by Alan Moore
“There were these two guys in a lunatic asylum . . . ”
Joker has again escaped from Arkham. This time, he’s not content with replenishing depleted funds to gain world power, he doesn’t want to punish society and he’s not looking for revenge. He wants to prove everyone in the world is just one step away from becoming him. And to do so he goes after the soft spot, the tender area for any father. He takes down Jim Gordon’s daughter.
Joker cripples, strips, and photographs Barbara during a home invasion. He kidnaps Gordon and hauls him off to a shuttered amusement park that he’s filled with funhouse horrors, including a barrage of images of the commissioner’s tortured daughter. The Joker maintains that every man, no matter how strong, is just one horrific day away from total insanity. The villain’s backstory is also filled out more here. We get to see who he was before he became The Joker—what series of events led to his own downfall.
“Madness is the emergency exit.”
The World’s Greatest Detective arrives at the park where the scene is unfolding. Despite the thousands of lives he might save by doing so Batman will not kill The Joker, a critical aspect of the character. One of the interesting angles of this story is Batman reaching out to Joker, trying to find some way to avert the collision course the two are on, a course he predicts will one day result in one or both of their deaths.
And then there’s the joke, the perfect ending illuminating the razor’s edge of sanity.
The Killing Joke, now nearly 30 years old, broke new ground and gathered enough notoriety even casual fans have heard of it. If you want to know the iconic character, you need this one under your belt. This is horror. This is Batman.