I think I should begin by saying that I have not read a comic book or graphic novel in my entire life. I very recently have started reading manga because Japan has far more interesting story lines and characters than a lot of what the U.S. has put out recently. So I did kind of already have a feel for that type of reading. The reason I mention that The Killing Joke was my first comic book is because it might affect how I judge and interpret the story. And the only familiarity I have with anything Batman-related would be watching those corny movies with Val Kilmer and George Clooney, and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.
Perhaps I had high expectations for the Joker’s backstory because he’s such legendary villain. I believe he’s Batman’s archenemy, if I’m not mistaken. It was definitely interesting to see Bruce Wayne wanting to come to some sort of common ground with the Joker, so that took me in right away, along with the Joker impostor in the asylum. Everything that happened in the present was engrossing and disturbing at the same time. What he did to Barbara Gordon was despicable, as was his torturing of the Commissioner, but the idea of him setting his stage in an abandoned theme park was something I couldn’t look away from.
What disappointed me, or underwhelmed me, was the backstory we received on the Joker. I was along for the ride the whole time. He was a struggling comedian with a wife? Awesome. Got into some crime to support a child? Sympathetic, good. Keep going. But then we get to the point where his wife died by accidentally electrocuting herself. It was incredibly sudden and felt out of left field for me. But I hadn’t lost hope. Because it happened so quick, I thought the police officer who broke the news was in on the crime. Perhaps they wanted him to think that his wife was dead for some sort of advantage.
But for someone who was willing to delve into crime to help his family, I was disappointed that the Joker’s reaction to the incident wasn’t a stronger one. I’d imagine he’d be distraught over something like that, but he just seemed more disappointed that his efforts weren’t for anything. I kept waiting and waiting for the torture his emotions must have gone through to become as psychotic as he was. And then they went for the old “fell into some chemicals” trope. I felt duped out of the deeper characterization I was looking for. We began with so much potential to be different, but ended up resorting to what I understand to be an overused, easy explanation for how villains come to be psycho and have their appearance altered.
Everything else was interesting and well-done in my opinion. I even laughed at the joke the Joker told at the very end, and I kind of wish I knew what came after that moment. But all in all, it was a good place to end, running with the theme of the story.