Author: Grant Morrison
Artist: Dave McKean
Genre: Graphic Novel, Not Even Wikipedia Knows
In this groundbreaking, painted graphic novel, the inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken over Gotham’s detention center for the criminally insane on April Fools Day, demanding Batman in exchange for their hostages. Accepting their demented challenge, Batman is forced to live and endure the personal hells of the Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Two-Face and many other sworn enemies in order to save the innocents and retake the prison. During his run through this absurd gauntlet, the Dark Knight’s own sanity is placed in jeopardy.
A blurb could never fully encompass what this book is about. Though, yes, Batman fights his way through Arkham Asylum in order to fulfill the Joker’s demands and save some hostages, this story is mostly a psychological roller coaster made only more bizarre by Dave McKean’s wicked art. As Batman runs his own physical and psychological gauntlets by facing off with our old imprisoned friends like Killer Croc, Mad Hatter, and the Penguin, the story of Amadeus Arkham, founder of this serious house, is weaved between encounters. Matched together, we watch the slow degradation of the minds of both our heroes and the parallel lives they have led.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the art, which is hauntingly gorgeous. Dave McKean is at his best in this novel. 180 pages of hand-painted pages, each and every one is beautiful in its own way. McKean’s bizarre surrealism makes Arkham an immersive experience as you spend several minutes on a page, looking at the tiny details that seem to be trying to hide from you. If you read the whole novel straight through, you’re guaranteed to feel like a regular inmate of Arkham Asylum.
This is not your average Batman, and this is not your average graphic novel. It is far more than average. If you’re serious about graphic novels as an art or about the history of Batman comics, this is a must-have.