Never Gets Old – Batman: The Killing Joke Review

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After a lot of hype and controversy, the animated of Alan Moore–sorry, The Original Writer and Brian Bolland’s legendary Batman story, The Killing Joke, was finally released. Featuring Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill in their iconic roles as Batman and The Joker, the voice cast is rounded up by the ever-versatile Tara Strong reprising her role as Batgirl and onetime Swamp Thing, Ray Wise, as Jim Gordon.
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As far as first impressions go, the animated version of The Killing Joke doesn’t leave an especially strong one. Roughly the first thirty minutes is (to my knowledge) an original subplot about the capture of Paris Franz, a mobster, and the building of a romance between *cue collective fan sigh* Bruce and Barbara. While I understand this is used to give Barbara Gordon a little bit more screentime and pad out the already short approximately 78 minute runtime, this whole sequence feels like it could be cut out entirely and the story wouldn’t suffer much because of it. I honestly wouldn’t mind watching a 40ish minute The Killing Joke adaptation.
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After the rocky half hour, we get into the Killing Joke adaptation proper. And here is where the whole thing shines. As far as I can remember, this is almost a beat-for-beat adaptation of Moore and Bolland’s story. The overall sense of unease and creepiness is present almost the whole way, and the funhouse sequence is almost as disturbing as it was in the comics, though it could stand to be made a LOT more disturbing. Some of the comic’s most iconic shots were also recreated to amazing effect in the movie.
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For such a disturbing story, the art style is horrifyingly beautiful. It feels like the best of Timmverse and the best of Bolland’s art had a drunken night together and had a lovely child. The contrast between the man who would be Joker and Joker as he is now is especially jarring and made all the better because of it. Bonus points for using the Batmobile from the animated series.
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The voice performances are all very strong, but Conroy and Hamill managed to give out their best performances in this. After all these years, Batman laughing is still creepy as hell. And Hamill’s Joker musical number? A thing of beauty.
Despite the rough start that I suspect will have a lot of us complaining dragging down the early half hour, the rest of The Killing Joke is an amazing adaptation in both style and spirit, bringing one of comics’ most disturbing and legendary arcs to life.
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The Night Is Darkest Before Dawn – Dark Night: A True Batman Story Review

 

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I know I speak for a lot of people when I say Batman: The Animated Series was one of the best animated series of our time. For me, it was one of my first forays into DC, way before I started reading their comics. For the comics world and pop culture as a whole, its influence still lasts even now. Take Harley Quinn, for instance. One of the characters headlining August’s Suicide Squad had her roots not in the comics, but in the animated series. It was there that she became so popular she was imported into the comics.
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Alongside Bruce Timm’s distinctive art styles, it was writer Paul Dini, among others, who brought the colorful characters of Gotham to life. And now DC, through its Vertigo imprint, published Dark Night: A True Batman Story, written by Dini and illustrated by Eduardo Risso.
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While the title might lead you to believe the graphic novel is a Batman story, it isn’t. Or at least not in its traditional sense. Dark Night is as much a Paul Dini story as it is a Batman story. The book follows snippets of Dini’s life, from his early childhood to his days as writer on Batman: TAS. But most prominently, the book deals with Dini’s personal dissatisfaction and loneliness despite his success, the 1993 mugging in which he nearly died, and how Batman (along with his supporting cast) helped him cope and take him to a brighter place afterwards.
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On its own, the story is a heart-wrenching one that Dini himself said took a long time to finally tell, but what really sold it for me was its presentation. Risso’s art nails every single beat. The depiction of every ‘chapter’ has its own ‘feel’, with different coloring and slightly varying styles as well. Every single page is a treat for the eyes.
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The blurring of the lines between autobiographical work and superhero comic in Dark Night is what truly makes this book one of a kind. Dini and Risso manages to show us how fiction can either plunge us into the darkest depths, or help inspire and lift us up into the light. As a bonus, the book has a pitch for a Batman: TAS episode featuring Neil Gaiman’s Endless that sadly didn’t come to be. But the thought of it alone makes me giddy.
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Dark Knight: A True Batman Story isn’t just a memoir or a Batman comic, it’s much more than the sum of its parts. It’s Paul Dini baring his soul for all of us to see in a grim, sometimes darkly humorous, but ultimately uplifting tale of healing and redemption. It’s also a damn good comic.