Madness is only one bad day away.
Together with Commissioner Gordon, Batman heads to Arkham Asylum to see the Joker. Surprisingly, it's not for an interrogation, instead he seeks a simple conversation with the mad man. As the conversation quickly leads to nowhere, Batman learns that the Joker has escaped once again. He seeks out the psychopath only to come up short, while the Joker freely begins another reign of terror. -summary
The 80's was truly a great run for comic books due to them going through a heavy transformation into the grittier and morbid tales. While Marvel would go on to pretty much dominate with their creative story lines and increased risk with stories such as the Dark Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past, and Last Hand, DC would also have their moments. One story that indeed stood out would be Alan Moore's Batman: The Killing Joke. This story is said to be the one that influenced Tim Burton's Batman in 1989. Honestly, I don't see the influence at all. This story only further proves to me he didn't know much about Batman and Joker's feud, and I don't think he understood this book either.
The Killing Joke is a fantastic read with some very heavy themes here. The story follows Joker as he goes through flashbacks remembering the situations that drove him over the edge. Later, his origin comes under serious questioning due to the lack of belief in his own past. This showcases a completely different element in the characters way of thinking. In the here and now, he seeks to prove how one bad day can drive someone completely insane. I enjoyed Moore's no-holds barred narrative here, as he also questions is Batman truly sane himself, with Joker putting Batman on the spot and getting pretty warm with his own analysis of the Dark Knight.
Moore pulls no punches here as the story and themes are about as subtle as stepping on a land mine with the messages. I liked the use of Commissioner Gordon here; this is among the best uses for a side character I seen. It can even be strongly argued that he's actually a main character, and it's Batman who's the side character instead. Although the story may appear to be complex by way of the psychological battle going on, it's fairly linear and very easy to understand. The narrative doesn't bombard the reader with loads of dialog, and what is present only helps develop the characters even more. There's also an epilogue present that follows one man's goal to kill Batman,and this is also a very strong mini-story.
Brian Bolland is the man behind the illustrations and this is some very fine artwork. The black and white panels during the flashbacks I think plays into the way Joker sees things, and if this is the case, then it was a very smart move to go this route. There are also some very disturbing images of violence and even nudity. I like the use of nudity here since it plays into the overall story. The action panels are pretty good overall. The dialog contains a small amount of profanity, and thankfully it wasn't put there for lowly "just because" reasons.
The Killing Joke is not at all the best of Alan Moore's works. However, it's among the best Batman stories and depictions of the Joker. It captures everything the Joker represents; evil, chaos, cruelty, whatever it takes to get his madness across. Certain elements would also carry on into the main continuity. I highly recommend this story even to those whom aren't fans of DC comics. It's a really good story, my only gripe would probably be the length.
Pros:Very gripping narrative and superb artwork