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GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Batman: Arkham Asylum 15th Anniversary Edition and 25th Anniversary Editions

 
Batman Arkham Asylum A Serious House on Serious Earth 15th Anniversary Edition and 25th Anniversary Editions
Batman Arkham Asylum A Serious House on Serious Earth 15th Anniversary Edition and 25th Anniversary Editions
Batman Arkham Asylum A Serious House on Serious Earth 15th Anniversary Edition and 25th Anniversary Editions

 
Overview
 

Story by: Grant Morrison
 
Art by: Dave McKean
 
Letters by: Gaspar Saladino
 
Publisher:
 
FG RATING
 
 
 
 
 
4.5/ 5


User Rating
1 total rating

 


To sum it all up..

A Comparative Review on Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Batman: Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth—15th and 25th Anniversary Editions The so-called “Modern Age” of American mainstream comics began in the mid-1980s with the publications of two paradigm-shifting superhero comics—Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ The Watchmen. […]

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Posted November 27, 2014 by

 
FULL REVIEW
 
 

A Comparative Review on Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Batman: Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth—15th and 25th Anniversary Editions


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Batman: Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth 15th Anniversary Edition

The so-called “Modern Age” of American mainstream comics began in the mid-1980s with the publications of two paradigm-shifting superhero comics—Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ The Watchmen. So revolutionary these seminal opuses possessed (and still even so presently) that DC couldn’t get enough they got the services of some of the best British artists, like Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and Dave McKean, and let them present their respective visions. One of these projects released was Batman: Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (released in 1989 as a prestige-format graphic novel). This is Morrison’s true breakout moment in the comic industry (he did Zenith and other few comic gigs for Britain’s 2000AD, but obviously, not in the wider audience then). This groundbreaking opus was so successful, both critically and commercially, it still continues to exist up to this day, alongside with Gaiman’s equally page-turning work, The Sandman. DC/Vertigo even released the 15th Anniversary Edition TPB in 1999, and ten years later, for obvious reasons, the 25th Anniversary Edition, both in Deluxe (read: Hard Cover) and TPB editions. I already have the 1999 version and I dreamt of possessing the hardcover one for quite some time and that dream was recently fulfilled.

As the title says, I compare both editions whether the 2014 edition packs a wallop or a strong improvement over the previous one or otherwise. I select to skip reviewing the book’s finer aesthetics for it is already justified for its grand scale; Morrison’s seminal psychoanalytical profiling of the Dark Knight and its Rogue Gallery (Joker wearing high-heels and looks like Madonna!); McKean’s superb mastery of the dark, brooding and terrifying atmospheric hallucinating artistic mood that was way ahead of its time (and still more beautiful than many computer-generated artworks around…BEAT THAT!); the painstaking lettering art that is very integral to the overall story, characterization, and plot; and its impact and influence to the Batman mythology and popular culture as well (alongside with The Killing Joke, the late great Heath Ledger studied this intently in preparation for his greatest performance as Joker in The Dark Knight). Many respectable comic websites, like CBR and IGN, and other serious/ academic literatures on comics (such as 1001 Graphic Novels You Need To Read Before You Die) already cover this one. Hence, my abovementioned decision to do so.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth 25th Anniversary Edition

Examining both editions, I realized that these editions are SLIGHTLY the same after all! I can even say that the latest version (both editions) is the slightly enhanced one, or wit, with STEROIDS. The 15th and 25th editions have the actual story (the tragic family story of the asylum’s founder, in parallel with Batman’s descent to borderline madness upon his entrance to Joker and the lunatics’ swift takeover of the said mental institution), the entire Morrison annotated script that is equally the same in thickness with the main narrative, Grant’s thumbnails and breakdowns, the 1989 profiles of the artists (Morrison with hair!) and the afterword of Vertigo’s most beloved founding member and editor par excellent, Karen Berger. The old and new editions boast with the stunning McKean art covers, and match with glossy pages that both Batman believers and the artists’ followers surely love these! The new edition boasts new McKean dustcover arts. It has a 16-page art gallery made by the maestro himself. This includes some of his terrifying renditions of the Joker, so terrifying that Greg Capullo’s Joker (both in Death of the Family and presently End Game) pales in comparison, and his breakdowns and initial sketches on his interpretations on Grant’s scripts. Plus, it showcases an ultra-rare Japanese hard cover art edition. Moreover, it adds two more pages of Morrison’s thumbnails for better understanding on his creative process (we can see here in both editions in that process that Grant had to accommodate McKean’s artistic visions by maxing out the page number. This is a very few times the writer had to give way on the artist’s demands), and two pages of his original synopsis (in his own handwritings) after the annotated script. Furthermore, two special types of paper are printed here. The glossy one is for the main story, McKean’s artworks, and a few additional features; while thick-sturdy ones are done in the afterword and the annotated script. I believe these papers blend beautifully for a grotesque feel of macabre and subtlety (this work really demands multiple readings even with the existence of the script).

arkhamasylum-020However, despite my overwhelming thrill of possessing this hardbound masterpiece, let’s see some nitpickings. The book’s binding is still glued, just like almost all DC publications. I recalled that the people in the publication department promised to improve its binding process after many of its editions, most particularly the omnibuses, are considered not-reader-friendly. Upon opening, I tried to lay it down and turned the cover. It immediately returned to its place. Even so with the few opening pages, they just flipped back unless I repeatedly read the book over and over. I expected Berger wrote a “new” afterword, but upon inspecting and comparing in both editions, it is obvious that she never submitted the new one. Instead, whoever this fellow editor in DC/Vertigo was assigned to edit just changed “fifteen-years later” to “twenty-five years later” in Berger’s last paragraph, along with some minor punctuation placements. Finally, no Grant’s further hindsight included. The great one has a couple of remarks and/or interviews regarding his first mainstream comics foray after 1999 and beyond (like in his book Supergods), but DC apparently made no effort whatsoever to have him write something new for this edition. It would be great addition seriously for his opus transcends beyond comics influences since then, directly or otherwise.

Regardless of my very minor misgivings, this latest 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (and its TPB counterpart) is a worthy part of serious reading and collection of anything related to Batman and his ever growing vast mythology. If you still have your 15th Anniversary edition, I strongly recommend keeping it. It still has its own merits and can be at par with the newest editions. Moreover, comic readers, gamers, and fans (including Batman followers) should do themselves a favor and get this one! You will never regret this one, ever! Highly Recommended!


 by C. Paul Ramos 

Norby Ela

 
FlipGeeks Operations Editor, Managing Editor of Comics, Komiks, Manga, atbp.


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