Stefani Sloma

Revisited: Arkham Asylum the Graphic Novel

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I just recently started reading comic books and graphic novels. Arkham Asylum was one of the first three that I read (after Saga and The Walking Dead). I thought it was crazy (haha) good.

Arkham Asylum


AUTHOR: Grant Morrison; ILLUSTRATOR: Dave McKean


RELEASE DATE: January 1989

LENGTH: 128 pages

I think the reason I both really loved and was kind of terrified of this book is because it is just SO horrific and there is so much lunacy and even Batman is a little crazy in it. I really enjoyed that. Although I haven’t read a lot of Batman comics/graphic novels, I know a decent amount about the character from talking with friends and from the films (I know, I know). To me, he acted somewhat out-of-character in Arkham Asylum, but I love when characters are flipped on their heads. AND he was basically drawn as a black blob with spidery wisps of smoke coming from him. LOVE that.

Arkham Asylum Batman

I also enjoyed it because it’s not your typical comic book/graphic novel. There isn’t a lot of one on one violence and “Bam! Pow!” Instead, there is an exploration into the psyche of the Batman and the villains he typically encounters. I’m not going to lie: McKean’s rendition of the Joker both freaked me out and had me showing people pictures because I was so in love with it. He’s terrifying and you actually kind of feel crazy along with him as you make your way through the pages. Especially near the end when you have Batman telling the story that coincides with Arkham’s, you (or at least I) felt a little mad as I tried to piece together everything that was happening.

Arkham Asylum joker

Now for the art. OH MY GOSH. Dave McKean is a master at his craft. He uses mixed media to create this world. You’ve got drawn illustrations along photographs of lace and other things. His renditions of each of these characters was mind-blowingly awesome. As I mentioned before, Batman is basically a blob of black and you only see his face a handful of times. This is something I really liked: in the beginning, when you see his face, Batman clearly has a mask on; then later, you see his face again, and it is as if the mask has melded with his face and he IS Batman, prompting the Joker to mention that the mask is Batman’s real face. Batman and each of the villains had their own speech bubble: Batman’s was black with white writing (which I think perfectly fit with his character), the Joker’s was big, bold red letters (somewhat hard to read at time), the Mad Hatter’s was cloud-like, etc. This was such a great idea.


This graphic novel was like a spiral into madness and I was fine to be committed to the asylum. Phenomenal artwork that completely matched the writing. I borrowed this from a friend; trust me when I say I’ll be buying myself my own copy.

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