Reading on the kindle app on the iPad was very difficult, but the story itself wasn't very good either. I understand that it is about madness, but it didn't make much sense to me as the reader! Waste of money, in my opinion.
Whilst I knew Batman comics are DARK, and generally more so than other mediums (films for example), and that the hint is in the caped crusader's nick name(DARK Knight), however, even having read some other Batman comics (including the quite disturbing in parts 'The Killing Joke'), this comic takes DARKness to a whole new level(to me anyway). This graphic novel was originally released in 1989, but without checking on Google, I could never tell, it could've been '89, '99, '09 or last year for all I knew, bottom line is - it looks great and hasn't aged a bit. Straight from the haunting cover, the abstract style of this story grabs your attention and easily sets it apart from other comics, even other Batman adventures. Whilst it can be a little difficult to follow/decipher at times, the horror and otherworldly atmosphere is masterfully conveyed through this style and is almost more like a subconcious puzzle than a graphic novel, as seemingly random images, phrases and layouts suggest that there is more to the comic than the straight forward strips. The story is equally harrowing, and details some very grizzly events and incidents (the fate of Amadeus Arkham's family for example). The Joker looks particiularly menacing and looks more like a white demon with exaggerated green hair than the Clown Prince of Crime. This 15th Anniversary addition also includes the original script, which helps to clarify some of the more difficult to make out sections / characters and some original sketch drawings. This is as much a psychological thriller as it is a Batman story and is very enticing to read, a second reading is a must. This is so far my personal favourite Batman book/novel/whatever you want to call it, might not be for some, is still quite a divisive release and DEFINITELY NOT FOR KIDS, but to me, it's a very twisted masterpiece and a defining moment in Batman's history.
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.
like the story and the artwork but the jokers red and white misaligned text made those sections almost unreadable.i had to use the script in the second half of the book to find out what was going on....shame.
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?
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.
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.