Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Book Review - Arkham Asylum: Madness by Sam Kieth

Arkham Asylum: MadnessArkham Asylum: Madness by Sam Kieth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this way back in March I think, but read it on Sunday during a power outage. How appropriate.

Sabine is a nurse who works at Arkham Asylum and picks up a 24 hour shift. Will the stifling madness get to her? Will the Joker? Or is it just another 24 hours?

It's refreshing to have a Batman book without Batman in it. Seriously, he's mentioned maybe once. By a child. This certainly isn't a Batman story. This is an Arkham Asylum story. It's what it says on the label.

So, you all know I'm a huge Sam Kieth fan, I've read some of his other Batman books, Scratch, Batman: Secrets, Batman/Lobo (Mental note: Read more Lobo, I always enjoy Lobo when I read him.), Batman: Through the Looking Glass, along with myriad of his original works, so I know what to expect when it comes to Kieth.

This was sort of a mixed bag. The story is full of Sam Kieth tropes. Troubled women, troubled lesbians, weak women who aren't really weak, animal death, onomatopoeia that symbolize insanity and so forth.

I found myself comparing AA:M Joker to Batman: Secrets Joker and in all ways, I prefer Secrets when it comes to The Joker. The way Kieth wrote and rendered Mister J in Secrets was off-the-wall, sadistic, freaky, creepy, and wacky. This Joker is just ugly. I mean that in the nicest way possible. But he's too...subtle, too beefy. There were no real interesting puns or turns of phrase, opting instead for an Antiques Roadshow call out. And his big revelation? I've seen it done better in HBO's OZ.

By contrast, Harley was written really, really well. She was dark, strong, snarky, and tough. Also, I liked her design. Kieth did it before the New 52, and Kieth did it better.

Speaking of, the art was also sort of hit-and-miss. You could see the framework of Kieth's figures, errant pencil lines that were meant to be erased but never were. Character design choices were also a little questionable. Scarecrow and Two-Face were just...odd. You're drawing Arkham, go crazy! Literally!

On the other hand, there are some positively amazing painted works, Killer Croc is breath-taking in scope and weight but there's also a sort of grace. And there's a cute panel of Harley cuddling Ivy.

After having time to reflect on the ending, I think I liked it. It has a sort of ominous feeling that leaves me wondering how long Sabine will live with her choices before she regrets it.

Good things, not so good things, but it looks good on my shelf, so that's something.

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