Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Arkham Asylum A Serious House on Serious Earth, or How I Bought/Read My First Pretentious Graphic Novel

So, still reeling from the fact that I went to New York's biggest comic book store and bought one of the best-selling graphic novel's of all time there I thought I should actually get around to read it. Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum, A Serious House on Serious Earth illustrated by Dave McKean is an interesting read for many reasons. It is Batman as I had never thought of him before (sexually stunted? ambiguous and shadowy? broken and fragmented?) - it's not West, Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney or even Bale and I don't think I'd have it any other way. Little did I know that this classic graphic novel has spurred disparate reception with the lovely power of hindsight. Just from reading around the web the word that is ever-present in all the negative reviews is "pretentious" and maybe that's why I liked it so much.
Freud + Christian Imagery on its head + Tarot Symbology + Jungian Mythology + Batman + Theories of Sanity/Insanity = A good read for someone as geeky and theory-oriented as myself. The inclusion of Morrison's original script in this version was very intriguing - you get to see how intricately woven all the symbology was in Morrison's writing and yet how far away McKean drifts from specificity and moves towards mood and tone to invoke the surrealism and Saturnalia-effect the book has when you first read it. This is the kind of graphic novel that just screams "Theorise-Me!" (an apt Lewis Carrollian imperative from a book so influenced by that 'children's story') and well I would love to - I find that stories about losing one's sanity in order to gain self-knowledge are quite appealing. Reading Asylum reminded me of Carlos Fuentes Aura and Juan Rulfo's Pedro Paramo - which, while different in style and scope deal with similar topics - only instead of Batman you're getting Latin-American history.

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