Batman: Arkham Asylum

batman arkham asylum dave mckean art 1st edition
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Art: 10/10

One of the graphic novels that helped change comic book industry

Not much

Comic Info

Comic Name:  Batman:  Arkham Asylum

Publisher:  DC Comics

Writer:  Grant Morrison

Artist:  David McKean

Release Date:  October 1989

batman arkham asylum dave mckean art 15th anniversary

15th Anniversary Edition

A breakout has occurred in Arkham Asylum and now the inmates are running the show.  When Joker reaches out to Batman with a request that he enter the asylum in exchange for the workers, Batman is forced to join the madness.  Arkham has a new patient named Batman, and Batman questions if he really belongs there.  As the doctors and Batman himself examines Batman’s persona, and the patients of Arkham roam free, the true horror of Arkham’s origin is revealed!

Written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Dave McKean, Batman:  Arkham Asylum is a graphic novel originally released in October 1989.  Critically acclaimed and often cited as a story which showed the maturing comic book world, Arkham Asylum has been released multiple times including a 15th anniversary edition including the original script and more original artwork.

The ’80s were very good to Batman.  After years of reclaiming the “serious” Batman from the campy ’60s series, Batman was finally dark again.  Comics were becoming for adult and series like Batman:  The Dark Knight Returns and Batman:  Arkham Asylum showed how dark and adult comics could be.

The story is rather short and sweet.  Morrison looks at the psyche of both Batman and his villains by putting him in the craziest place in Gotham.  By being forced to essentially be a patient in the asylum, Batman is forced to look at what makes him Batman and also what made some of his villains as crazed as they were.  With this exploration, they also get into the idea of Batman being the cause of Gotham’s woes or the effect of Gotham’s corruption.

batman arkham asylum dave mckean art 25th anniversary

25th Anniversary Edition

The story is lined up with the story of Amadeus Arkham who transformed the famed asylum.  While Amadeus starts out as someone who has dealt with mental instability in his life due to a sick mother, Amadeus also begins to lose his sanity…which dovetails all back to Batman to conclude the rather short story.  It is smart and adult.

Despite the smart series, the graphic novel really banks on Dave McKean’s art.  McKean definitely has a style and I like it (for the most part).  Today, it seems a little less extreme as it did in 1989 when the graphic novel was originally released, but it still pushes the envelope.  I do sometimes get distracted however by the stylized fonts and writing (like the Joker’s red scratchings).

Batman:  Arkham Asylum is a quick read and a must read for (adult) comic fans.  The novel was revolutionary and transformative to the genre and with other graphic novels really turned the tables on what was considered a kids’ read.  Batman:  Arkham Asylum is worth seeking out.

Related Links:

Arkham Asylum:  Madness

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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