Reviews: Arkham Asylum A Serious House On Serious Earth

Grant Morrison's Metaphysical Epic or Grant Morrison's Epic Misstep?

The Good:

McKean: Most of the artwork, in particular the Clayface and Killer Croc scenes.

Morrison: The Amadeus Arkham side story. The visual composition/layout of the Clayface and Killer Croc bits. McKean may have given us the finished versions, but Morrison was the one who did the layout and script in the first place.

The Bad:

McKean: Joker. He just…looks ridiculous. I think it would have been better to give him an Uncanny Valley approach.

Morrison: Let's just say that this is the part where I might anger a lot of fans.

1. Questionable Reinterpretation of Certain Characters:

Although I loved the Clayface bit from a visual storytelling aspect, I thought it was just…misguided to have him represent the concept of AIDS.

Maxi Zeus? No comment.

2. Pacing Problems:

Batman is our POV character here. The problem is that he immediately freaks out upon setting foot inside the asylum. In other words, from very early on, the horror is turned Up To Eleven. By the time the comic is over, the horror is no longer effective. There was no rising tension. No real It Got Worse.

A better idea would have been to have Batman be unnerved, but still somewhat cool. Initially, he does well in his first few fights/encounters with the inmates and we’re given a false sense of security. Then, something goes wrong in his next encounter. From that point, he becomes more and more unhinged to the point of freaking out. This would have made the comic scarier.

3. Symbolism at the expense of the story:

I have no problem with symbolism, but it feels like Morrison made just a half-hearted (at best) attempt to integrate it into the story (or rather integrate the story into it). For example, Batman pierces his hand with a piece of glass. I immediately understood the Biblical symbolism and a look at Morrison’s script proved me right. However, there is no in-story reason for Batman to have done this. It feels like Morrison was too lazy to think up a reason, but put it there anyway.

4. Values Dissonance

Two-Face’s evaluation sheet seems to be a Take That against American soldiers and seems to generalize them as being a bunch of rapists. I wonder if James Cameron read this book while working on Avatar.

All in all, a good example of High Octane Nightmare Fuel, but far from the high art that people make it out to be.