There and Back Again selects a character to highlight, then showcases iconic stories and moments within that character’s history.
Written By: Allan Moore
Art By: Brian Bolland
Colored By: John Higgins
Published: March 1988 by DC Comics
What would Batman be without the Joker? Sure, Gotham has it’s slew of villains and monsters, but the truth is, none of them are as dark or twisted as the Joker. He is the mayhem to Batman’s control. Anarchy fighting against pure discipline. The Joker is more than a crazed animal for Batman to smack around. He is the hero’s opposite. A set of eyes through which Batman cannot see. A mind he cannot grasp. Yet, without one, the other would be lessened. The Joker is as equally important in shaping who Batman is, as his parent’s death was in creating him. The story of, Batman: The Killing Joke, draws these deep lines in the sand and does exactly what a story of both Batman and Joker should. It reveals a side of Batman that we’ve never seen, and a clarity for Joker that’s shrouded in smoke.
On the surface, the premise of the Killing Joke doesn’t appear to be too original in that it pits Batman against his arch-nemesis Joker. Where this takes its turn is that we start off with Batman desiring to have a one-on-one with Joker. He sees where this relationship he has with Joker is headed, and instead of brute force, we see Batman sit down and attempt to reason with insanity given form.
There’s no fighting or explosions, no twisted trap from which Batman escapes initially. We start with Batman entering Joker’s cell in Arkham. It is in this moment when Batman presents his case to the Joker, who’s quietly playing a game of Solitaire. In his own way, Batman is pleading with Joker. He understands that this back and forth between them is going end , one way or another. One of them is going to kill the other. As always, without spoilers, it’s at this point when the story takes it’s first major twist and we are off and running.
What sets this story apart is Moore’s commitment to a Joker origin story. Never before had Joker been given such, and in my opinion, Joker having no defined beginning is a huge part of his character. He’s this menacing threat that comes from both no where and everywhere. He could’ve been anyone, at any time, which makes him all the scarier. The beauty of this origin story is that Moore doesn’t take away from that, instead, he manages to deepen the mystery of the Joker while adding to his mythos.
“…you know, I…I’m not exactly sure what it was. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another…if I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!” –Joker
The ending of this book is a mystery without an answer. It’s been debated and conversed over more times than I can count. I have my theories about it, which I’ll keep to myself, but as for the story, this ending is exactly what it needed. There’s no definitive period at the end of the sentence, as though we faded to black one page too soon. Instead of closing this off, the ending leaves me to believe that its more of a passing the baton. Like Allan Moore is saying, I’ve started this, now where will you take it?