Graphic Novel/Comics Review

Arkham Asylum 15th Anniversary Edition

(2004) Grant Morrison and Dave McKean, Titan Books, 19.99, hrdbk, 216pp, ISBN 1-840-23909-3

Back in the mid-1980's something wonderful happened to American comics - Brits started writing and drawing them! That, in essence, is the whole story, and the reason why today (20 years later... where did the time go) you can read great comics. It was, and remains, a revolution and it has never been equalled since. No brag, just facts. In 1989 the brilliant Karen Berger, DC editor of Vertigo, let Grant Morrison loose on Batman and a 64-page one-shot grew into 120 pages of mouth-wateringly fabulous artwork by Dave McKean, the single most significant Batman story, and the most successful graphic novel of all time. 15 years later does not seem too soon to re-present this classic. The story is that Batman is lured into Arkham after the inmates have taken over and is forced to confront his own psyche (and neatly overturned all the speculation about just how big a psychopath Batman was following Frank Miller's Dark Knight treatment); just as important is the story of Arkham's founder, Amadeus Arkham, and his battle with mental illness in his family. Subtitled 'A Serious House on Serious Earth', this was and is a seriously terrific book. This new edition includes a copy of the final draft script, annotated by Morrison, his original thumbnails of the artwork, and a detailed afterward by Karen Berger. If you've never read or owned Arkham Asylum, then you really need to be heading to your local comics shop right now; if you have, but you just love comics and the quirky and interesting insights that the 'extras' throw up, then you want this book too. If you just don't give a damn, or are happy to stick with your old edition, that's your choice. But I'm happy to see this book sitting on my shelf (and I will just have to find a good new home for the old edition I guess).

Tony Chester

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