Batman: The Killing Joke by Christa Faust

details
Title: Batman: The Killing Joke.
Series: No.
Writer(s): Christa Faust & Gary Phillips.
Publisher: Titan Books.
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: September 25th 2018.
Pages: 336.
Genre(s): Science-Fiction.
ISBN13: 9781785658105.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.

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Let’s get it out of the way. The Killing Joke by Alan Moore is one of my all-time favourite graphic novels ever. I had no doubt it would blow my mind before even diving into it, but once I did, I spent months raving about its greatness left and right, whether people wanted to hear about it or not. It sparked my love for comic books and it showed me that the medium is not a joke and is capable of exquisite story-telling under the right hands (writer and artists). I consider the graphic novel flawless and I swear I could write a whole thesis—my review of it back in 2015 sort of attests to that—on its depth and boldness. I mean, come on. A story that not only explores one of the many origins of the Joker as well as the many facets of insanity and justice? This is why Batman’s playground is the best. There’s so much grey area to delve into and so much complexity to go with it, it’s almost impossible to not feel at home.

If there’s one thing I’ll always be reserved about, it’s novelizations. I’ve never liked the idea of movies being turned into books and could never get behind the idea of taking the time to read these. A whole discussion on their worth and what they actually bring to the table could be brought up, but it’ll have to be for another day. DC Comics have however been doing novelizations of some of their comic book stories for quite some time; there are over a hundred of them out there to this day. The idea of turning a comic book into a novel does seem much more intriguing to me since we get more out of something that draws part of its story-telling vitality from artwork. The only way I could find out if there’s actually something worthwhile in this process was to try it one for myself, and that’s were DC Comics’ latest novelization came into play.

You could already imagine how high my expectations were regarding this book, but I’m glad to say that this was far from being a disappointmentAlthough it is essentially based on the classic graphic novel of the same name, it doesn’t restrain itself to its content. Although impossible to summarize without giving away some of the biggest punchlines, the story is told in two-part, interspersed with some flashback sequences. The first part dives into a hunt for criminals that have been venturing in the drug business, especially in regards to the new and trendy psychoactive known as Giggle Sniff. The second part takes readers on a ride through madness as the Joker elaborates one of the most sadistic plan to break James Gordon and Batman.

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Christa Faust, author of hardboiled crime novels, as well as Gary Phillips, a crime fiction novelist, team up together to tackle one of the most daunting challenges you could possibly imagine. A note from the authors beforehand warns readers that there are some presumptions that readers will have to take into consideration before diving into the story. I believe this is key to your enjoyment since there are some things that some would not call canon that are infused within the story. Furthermore, the authors adds quite a lot of subplots to the original story to not only connect some dots that were initially left for readers to do what they want with, but to also help readers contextualize and connect with some key characters.

Does this novelization however capture the core essence of what The Killing Joke is really about? Yes and no. The reason I say that is because of the additional stories that are incorporated to flesh out the story. One of the biggest so-to-say changes is a segment that takes place a couple of days before the main event. Throughout this part of the story, a lot of secondary characters appear, even if they were never part of the original script. I’m not going to lie, but this part was fun to read about and offered readers the chance to acquaint themselves with some heroes and villains that they aren’t likely to have heard of or at least haven’t seen around often.

There’s a great amount of research put into it all and it shows in the descriptions, even if these descriptions were more often just stating things rather than building an atmosphere. Even the characters that take the stage come with a brief and quick introduction of who they are. The bits that are added by the authors to make a coherent whole, an actual novel, made for an entertaining action-packed experience, but it also diluted the themes explored by Alan Moore. The fact that it was short and straight to the point in the graphic novel made it easier to deliver all the subtle details and morals without ever letting go of the reader. In this novel, it’s harder to see those meaningful moments that made the original story so iconic, even if they are still present integrally.

Christa Faust and Gary Phillips’ novelization remains a wonderful and entertaining attempt to recreate the magic of Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke. Fans of the graphic novel will find in this story a captivating rebirth of the classic story with the inclusion of new subplots and characters to the tragedy that is bound to take place.  To the very least, this novel will make them want to crack open their own copies of the graphic novel. Everyone else can find themselves introduced to a wonderful story in the heart of Gotham that will show you how much damage one bad day could do to a person.


EXHIBITA

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!

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Did you know a stand-alone Joker (2019) movie is in the works and has Joaquin Phoenix taking on the role of the Clown Prince of Crime?! The above footage shows us our first look at him as the Joker, or at least as the comedian. The movie is said to explore the Joker’s origin story and is not set within the DC Extended Universe. Thoughts? I know I’m excited! 😍😍

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40 comments

  • If it gets people reading regular novels a bit more, I’m all for it. Otherwise, meh.

    A DC movie not in the DCEU? Has DC given up on itself already? That is rather disheartening actually…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep. As you might imagine. Things have been extremely shaky within the organization ever since Batman v. Superman came out. Actually, even Man of Steel started to cause issues for a lot of people and blame has often been put on the director (Zach Snyder). Their plan for a DCEU seemed rushed to eyes of… everyone… and just seemed like their attempt to catch up to Marvel’s success. And well… critics weren’t much help for all the movies they’ve dished out so far and since Suicide Squad, they’ve announced a bunch of different movie projects that didn’t make as much sense as Marvel’s plans.

      In the end, I’ll still watch every movie DC gives us, and still have hope in these stand-alone outside-the-DCEU movies. I look at them as DC’s attempt to make a Dark Knight trilogy type of classic. Something that could stand on its own two feet and maybe earn Oscar nominations without getting that dreaded “superhero movies can’t get oscars” label. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know we’ve discussed this a little bit, but I enjoyed Snider’s loosely tied trilogy. Loved man of steel, only saw the directors cut of BvS and enjoyed Justice League way more than I did wonder woman.

        But everyone I talk to says how bad the movies are. It almost feels like they are simply repeating what they hear everybody else saying instead of making up their own minds. Maybe they were bad movies, but as someone who doesn’t pay much attention to movies, they seemed fine to me.

        I wonder if DC would do better to stop trying to be Marvel Jr and just do movies, like this. I would LIKE a DCEU though 😦

        Liked by 1 person

        • I enjoyed all of them too, even if I found that the praise for Wonder Woman was slightly overblown. Of course, some might say biased and all with DC stuff, but hey, I’ve got a storage full of arguments to prove my point at least. 😀

          And yes, too many people seem to just echo the negativity, and create the cleavage between DC and Marvel just to claim Marvel’s greatness and Disney’s ability to make way more money and all… DC’s movie post-Dark Knight trilogy could have all been told differently, structured better, but what we got were amazing COMIC BOOK movies.

          I also wonder where they might go once the last DCEU movie comes out… Then again, so far, they seem to still want to shoehorn a couple more movies into it (Shazam, Aquaman, Flash, Wonder Woman 2, Suicide Squad 2 and Birds of Prey). There doesn’t seem to be any plans for a Justice League 2 and the arrival of Darkseid though. There’s also a The Batman movie in the works, with Matt Reeves as director, but it might not be within the DCEU and Affleck might not be Batman in it (while still being producer on the movie). Welp… As you can see, it’s not the most beautiful plan, but at least there’s something on the table. 😛

          Liked by 1 person

  • Great review!
    Whoa! This is right up my alley! And I just looked it up… they’re coming out with a couple more novels? (DC Comics Novels) I’m interested!
    Btw did you ever read those collections of short stories from the late 80s, The Further Adventures of Batman? And one for the Joker too? Great stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Paul!

      Aw man, there goes that surprise hahah Yep. There’s two more novelizations that are planned to be released and I definitely plan on trying them out as well!

      I did hear how about those but I never got around to them. The Killing Joke by Christa Faust is my first attempt at any DC-related novel actually. I find them fun and complementary to the their original graphic novels, based on this experience. I’ll definitely look into hunting those down! Thanks for sharing. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • I saw the animated movie for this story a couple of months ago, and I remember that a lot of fans were pretty disappointed by it. It’s great to see that this novelisation at least hasn’t disappointed and has turned out good. I have yet to read the original graphic novel, and I usually want to that first before turn to other mediums (it was actually pretty rare that I did watch the animated version of this). That said, the novel sounds pretty good, despite a few flawas, and it’s cool to see that they are able to turn comics into good novels. (Which I know can be done as for instance the Dark Horse Aliens and Predator novels have always been a lot of fun to read) 😊 Great post as always Lashaan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeh, I do hope to put up a review of that animated movie someday after rewatching it. They made the mistake of adding that chapter regarding Batgirl in the beginning (it was never in the original graphic novel and it had such a controversial moment in it). If this novel had been adapted instead, it would’ve had way more success than what the animated movie had. Then again, the second part of the movie, the part that actually adapts panel by panel the graphic novel was awesome. 😉 Welp, there’s your mini-review for the animated movie by me. 😀

      I highly recommending the graphic novel first, especially if it interests you. Afterwards, for a little bit of fun, you could visit the novel and enjoy its take on Alan Moore’s creation!

      Thank you so much for reading, Michel. I appreciate it. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, well thanks for that mini review. I know which controversial scene you spoke of, and yeah I kinda wondered why they put scene in the film. Probably simply for shock value. While I didn’t dislike the film, I could not really judge how well it held up agains the original graphic novel. Well…now I can😊
        Speaking of that one, it’s one that has been on my wanted list for graphic novels for a while now, so I definitely hope to check it out!😊😊 (And I will read it before the book, that’s for sure😊).

        Liked by 1 person

  • Oooh, this sounds like an intriguing one. I know what you mean about novelisations of movies – there is always a voice in my head I can’t quite tune out whispering it’s just marketing, after more of my money. Equally though, I think seeing the same story in a different format can illuminate it in a new way, as it sounds like it has done here. If I love a character I’m always up for getting to know them better, and books really are the best form for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. I always thought it was just a marketing scheme to make an extra buck, but then again, I also tell myself that no one would actually pay for a book (something you actually have to read) when you could just watch the movie. After this novelization though, I think the only upside I can see to those movie-to-books novelizations is the opportunity to just see something you enjoyed in a different medium. If anything, a novelization that is well done definitely gives the story the opportunity to give us a little bit more on the world and the characters! 😛 Thanks for reading, Lydia!

      Like

    • Yass! I have so much hope for his version of the Joker! 😀

      Oh, but even if you aren’t interested in the original graphic novel, this one is a novel hahah 😉 At least movies are there to spare you from finding a hole to fit a whole book into your schedule. 😀

      Like

  • I had a similar experience with Moore’s The Killing Joke. It was the first Graphic Novel I read that showed me that Batman could be much more than camp, over the top, ridiculous fun. It taught me that Graphic Novels and comics can be deep, gritty, emotional stories. I love it so much. I adore Scott Snyder’s run with Batman for similar reasons.

    I saw this novelisation on Goodreads but glanced over it thinking, ‘Oh, it’ll be crap’, but your review has piqued my interest. I may have to give it a go.

    The Joaquin Phoenix movie looks so good. I am so excited for it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brethren. I feel you. I’m convinced that there are still too many people out there who think comic books are for kids, geeks and nerds, but my experience has shown that there is so much more to them than meets the eye. I’m really glad to hear your love for Snyder’s New 52 run too. It’s really nice to know that there’s more than two people out in the blogosphere who knows the man and his work! 😀

      I would have had the same reaction as you about this novelization, but I got too curious about a novelization for one of the best graphic novels ever. You just shouldn’t hope to feel or have the same experience as you had when you first read The Killing Joke by Alan Moore. You should look at this as an opportunity to revisit the original story, but with bonus side-content. And that side-content will be minimally fun, but it won’t be a game-changer.

      Same here, man. I have high hopes on his version of the Joker. I have the feeling he’s going to surprise the world. 😀

      Thanks for reading, good sir. I appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Crazy, right? Novelizations have always seemed wrong to me for many reasons, including that one. I’m not even sure if screenwriters ever do novelizations of the movies they were involved on too.. As for The Killing Joke, I won’t say that this one improved Alan Moore’s classic, cause.. it didn’t. Nothing and no one could, to be honest. I just had fun with the extra content that it brought to the original tale. The dialogues are usually word-for-word loyal to what you find in the graphic novel though. Emphasis on “usually” hahah I’d be curious to see what others think about this novelization though. :O Thanks for reading, Nancy!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Did you see the straight to DVD version of TKJ? It was another adaptation that did not meet expectations and it gave the story a long new prologue about Batgirl that was very suspect. A saving grace in the movie was that Mark Hamill did the Joker’s voice.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh yes, I did. Went to the theater premiere of it too (which rarely occurs for animated movies). I was stunned by that controversial moment that was added. I understand they wanted us to “connect” with Batgirl before that big moment she suffers in the original story, but that… was… so not the way to go about it. The book does a slightly better job in that regard. While not exactly the most necessary segment that needed to be added. And I LOVE Mark Hamill’s Joker. Been a fan ever since his job in the Batman animated series. For him to have his dream come true and adapt The Killing Joke was truly awesome! 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  • I am a Joaquin Phoenix fan and hope that he does well, but I was kind of hoping to see where the ‘Suicide Squad’ Joker was going. I like that he played the part as an homage to Frank Gorshin.
    Here is a clip of Frank impersonating some famous actors from the sixties. {He also does a one second Riddler}

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeh.. Leto’s Joker definitely deserves to be given a chance to shine. Judging him based solely on the little scenes he had in Suicide Squad is a shame. There’s still Suicide Squad 2 in the making. I doubt they won’t have Leto in it. 😉

      Wow, amazing performance. I do remember your love for the actor and how you saw resemblances in performances with Leto.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Ace stuff my friend! I’ve been wondering about these DC novelizations that are coming out, especially this one. It was great to read your thoughts, like you I hold Moore and Bolland’s graphic novel in very high regard (long overdue a review from myself, even more so now I’ve got the Absolute Edition) and I love the way you highlight – without spoilers – the differences and how the novel expands, out of necessity, on the source material and it sounds like it does it a bit more successfully than the animated film (which I did like, but understand some of the controversy).

    I get what you say about film novelizations, but I do sometimes tend to read them if only to uncover fresh perspective on a something I’m a big fan of. I recently read the Man of Steel novel and although it followed the film quite tightly the author did offer some nice detail in the characters’ thoughts.

    Anyway, I’m definitely going to be picking this up in the next couple of months (just starting Wells’ the Invisible Man and have a Planet of the Apes novel line up after that)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep. Ever since I started reading comics, I have been curious about DC’s line-up of novelizations. They didn’t feel like movie novelizations and because they’re based on comic book stories, something about getting more out of them through a novel was tantilizing. I’m glad my first experience (this one) turned out positive as it gives me hope for the others to come and for those that are already out there.

      Interesting. I think one of my biggest fears for movie novelizations is in fact that the story might end up being written like a movie script. I absolutely despise that in novels (authors who write stories in hopes that it would be taken and adapted into a movie… instead of writing a story more fluid and let screenwriters turn it into a script for a movie).

      Nice to hear you’ve still squeezing in a couple novels in between your TV series, movies and comic books hahah Are we talking about Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes novel?

      Like

  • Great review, and I love that cover! 😀
    I’ve heard some mixed reviews of the DC novels out there so it’s good to hear this one turned out so well. 🙂
    It’s been a while since I read the graphic novel but this definitely makes me want to re-visit it as well as add this novel version to my TBR list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! And yes! I love the design too. 😛 Same here regarding mixed reviews. I was glad to land on one that wasn’t bad at all. Very accessible for all readers too!

      Yay! I’m glad it sparked that desire in you. 😀 Thank you for reading, I appreciate it a lot! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  • Oh wow the cover is already to die for so I’d love to have some pictures of the inside of this book! You make it very interesting and intriguing Lashaan.

    Liked by 1 person

  • The cover is gorgeous. Since blogging I’ve definitely gotten to find out more about graphic novels and how incredible they can be. I really must try one at some point… should out it on my 2019 reading plan. Lol.
    A Joker movie… damn… that will be some twisted stuff. My kids will probably want to see it. 🙈

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is, isn’t it? The other planned novelizations by DC Comics have similar covers too. Pretty neat stuff. And yes, yes, yes! You should totally give them a shot. There are some really amazing stories that will leave you speechless out there. You just have to find them and pick wisely. 😉 Then again if you don’t give the Killing Joke graphic novel by Alan Moore a try, there’s always this novelization. 😀 And yes. The Joker movie to come is clearly going to be a dark and twisted origin story. The world isn’t going to be ready for what Mr. Phoenix has in store for them. I believe. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  • I also don’t see the value in “noveling” a movie. The Joker, though, is an interesting character and I am also looking forward to seeing the film with Joaquin Phoenix. I can see him being good at it.

    Liked by 1 person

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