Batman: The Killing Joke Review

The Killing Joke Overview

The Killing Joke is a one shot storyline exploring the origins of Joker and probably the most famous Batman/Joker book of all time. In fact, The Killing Joke is probably one of the most famous comics of all time. Known as a possible Joker origin story and for its dark themes, The Killing Joke explores the relationship between Batman and Joker and how they are mirror images to each other, along the way are some chilling scenes where Barbara Gordon famously gets shot and subsequently paralysed before she is sexually assaulted and has pictures taken to torture her father. The Killing Joke is a must read for anyone into comics and should be on the shelf of every Batman fan. Truly iconic.

Batman: The Killing Joke (Deluxe hardcover, which was reviewed) includes the full “Killing Joke” storyline as well as “An Innocent Guy” from Batman: Black & White. This edition has been coloured by Bolland himself and not the John Higgins colours from the original.

The Killing Joke Key Information

Book Name The Killing Joke
Book Series Limited Series One Shot
Edition Reviewed Deluxe Edition Hardcover
Year Published 2008
Originally Published 1988
Writer(s) Alan Moore,
Artist(s) Brian Bolland
Pages 64
Issues 2
Where to Buy Amazon
Notable Heroes Batman
Notable Villains Joker
Chronology Previous The Nights of the Beast
Chronology Next

Arkham Asylum

The Killing Joke Deluxe Edition
5,292 Reviews
The Killing Joke Deluxe Edition
  • Batman: The Killing Joke, Deluxe Edition by Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Hardcover
  • Approximate Product Dimensions: 11.29" x 7.36" x 0.45" (Length x Width x Height)
  • Stunningly illustrated, BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE, THE DELUXE EDITION has been lushly re-colored by artist Brian Bolland, presenting his original vision of this modern classic for the first time.

The Killing Joke Review

The Killing Joke has remained a prominent comic book classic for nearly 3 decades now. The 1988 installment by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland boasts one of the most notorious Joker comics of the entire series. Follow the Dark Knight on one of his darkest and most controversial stories yet. Critically acclaimed and incredibly brutal, this story has even won the praise of Tim Burton who comments; “I loved The Killing Joke… It’s my favorite. It’s the first comic I’ve ever loved.” This is a highly recommended read if you are ready for what’s in store for you.

To start out, I love this artwork. Both the characters and scenery are highly detailed and revised colours from Bolland is certainly an upgrade. Compared to other comics of its time, it has a LOT of work put into it and I am a huge fan. Even though the comic itself is rather old now, the artwork could not be farther from dated. And if you put this next to other comics from the era it is way ahead of its time. I especially love any and all scenes that include rain and shadows as I think Bolland did an exceptional job with bringing this story to light.

It opens right up to a rather famous scene in the Batman series. Batman goes to Arkham Asylum to sit down and confront the joker about their “relationship.” Namely, what does he think the endgame is here.

“I’ve been thinking lately. About you and me. About what’s going to happen to us in the end. We’re going to kill each other, aren’t we? Perhaps you’ll kill me. Perhaps I’ll kill you. Perhaps sooner. Perhaps later. I just wanted to know that I’d make the genuine attempt to talk things over and avert that outcome. Just once.”

Of course, his pleas fall of deaf ears and that someone had been sitting in for the Joker the whole time. With a start like this, you know things are going to be intense, it’s just a matter of how and when. Even Bruce Wayne could not have anticipated the horrors that were to come. That and that this opening implies foreshadowing and an explanation for why the Joker wants to destroy Batman so much.  This is implied as the comic progresses as well.

“How can two people hate so much without knowing each other?”

There are a lot of questions we were left asking ourselves in the beginning. All we know for sure at this point is that the Joker has bought himself a circus and has already claimed his first victim in a horrifying manner.

What I do really appreciate about this comic is that it does give some of the background to the joker piece by piece. While it doesn’t come outright and say it, the evidence is there and you are just left waiting to see when this awkward and sweet guy (with a pregnant girl no less) became the man he is today.

The plot’s real turning point is the one it is best known for. If you have not yet read the comic, I advise you to stop here to prevent yourself from getting any unwanted spoilers. I also advise you this is where things take a dark and personal turn, even for Batman comics as not many writers went this route before or even after.

The Joker shows right up to the Gordon’s residence, which at this point in the series hold two very important characters. James Gordon -from the Gotham City Police Department – and Barbara Gordon –Batgirl. Without even much of a fight at all, Joker shoots Barbara point blank in the stomach, right through the spine and rendering her paralyzed. What happened between her being undressed by Joker in the empty apartment and being found and brought to the hospital leave a lot of speculation to the readers. What was said was that he took inappropriate photos of her, but there are a lot of pointers that something even more sinister took place there, many people think she may have been raped while others think it stopped at photos. You could speculate all day about this, and at the end of the day it’s up to the reader to decide what happened.

This particular incident has been fought with some criticism over the last years. What happened? Should writers have done this? Was this going too far? People have had a lot to say about it, but if nothing else this certainly gets the message across that the Joker is a terrible human being and must be stopped.

If also leads you to further wonder what happened to the Joker back then? Flashbacks of a guy that would do anything for his family to this?

To top it all off, he has James Gordon captive.

Things become a lot more visually disturbing at this point -it does take place in a circus after all. I don’t even entirely know what to make of the small and creepy creatures that have to monitor Gordon. They are just small creatures reminiscent of those “horror baby dolls” you see every once in a while, wearing dresses and bondage outfits. They strip Gordon down until he is wearing nothing but a spiked collar and a leash (and I mean NOTHING) and parade him around the freak show that resides in the service. Joker sits atop a throne of naked baby dolls and rambles on about madness. I don’t think anyone could have come up with a worse nightmare inducing image than that.

The naked and very disturbed Gordon is forced into a dark ride where he is not only confronted with more images and videos of Joker -but the naked images of Barbara! This was very dark for a number of reasons. For one, that was his daughter and it was a dark scenario. We had been with James Gordon through so many installments and seen everything he had done for his daughter. This was torture. On top of it, this was Batgirl! Not some side character or installment-exclusive character, but the actual Batgirl! Although, in Batgirl New 52 Volume 1 and Volume 2 it does become apparent that Joker did not know the superhero connection at this point. This was torture to readers to see her like this! As he rides the train all the way through his nightmare we are forced to watch Batman pull every move to try to get the Joker’s location.

At least by this point, we are shown the reason why Joker hates the Batman, as in a very long and complicated scenario, Batman did ultimately knock him in the water. It is weird and rather metaphorical when you think about it like that. That Batman created the Joker, his worst enemy and ultimate rival and in some sense the Joker created the need for a Batman.

Once Batman arrives the ultimate battle ensues. The battle to end all battles in a way. This was the most action-packed scene in the book (considering a lot of the violence was rather one-sided up until this point). It has so much going on and everything creative and aggressive you would expect from a story such as this. I have to say this was also the most colorful part of the entire installment which says a lot about the significance from this scene.

At the end of this cut throat battle where it really could have gone either way, there was just so much you weren’t sure of. Why not just off another main character this time? It was an intense battle that ultimately and only slightly led with Batman’s victory. What I found most surprising was Batman’s lack of anger at this point. Like, it was severely underwhelming. With everything that -arguably the closest- people in his life had just gone through, he was still very level headed about it.  I guess that is just one of those things that makes Batman Batman, but still, I would have hoped for a little bit of cathartic aggression to go off at this point (if nothing else but to give me some vicarious relief).

Instead, he goes on just like the comic opened up with. Wanting to know how and why things turned out the way they did. Also wanted to make amends and not end up having to kill each other.

“It doesn’t have to end like that. I don’t know what is was that bent your life out of shape, but who knows? Maybe I’ve been there too. Maybe I can help.”

Again, reaching out as a friend is this very Batman style and I can understand that Joker snapped. I get that you have to give some villains with tragic background stories some leeway, but at the same time, that’s an awful big jump he’s making. For a vigilante that has devoted his life to revenge, I understand where he is all about stopping people from ending up in these situations and attempts to sympathize. Getting past what villains have done and rising above is kind of his thing. However, these atrocities were on a whole other level. On the other hand, this guy is completely driven by vengeance but believes that he will be there for Joker if he needs help because he can rise above everything that has happened in the past pages?

It ends with Joker’s depressing turn down and them both laughing hysterically as Batman has him in an aggressive grip -also laughing hysterically. A disturbing ending to and overall disturbing comic. Aside from the lack of emotion. I really wish that he would have found out what happened to make Joker go mad as well as the role he played in all of it. I know they do touch upon this later on in the next installments which I do appreciate.

The Killing Joke Deluxe Edition
5,292 Reviews
The Killing Joke Deluxe Edition
  • Batman: The Killing Joke, Deluxe Edition by Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Hardcover
  • Approximate Product Dimensions: 11.29" x 7.36" x 0.45" (Length x Width x Height)
  • Stunningly illustrated, BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE, THE DELUXE EDITION has been lushly re-colored by artist Brian Bolland, presenting his original vision of this modern classic for the first time.


Seriously, buy this book. This was an amazing comic and has to be seen to be believed. Don’t watch the latest film adaption first. An easy 5/5. This is a classic with a gripping tale and amazing artwork. Lacking a bit of action until the end, but that last scene more than makes up for it. Highly recommend this story to any and every comic book fan. It is easy to see why this is remembered as one of the greatest Joker tales of all time!

Once read you will never be able to forget it.

Batman: The Killing Joke Image Gallery

Last update on 2024-02-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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