sometimes I think the asylum is the head. We’re inside a huge head that dreams us all into being.-The Mad Hatter
It has taken me a while to jump onto the Grant Morrison bandwagon, but it’s been worth the wait: his work with “Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth” is the most engaging, philosophically piercing look at a human being, an institution, a superhero, a city, and the concept of truly exploring your own psyche, in order to understand just who you are.
First and foremost, this is no typical Batman tale, nor is it your usual comic book “Fight the villain, save the day” kind of event: this is a novel, deconstructing each and every character, and striking at the heart and mind of The Batman.
Juxtaposed with Batman is the story of Amadeus Arkham, proverbial founder of the institution for the criminally insane known as Arkham Asylum: on April Fools Day, present day, Batman must dive into the Asylum, and face his greatest foes, not in combat, but through psychological warfare. In the past, Amadeus Arkham deals with founding his Asylum, and seeing just how far insanity can go, not only in others, but in his own DNA, as well.
More than anything else, this tale is a full exploration of that old Nietzsche quote:
Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.
This is a work of Grant Morrison’s that shines, and is still so odd and so difficult to categorize, some twenty-odd years after the fact, that it still holds up. This is THE Batman to read: not just the violent brute that fights and keeps fighting, this is the man behind the mask, and Grant Morrison has done a great service, making this work, in the first place. Highly recommended read.