A review by adamz24
Batman: Arkham Asylum - A Serious House on Serious Earth, by Grant Morrison


McKean's artwork is just staggeringly good. I don't have much else to say about it.

The effect of the thing is very Lynchian more than anything else. I think Lynch doing this as a movie would be utterly awesome. It's very much in that same category where you have to feel and experience it, where a close reading is actually less rewarding (and fuck you Grant Morrison, if you disagree) than just letting it wash over you. It plays on the emotions and is really very dreamlike and atmospheric.

It's really hard to write about this book without coming off as sort of pretentious. Grant Morrison himself comes off as sort of pretentious when he writes, introducing the copy of the final draft of the script included at the back of the soft cover, that:

"The story's themes were inspired by Lewis Carroll, quantum physics, Jung and Crowley, its visual style by surrealism, Eastern European creepiness, Cocteau, Artaud, Svankmajer, the Brothers Quay, etc. The intention was to create something that was more like a piece of music or an experimental film than a typical adventure comic book. I wanted to apprroach Batman from the point of view of the dreamlike, emotional and irrational hemisphere, as a response to the very literal, "realistic" "left-brain" treatment of superheroes which was in vogue at the time, in the wake of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, WATCHMEN, and others."

or in the script and footnotes, where he explains a fuckton of the symbolism etc. and occasionally comes off as very clever and occasionally as maybe well read but not all that smart (i.e. inevitably pretentious). That this stuff is in the script is mostly fine, but he uses the footnotes to provide 'insight' to us as well, like when he talks about how the story's construction is based on the architecture of a house, and how the journey of the book is like moving through the floors of a house itself.

Some of the footnotes are useful, however. Morrison's clarification of his characterization of Batman in Arkham Asylum is especially worth noting, considering how often that is used as a criticism of Morrison's writing here.

I would not suggest reading the script/footnotes. It does nothing to enhance the experience and everything to degrade it. Imagine watching a comedic film and being given an annotated copy of the script at the end, a copy that explains every joke in detail.

The effect of Arkham Asylum in itself is exhilirating. It's not in that frustrating 'not your daddy's Batman' category of The Dark Knight or something, it's just unlike any other Batman story. It's not supposed to be like any other Batman story. It does feel more like watching an 'art film' than reading even a very good comic book/'graphic novel.' All that pretentious blabber I quoted from Morrison up there, it's true. All of it. It came out exactly as planned (actually, probably better than planned considering some of the imagery).

It's tremendous and transcendent.