The Archives: Batman: The Killing Joke

First off, it should be noted that this is the Deluxe HC Edition that I’m reviewing. This is still the twentieth anniversary of the book but it is a slightly different cover than the one above my words. I couldn’t find a good picture of the book I own and this is all I could find. To my knowledge, there isn’t a book with this cover but anyway I digress.

This book is phenomenal. I don’t think you needed me to say that. Anyone who is reading these words and hasn’t read this story should go out today and buy it. But before you do, there are a few things to consider. This story was originally published in 1988. It was written by Alan Moore, drawn by Brian Bolland, colored by John Higgins, and lettered by Richard Starkings. However, that book that was released twenty years ago is not the book collected here. As I mentioned earlier this is a hardcover edition which is always a plus in my eyes, it also seems to be oversized which is again a plus. But the huge difference with this version is the absence of John Higgins.

Brian Bolland has completely recolored this story and in some cases he has changed some of the art as well. I know there is a lot of screaming about that last sentence. But this is supposedly Bolland’s true vision. He wanted to do the coloring himself originally but because of time he couldn’t. There is also an introduction by Tim Sale, an afterword by Brian Bolland, Bolland’s Batman Black and White story is also included in color for the first time, and a few sketches from Bolland and the big reveal that yes he did use photographic reference for the cover. This was supposedly a “closely guarded professional secret”.

Now, I have to talk a moment about the new color. It is intriguing that even though this is regarded by most to be a fantastic story that is probably the best Joker story ever (and I’m in that group as well), that apparently both the writer and artist have problems with it. Moore has called it “clumsy, misjudged and devoid of real human importance.” And Bolland has always had a problem with the color saying “that John’s choice of colors turned out to be startlingly at odds with what I had in mind”. Well, Bolland decided to do something about that and so as I said earlier he recolored the whole thing and even redrew some of it. I haven’t had a chance to look at the old version yet, but I do know a few things. I do know that the coloring is much more subtle here and not as wild and flashy as the original. Also, the flashback sequences have had the color washed out except for a few objects that are still colored. I think I’m more in the club that likes the new colors, but in the end that doesn’t matter, it’s what you guys like. So if you’re thinking of picking this up, you may want to look inside first and see if you’re ok with it.

Still, whether you approve of the new colors or not, there are a few important things. This is a phenomenal story that shouldn’t be missed. There are also a few extras in here that are great to see and in a way, we are getting a new version of a monumental story. It is interesting to see the new look of the art and it’s done by the original artist! This is also a great way to get this story on your shelf and in hardcover to boot. My main quibble with this book, is that I would have really liked to have seen the original version printed in here as well. Then everyone could love it. Even if you hated the new color, you’d still have the original in hardcover. I’m sure what I’m asking for will come at a later date to get more of our money, still it’s a bit of a shame. DC in a way is pulling a George Lucas!

By the way, in this version Han shot first.

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