Skip to Content

Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth

Author: Grant Morrison
Illustrator: Dave McKean
Collection Originally Published: 1989
15th Anniversary Edition Published: 2004
Publisher: DC Comics
Source: Borrowed from my brother

The Story

Batman Arkham AsylumFrom the back of the book:

Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth is a hard-hitting psychological horror story featuring Batman and virtually all the inmates of Arkham Asylum, the house for the criminally insane. Led by the Joker, the inmates – Two-Face, the Mad Hatter, Killer Crock, Clayface, Scarecrow, and more – take over the asylum and seize control of the staff. They’re willing to release the hostages, but only if their one demand is met: Batman must be turned over to them, and become one of their own.

The Response

This was my first introduction to the Batman comics! I’ve always claimed that I’m a Marvel girl, not a DC girl, but other than some of the Vertigo titles, I hadn’t actually experienced any DC comics… but both the Marvel and the smaller press stories just have always appealed so much more to me.

But I am no longer a DC virgin now! I still definitely prefer Marvel’s comics… or maybe it’s just Batman that isn’t my thing. Even the movies and the cartoons I’ve never really been a fan of. Except maybe the Adam West ones, mainly because Batgirl’s costume was awesome.

I’m not sure if this was a good introduction into the Batman universe. They throw a lot of characters at you in this one that maybe may have been more impactful if you knew who they were – we see a lot of Batman’s villains in this one. I found that many of the ones I was familiar with weren’t in this, as I’ve gained most of my knowledge through the cinematic universe, and I’m sure someone who has better knowledge would find the fact that Batman has to face off with all of them in one place to be rather alarming for our hero.

I found to be very dark and disturbing story. Going in, I was extremely interested in the fact that it was set in an insane asylum, and wanted to know so much more about Arkham Asylum, as it’s something that people talk about a fair amount (though I did learn that this really has nothing to do with the video games that everyone talks about, and was a little disappointed that Harley Quinn wasn’t in this, so I still haven’t been introduced to her at all). The backstory that was presented here was deliciously creepy, and it could’ve been fleshed out a lot more as it’s own standalone in all honesty.

What originally drew me to want to read this book, though, were the illustrations. It was obvious that they were done by Dave McKean, who also did a bunch of the Sandman covers. I looooove those, so wanted to see some more of his work. And it was definitely suited to the story that was told. It added so much to the atmosphere of the story.

One thing that I had a really hard time with in regards to the illustrations, however, was that the Joker’s dialogue was extremely hard to read. I don’t know if it’s always like this, or if it is just a characteristic of how this illustrator portrays the Joker. The type was definitely reflective of how I would imagine the character’s personality, and in that regard it was awesome, but it did make the reading experience a little bit harder and took me out of the story when trying to decipher what was being said.

I will admit that I was expecting a little bit of a twist at the end, and the fact that I am not very familiar with the franchise means that I’m not sure exactly how things ended. I don’t know whether the doctor was turned mad from working in that particular institute, or how much of what he said about when the place was originally turned into the mental institute was true. I guess I needed to know more about the timeline of the Batman universe to really get what was going on…

The Bottom Line

I’m not sure if I will end up reading more of the Batman comics, but now I can actually say that I have read some of them.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 9:41 am June 30, 2014.
Category: Speculative Fiction
Book Author(s): ,
Publisher(s):

  • Jenn vanOosten

    Eeee… psychological thrillers are not so much my think. I think I shall stay away from this one.