Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Brian Bolland
I have been a Batman fan all my life but I never got this book until after seeing the Watchmen film. After seeing that I started to buy other books by Alan Moore initially buying the Watchmen, and following onto his other material. I also had planned getting a few Batman graphic novels at the time as I hadn't started collecting comics yet and when I saw this book and that it was not just written by Moore but also was a story about my favourite Batman villain the Joker I had to buy it. Since then I have yet to read another Batman story as good as this brilliant masterpiece.
This story sees Batman going to visit Joker in Arkham Asylum to find out that he has escaped and that the person in his cell is an impostor dressed like Joker. Joker on the out side finds a carnival to have has his base and then pays Commissioner Gordon a visit, kidnapping him after shooting his daughter Barbara through the spine making her paralysed. Batman now has to find the Joker and put an end to his game. During the story we see Joker's life before he became the Joker and the events that lead to him becoming what he is now.
I loved this book and it gets better with each read. Moore's writing is at it's usual high level but the art is just astonishing. Brian Bolland's art is just brilliant and I have never seen Joker drawn with such emotion in him. I love how Bolland drew Joker showing him before as a scared bumbling comedian trying to do good for his family and him as the loony psycho called Joker. I also liked how we see moments when Joker shows a similar innocents whilst talking to Batman.
I never realised until reading the forward that this had been re-coloured by Bolland himself and have since had a look at both his and John Higgins original colourings (online) to compare. I have to say that although Higgins colours were brilliant for back in the 80's, Bolland's colours are much better, and now that we have computers to help colour images we have a lot richer and puncher finish to his already brilliant pencils. The main change to the colouring that I prefer having looked at both was how Bolland washed out the colour in the flashback's leaving a mainly soft grey tone but with the odd addition of yellow or red to highlight an object, like the red in the Red Hood for instance.
I thought it was a good idea that the book started and ended the same way, starting with the line "there were these two guys in a lunatic asylum..." and ending with the same line followed by the rest of the joke. I also liked the fact that the story ends with a joke and loved how throughout all his sadistic acts Joker still had time to crack a joke. I also thought it was a good idea to have the conversation Batman has with the fake Joker at the starts over the top of the fight sequence between Batman and Joker, giving a monologue tone whilst also showing that Batman may be right when he asks if they will land up killing each other.
This book also gives us the act that changed Barbara Gordon's life forever (in least till The New 52). What I'm talking about is when Joker shoots Barbara through her spine leaving her paralysed. The scene was brilliantly set up with both Barbara and her father talking away all happily and then turning to sadness when she opens the door to find Joker with a gun pointed at her, eventually shooting her. I also loved that even though Barbara was lying in tremendous pain and the Jim trying to help her that Joker still had time to make jokes about her being a book with a broken spine.
I also liked how this book pointed out that this wasn't necessarily the real origin of the Joker and that because he no longer knows himself it could be anything. I however think this is the best origin as it shows that Joker was once a normal man just trying to provide for his family and that "all it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy".
The back story added to the Deluxe Edition was also brilliant and I loved how we see this weird person called The Innocent Guy who wants to do one bad thing, which is to kill Batman. Once again brilliantly drawn as well as written by Bolland, this shows great emotional resolve in a character who considers himself a good person whilst wanting his one bad thing to go down in history. I also liked how we see all the cameos in this tale and how the Innocent Guy says that he will succeed in killing Batman because unlike Batman's villains he doesn't need it to be spectacular and doesn't want to take the credit.
This was a brilliant book and there is a reason it is still popular after all these years. I would highly recommend this story to anyone as it's brilliant and has Joker at his best. I would also recommend the Deluxe Edition to anyone who read it back when it was originally out because with the addition of Bolland's own colours it transforms this already brilliant story into something that is a pure masterpiece. This story will easily go down in history as one of the best and most influential Batman stories ever.