Batman: The Killing Joke

8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Art: 9/10

A definitive portrait of the dark Joker

Storyline hasn't aged well due to changes in culture and portrayal of women

Comic Info

Comic Name:  Batman:  The Killing Joke

Publisher:  DC Comics

Writer:  Alan Moore

Artist:  Brian Bolland

Release Date:  1988


Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman has discovered that the Joker has escaped Arkham Asylum and is roaming Gotham City.  Now, the Joker is more insane than ever and seeking out revenge against those who put him away.  With Commissioner Gordon in his targets, Barbara Gordon might be his first victim…Batman must take down Joker, and he might not be able to do it without killing him.

Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland, Batman:  The Killing Joke was a DC graphic novel released in 1988 with lasting effects.  The stand-alone story was released to critical acclaim and criticism and has been reprinted in multiple formats including a remastered deluxe edition.

With both Batman:  A Death in the Family and Batman:  The Killing Joke, the Joker is at his darkest.  It is also one of the few times that the Joker’s motives are explained though there is doubt if the flashbacks are real or not.

Alan Moore was at what many would call his peak when he wrote Batman:  The Killing Joke.  With Superman:  Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and Batman:  The Killing Joke, Moore got to get his bands on DC’s biggest properties and did a good job with both of them.  It isn’t the most dynamic presentation of Batman, but it is a great a version of the Joker.


The common rite of passage for parents…getting stripped by a homicidal maniac and forced to look at naked pictures of your daughter who has been shot…

While something like this could have easily been a forgettable stand-alone story, DC allowed a major character change to occur.  The Joker’s shooting of Barbara Gordon ended the career of Batgirl and put her on a new path toward becoming Oracle.  Barbara’s paralysis remained one of DC’s longest constants and didn’t change until the New 52 (which did upset some who felt that a character living with a handicap was more interesting than her being cured).

The art for the graphic novel is also strong.  I’d argue that Brian Bolland’s Joker is one of the defining portrayals of the character and I still see art from the series pop-up in advertisement, t-shirts, and more (plus, you get the really sick moment when Gordon is stripped and forced to look at naked pictures of his shot daughter…Bolland gets the sick nature of it out in his art).

Batman:  The Killing Joke is one of Batman’s better one shot outings.  It is an important entry in the Batman saga and the lasting effects of on the characters drove stories for over twenty years.  The current Batgirl still relates back to this graphic novel so it really is worth seeking out a great story.  Unfortunately, the story also has not aged well.  The current view of the brutality in the story often is seen as he victimization of women in comics…and it definitely is.  The story needs to be taken in context of when it was released and what came out of it (aka an even stronger, non-victimized Barbara Gordon).  The story was adapted for an animated feature in 2016 by DC Animations.

Related Links:

Batman:  The Killing Joke (2016)


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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