Batman: Arkham Asylum - A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
My dislike of this book borders on violent. I realize what the author and artist were going for, and I appreciate the foreward and even the screenplay with commentary. I admit I gave up on reading the whole screenplay because I was tired and wasn't feeling well, and felt my time was better spent moving on. However, even gaining insight into their thought processes didn't make me like this book any more.
I am an artist, and I love art. However, I am not a fan of art becoming so all-consuming that it loses meaning to the average person. In other words, I like my art to be accessible. This book wasn't. It was full of social commentary, allusions, and symbolism, which can be good in therapeutic doses. But even medicine can be toxic when overdosed. I think that is a good way to describe my feelings for this book. It was toxic with the statements of the creators, and it killed the overall book.
Some of my individual issues:
*The lettering was nearly incomprehensible, especially the Joker's words and thoughts. I am very near-sighted, and I am getting where small print gives me fits. The Joker's print was in red, and the font was very scribbly. Everyone knows that the Joker is bat*&$# crazy. I understand where Morrison and McKean were trying to go here showing how chaotic his mind was, but it fell on deaf ears since I had trouble reading the lettering. Also obscure symbology dispersed through this volume makes no sense to me. Another place where it falls flat, since it seems to have no purpose in this volume.
*Batman was played as anal-retentive to the extreme. I'm not sure I appreciated this. Admittedly, Batman does have some psychological issues he's working through--he's a control freak and is incredibly uptight and is at times intolerant. I think his portrayal in this book was unpalatable, showing him as pathologically damaged. That isn't the Batman I know and deeply respect.
*The storyline about Arkham, the founder of the Asylum was okay. Although I didn't like what happened to his family, and the view of his relationship with his mother was way too Freudian for my tastes.
*The artwork is nebulous and difficult to cipher and track over the panels. I would almost call it abstract. Does that work for a comic book medium? I'm going to say no. If I can't follow it, it has failed to convey meaning to me.
I know that this is a very highly praised and critically-acclaimed book, but I'm not a fan of it. Art is meaning to me. While art is highly subjective, the viewer has to have a lens through which to take in and process the work. In this book, the lens is cloudy and muddled. There is no avenue to look deeper.
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