Arkham Asylum: A maze of archetypes
I’m not quite sure why I had the sudden urge to whip Batman – Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth off the bookshelf this morning and cart it to work but when such urges strike, I obey. And it’s not like it’s torture to re-read this absolutely amazing graphic novel. On the contrary, I adore this particular one. In fact, this graphic novel is what got me hooked on the Batman comics. It’s not just the art by Dave McKean that’s brilliant but the storyline by Grant Morrison and the Jungian archetypes help pull it all together.
If you’re not familiar with this particular one, here’s a quick synopsis (Spoilers, ahoy!):
The inmates of Arkham have taken over the prison and are holding hostages. The Joker delivers their one demand. Send Batman in. When Batman arrives he is essentially told he has a certain amount of time to make his way through the asylum before the inmates start hunting him. Of course, the inmates don’t stick to that promise and the chase is on.
Batman encounters many of the villains of the Rogue’s Gallery and has to get past them. In this story, each of these villains represents a part of Batman’s psyche, parts that he has to come to terms with. Over the top of this story we learn about Amadeus Arkham (the founder of the asylum) and learn some how of the madness feeds back from the present to the past only to repeat.
After some more climactic scenes (which I’ll leave out so you have some suspense) Batman walks out of the asylum with the Joker bidding him farewell at the door. Perhaps one of my favorite lines might be the Joker’s final words to Batman:
“Just don’t forget – if it ever gets too tough, there’s always a place for you in here…”
And the best part is, even though Batman has made it back out, even he has wondered through the entire novel if he belongs in there as well.
Even if you’ve never read a single Batman comic, go pick up this one and give it a try. Then let me know what you think.