's a new guy at the mad house.
Due to the creative liberation that the graphic novel is able to provide as a format, it's no surprise that sometimes a book is produced which feels more like an artistic experience than simply a comic. Grant Morrison provides a story which explores the mental recesses of several well-known Batman regulars, there's a fine line between a sound mind and insanity, 'Batman:...
Published on 3 Nov 2011 by @GeekZilla9000

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not For Everyone
Arkham Asylum is a fantastically drawn and coloured graphic novel. The scenes spring off the page and really bring to life these crazy inhabitants of the asylum.
A personal favourite characterization was the Mad Hatter. I was only just familiar with Jervis and his obsession with Lewis Carroll, but this novel really showed me his insane, yet complex, nature.
The...
Published 21 months ago by Shortlems


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's a new guy at the mad house., 3 Nov 2011
By 
@GeekZilla9000 "I am completely operational a... (Doncaster, Yorkshire, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
Due to the creative liberation that the graphic novel is able to provide as a format, it's no surprise that sometimes a book is produced which feels more like an artistic experience than simply a comic. Grant Morrison provides a story which explores the mental recesses of several well-known Batman regulars, there's a fine line between a sound mind and insanity, 'Batman: Arkham Asylum' questions where that line is drawn.

The front cover and the pages preceding the start of the first chapter hint at something incredibly different, a style of artwork you rarely see in graphic novels and something I wasn't expecting. The Lewis Carroll quote from 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' concerning madness is the perfect way to open the story. Instead of the usual frame structure we get incredibly detailed pictures with long column-like frames overlaying them, many pages are read up-down rather than left-right. The illustrations are remarkable, beautiful - the most exquisite drawings I've seen in a graphic novel. They have a hastily scratched look to them as if they were feverishly etched in a moment of mania. You get the impression that rather than viewing a standard run-through of events, you are instead seeing someone's recollection of events with some memories more clouded than others, and some memories evoking a hyper-emotional state which is captured in the drawings themselves. Conveying mood is often tricky but artist Dave McKean literally makes an art of it, it's difficult to describe the style of the illustrations here, so I'll stop trying - they have to be seen to be experienced.

Arkham Asylum straddles two timelines, as Batman enters the institution at the request of The Joker we are also shown the origins of the asylum. It's not often that we get an 'origins' story for a building but if any deserve it then it has to be Arkham Asylum. Amadeus Arkham has his own internal demons and his story is fitting of the notorious house. This isn't a linear story and some may be put off by the surreal aspects of Arkham Asylum, instead of a smooth flow of action we get a dissection of Batman's mind. The Joker is evil in a deliciously twisted way, but he isn't the main threat to Batman - his main weakness is self-doubt. The Joker sows the seeds of doubt in Batman's mind and it proves effective, Batman questions his own mental state and at one stage even comments that walking through the doors of the asylum will be "just like coming home". It's a worry he shares with Jim Gordon, their time together in this comic is brief but you understand that being able to open up and offer such personal concerns is almost cathartic and Gordon is probably the only one he could speak with so frankly, it's a level of isolation which could easily drive you mad.

In a nutshell: This is a standout comic which feels like an interesting experiment. It's dark, very dark and hints at the true horrors committed by some of the 'inmates'. The Joker is particularly eerie yet brilliant, explanations are provided which marry together the different way his behaviour is often portrayed - from playful to downright evil. It can be read relatively quickly but the artwork is best digested slowly, it's a book you'll want to revisit simply to look at the illustrations. Interesting questions are asked about Batman: Does a man with a dual life who dresses in such a costume belong in a madhouse?
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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reality Check, 16 Sep 2006
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This review is from: Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
I feel there's a need to respond to the review that calls Arkham Asylum "UTTER RUBBISH". Frankly, that statement is ridiculous. Books like Arkham need to be taken in context. They exist to show something different. For the publishers to show off a little, to display a bit of extravagance. To showcase talent they may have in the stables and give a character the treatment they deserve. Personally I think the script for Arkham gives it a greater dignity than many of the so called "landmark" titles achieve (Digital Justice anyone?).

I first bought Arkham on its release when I was an impressionable teenager but have returned to it on numerous occasions as an adult and even bought it again when my original copy went awol. Whilst I would concede that it might not be the strongest plotline in a Batman story, in my opinion that's just missing the point.

Arkham is a prime example of the type of literary indulgence that has been used to flesh out the world of Batman or explore a different vein on numerous occasions. That is, there's no new characters, no major turn of events that will register on the Batman richter-scale (eg Death in the Family, Killing Joke) but it does go someway into presenting aspects of the character that help some readers see him in a different light. In Arkham's case that is to really emphasise the dark, psychological element of Batman and the space he occupies. The fact that, like his nemesis, he exists in a form of complete psychosis so utterly defined by the death of his parents, the resulting feelings of solitude and his almost scizophrenic dual identity ("Mommy's Dead. Daddy's Dead. Brucie's Dead"). Though all of this may have been explored in other stories, Morrison and McKean have, like several others before them, been given the oppurtunity to attempt to do something different.

The artwork plays a key role in this. The whole book is a thing of real beauty. Alex Ross may rule for out and out brilliance of illustration but in my experience, only Bill Sienkiewicz in Elektra:Assasin has done anything so astounding as Dave McKean's work here using varying media. Yes, some frames may not drive the story forward much but hell, just take them in and enjoy them. Those drops of blood in the glass shard scene are just exquisite. The character profiles at the end of the book that serve no real purpose but as an excercise in superb graphic design.

Arkham Asylum should be in anyone's collection whether a Batman fan or not.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Art school Batman, 21 Feb 2014
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
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.

I liked Morrison’s idea to have the Arkham doctors try weaning Harvey Dent off of the two-sided coin and onto the I Ching. It seemed like an original and viable means of treatment for Two-Face. But other ideas like the Joker calling the outside world the asylum and the world inside Arkham the real world was just corny, and the Amadeus Arkham storyline just read like a poor man’s Psycho. Morrison’s comics usually have more substance to them but Arkham Asylum is all surface texture with few great ideas.

Arkham Asylum is a visually interesting book but it looks and reads like an art student’s project, ie. a pretentious mish-mash of nonsense, than a good comic. I definitely wouldn’t rank it among Batman’s classics! If you want to read Morrison’s best Batman books, start with Batman and Son and go forwards from there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not For Everyone, 10 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
Arkham Asylum is a fantastically drawn and coloured graphic novel. The scenes spring off the page and really bring to life these crazy inhabitants of the asylum.
A personal favourite characterization was the Mad Hatter. I was only just familiar with Jervis and his obsession with Lewis Carroll, but this novel really showed me his insane, yet complex, nature.
The plot line is very interesting - the patients of the asylum rise up and overthrow the staff - but this revolt is not expanded on as much as it should have been. There are hardly any scenes showing how the Joker and the other villains managed to take over Arkham Asylum.
However, this graphic novel is nowhere near as awesome as I anticipated. One thing I really disapprove of was how Batman is, for the majority of the story, just a silhouette. Sure, at the beginning there is a brief glimpse of Batman's cowl (in black and white), but not in the entire book is there a sight of the famous logo, the utility belt, the underwear on the outside, the forearm blades, nothing. And Batman has CURLS on his shoulders. Why? He doesn't look at all like the Batman we all know and love. Although, this image of Batman as a shadow could demonstrate the asylum is a dark, awful place. But this is up to you.
Sometimes, the pictures are so lively it is hard to interpret what is actually happening, and require a second or so of close studying. To add to this, the story is criminally short.
So, in conclusion, Arkham Asylum is a beautiful yet short romp through Batman's infamous Rouge Gallery, minus the iconic Batman outfit, plus shoulder curls and sometimes over-complicated illustrations. Only buy if you are a hardcore Batman/DC/comic book fan, or you are just here for the art and story. Otherwise, steer clear.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Competent but disappointing, 7 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
I read Arkham Asylum, allowed it to sink in, read it again and then read the script to reflect on the story without the art. Yet... I can not truly appreciate Arkham Asysum. It is certainly a competently illustrated book, acceptably paced and it has a few particularly well-managed scenes. It is, however, so imprisoned in its fascination with Batman's rather shallow self-doubt that the person, as well as the narrative, is lost in the constant stream of cameos and set-pieces.

In essence, the story is, as many other reviewers have expressed, a story that must be seen in the context of the Batman mythos and the material usually being published. The problem is that this process goes too far. I am well-versed in Batman chronology and even so, the story writer seems to have needlessly weighted down the story with the past and conclusions about insanity drawn from it. Arkham Asylum does not exist on its own, it's a simple statement about the crazy nature of caped crusading, without acknowledging that the absurdity is accepted because the 'Batman universe' is not our 'sane' universe. The fact that the 'Batman Part' of the story is dripping with angst and empty fourth wall contemplation ironically makes me more appreciative of the unconfined narrative and structure of the 'Arkham Part.' Unlike the Batman, his suffering and descent into madness could be understood as a result of world and tormenting events, rather than being a generational reexamination of a comic book hero. As a result, it had a much larger presence and relevance which ultimately saved the story from being wholly disappointing.

One must of course also mention the art and illustrations. It's certainly well-drawn/painted. Its constant change of style and colour is not so much surreal as it is impressionist, albeit be it impressions through the stained glass of the unorganized (but educated) mind. Though captivating, it's sadly not overly artistic. It works in the flow of the comic, through which a comic can became art, but the individual frames are perhaps not as original as they once seemed.

Finally, I may add that I found the portrayal of mental sickness horrendously disappointing. The story floods the pages with incoherent statements like "I believe God is in Man," "Dirt everywhere" and "April Fools! Your wife is dead and your child's a spastic!!" It is certainly insane, but it is unsubtle and shallow. The book is fascinated with the nature of the crazy, be it Batman or the villains, but since the universe has always represented the insane criminals as flamboyant, it cannot capture the banality of deviant mental patterns. It's all a story about how we watch the mad, not a story about how the world is perceived by those labeled as deviant. From the perspective of the insane, he acts completely rational. His brain and world is different and when he sees the Bat, he acts the way he believes he is suppose to. There is no fascination in that perspective. This is conversely why I liked the Arkham story as he's essentially the only one that views the world as ordered, though it is not. His final regression after the 'incident' is cold, calculative, despairing and completely insane. Yet, he does not seem to 'think' insanity, only act and say it -- though even he goes over-board towards the end.
Also, its Jungian references are heavy-handed and often over-simplified for the sake for artistic flair.

In summery, it's a good read but far from a masterpiece and never truly mesmerizing in the way many other comics can be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Messed Up... in a good way, 3 Jan 2013
By 
P. M. Dean "patrick_font_dean" (Warwicks) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
The artwork for this is nothing like I've seen before in comic books. It's more of an odd art project than your traditional graphic novel. There is stacks going on though, and the script notes at the back point stuff out that you may not have otherwise noticed. Many layered, and lots of symbolism, it's clearly very well thought out, though whether that translates to a good Batman story is another matter.
I'm still making my mind up as to whether a camp joker is a good thing or not, I get that the vaudevillian aspect of his character has influence here, but for me it detracts from any level of menace.
I enjoyed it, and the artwork is dark and disturbing at points, but I didn't really get into the overall themes in a way that made it 5*.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gift, 27 Dec 2012
By 
S. Mooney (Kildare, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
Got this as a nostalgic gift for my older brother, went down great, anyone who liked batman/comics will like this.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique, dark and beautiful., 23 Jun 2012
This review is from: Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
I think that some of the other reviews here have somewhat missed the point.

Arkham Asylum is more of an experiment in graphic design, symbolism and psychology than a straightforward comic book. Take particular note of the symbolism: this is Grant Morrison at his best, weaving powerful meanings into every little detail (so many that to be quite honest the vast majority flew right over my head until I read the annotated script included in the book). Just as an example coming off my head, take the fight with Killer Croc. Amadeus Arkham's interweaved narrative (those who have read Watchmen will know what to expect) gives Croc the title of 'The Great Dragon', and Batman eventually defeats him with a spear from a statue of St. Michael. Paradise Lost, anyone? So there we have some Christain symbolism explored further with the repeated appearance of the Vescica Pisces. Also, Batman uses a spear - the weapon associated with Athena, the goddess of wisdom. So we also have a 'brains over brawn' theme in there.

The repeated appearance of the moon is also signifcant - in Tarot the moon is the card for madness and psychological themes(hence 'lunacy') amongst other things. Also note the repeated references to the Tower - another Tarot card which represents challenge. Even the beetles at the start of the book are symbolic of rebirth and transformation. The script included explains all this symbolism to ordinary plebs like you and me.

Dave McKean's artwork is absolutely outstanding and completely unique - dark, impressionistic, and simply beautiful to look at, whatever the subject matter. The way it all knits together is also fantastic, the moment when poor Amadeus discovers his slaughtered family being one example which springs to mind.

Arkham Asylum cannot not lay claim to an epic plot. Neither can it offer an easy, relaxing read. What it can give, however, is a fanstastically dense, dark, intelligent, frightening and beautiful psychological horror story. Taken in its context, it's up there with the best.

If we can confront our subconscious fears and not slip into the pit of insanity, maybe we can all be like Batman.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Style over substance, 18 Sep 2012
By 
M. A. PRITCHARD (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
Just because something looks deep and meaningful, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is. This book looks great, but scratch beneath the surface and you'll find that it's just shallow cliches and brooding 'darkness' that tells you as much about life as a Hollywood serial killer movie. The narrative is set in a mental institution, and as the paper thin plot progresses we learn that the mad are mad, the psychiatrists are mad and Batman, or society itself, is also mad. Really, what a revelation. Next time please inform me where bears defecate as the question has always troubled me. And equating madness with criminality and violence? That's just ignorant and betrays a very basic lack of understanding about the realities of mental health issues. It's a bit like equating protesting with violence, or peace activism with drug abuse. It's opinions without real world experience. Opinions that come from staying indoors watching a flicking box in the corner of your room. It has the stinky odour of accepting views on reality that come from sources that you really shouldn't be trusting. Hey, how about leaving the room and experiencing life for yourself? Just an idea.
As a work of art the book looks great, but wrapped up in it's own sense of cliched revelation the dialogue and plot become blurred, difficult to understand and ultimately just confusing and irritating. To summarise. The book is an 18 year old suburban teenager. It wants to be different. It wants to express it's own uniqueness. It wants to comment on society, but above all it just wants to be praised as original, intelligent and cool. It gets two stars for teenage coolness, but none for originality or intelligence, and it has nothing to say about society that isn't already a dull and tired cliche. It's like trying to comment on the world when the only life experience you have had is watching television, it just doesn't work. Reliance on cliches has made this book completely unrelated to the real world, and ultimately just something to waste your time reading (or looking at, as there's not much to read here) before you decide to actually interact with the world and people outside of your suburban teenagers closeted existence. This is bad teenage poetry. A bit embarrassing, and not something that anybody with any real life experience should bother wasting their time with. Dark, twisted, intelligent and intense? Nope. Disappointing, tame, insulated from reality and idiotic? Yes.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Art-ham asylum, 14 Jan 2009
By 
T. Brown (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition (Paperback)
I absolutely love this book. I know that makes me bias, and some might say hypocritical at the average rating i have given it.

Ill start with why i love this book. The first thing you notice when you open the book is the high quality feel of the glossy paper, with a few splash pages of, well, clearly insanity inspired modern art. Once the story begins the art styles chop and change throughout, and it just suits my personal vision of what i love about graphic novels compared to prose. For the price of this book you couldnt buy a book on modern art that was as good.

The story, although not the most conventional, is fairly straight forward. In truth it follows two stories, batmans, and amadeus arkhams. I would say the latter is the more interesting of the two.

The downside is because it swaps every few pages the story loses its pace a little. The other thing is that because it is fairly short it will be over in about an hour.

For graphic novel fans, the second half of the book has the full annotated script, original storyboards layouts, and some more art pages. While this is appreciated, as somewhat custom in graphic novels nowadays to put some scripts in the back, i cant help feeling that 90% of the people who buy the books will not make more than a cursory glance at these pages.

My other complaint is that the joker, being the main arch-nemesis, has his captions done so it is a struggle to make out some of the words in one go. I feel that although it adds to the arty thing by giving all the major players special captions, it slows down the action when you have to re-read things.

Overall i think this is a good book. I enjoyed the subject matter, although i can see why it would not be to some peoples tastes. I would say, if you liked the killing joke, there is a good chance you will like this too.
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Batman: Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition
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