It’s that season again. The leaves are falling, the air is getting colder and the wind seems to howl as it blows life into the trees. Everything is going gray. And soon, not soon enough if you ask me, the streets will run orange with the glow of pumpkins. Children will walk the streets dressed like maniacs and heroes and villains and monsters, giving out ultimatums of sweets or tricks. Adults will indulge in bacchanals and cheer as killers hunt down virgins on TV. Madness will reign and some believe the fabric of reality is at its most fragile on that special night of Samhain. What to read on such a special occasion? Why not one of the best Batman stories ever?
Arkham Asylum : A Serious House On A Serious Earth is the brain child of Grant Morrison and Dave McKean. It tells of a night that changed Batman forever, the night he had to step into the world’s most infamous asylum to take it back from the inmates who have overtaken it and face his most vicious enemy: His own broken psyche. The fun thing is that it also tells the story of Amadeus Arkham, the founder of the asylum, and of the string of horrible events that caused him to take residence in his own home for the criminally insane. How are these two stories connected? Simply by the fact that madness has a way to haunt a place for regardless of the boundaries of time, as we are never sure of just what is the nature of the bat demon Amadeus’ sick mother was seeing in her last lucid days back in 1901.
And that’s probably the best thing about the book, the way in which it challenges the reader’s understanding of what’s going on. You can miss important details if you concentrate only on the words or only on Dave McKean mind-boggling artwork. I reread the whole thing last night and felt as if some of the panels and caption boxes had changed place since my last reading. Further more, the 15th anniversary edition comes with Grant Morrison’s final script, annotations and original sketches. These sketches offer a look at an even earlier version in which the Joker was supposed to be cross dressing. This is why the books leads itself so much to multiple readings. You will read the story and maybe want to know more about the real life persons and concepts that work their way into the it, like Carl Jung, Aleister Crowley and his Thoth Tarot and much more, and come back to read it again with a different point of view.
There is so much more to be said, but nothing would compare to actually experiencing this comic. It’s the perfect book to read late at night and it offers a great story about a man’s perilous fight against madness. Well, it can also be his journey to accept madness, depending on which side of the looking glass you look at it from.