Tuesday, July 1, 2008

BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean

Batman: Arkham Asylum, written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Dave McKean, was originally published in 1989. The fifteenth anniversary edition also contains Morrison’s original script and storyboards. The inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken over the institution, and will only release their hostages if Batman comes inside. Batman deals with his own sanity as he confronts the usual crowd of villains.

Dave McKean’s art is dark and atmospheric, and it fits the book perfectly. However, it’s often so dark that it’s difficult to tell what’s going on, and a look at Morrison’s script shows that the art doesn’t incorporate half the imagery Morrison was going for (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

Morrison goes for image overload here. Christian, pagan, and mystic imagery are through the roof. Morrison throws all of it into the pot with the pretentious treatments of Freud, Jung, and psychology in general, and what we get just isn’t very good. There are other problems. Batman seems poorly characterized here, particularly at the beginning. He’s chatty, out of control of his emotions, and publicly vulnerable.

The jacket to Arkham Asylum trumpets that it is “the most successful graphic novel of all time.” I can’t imagine why. Ultimately, Arkham Asylum just isn’t compelling.