Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I do like the name Amadeus Arkham, though

I finally got around to reading Arkham Asylum last night. I'd read it before, of course, but never really understood what was going on. I'd always sort of blamed myself for not getting it, or maybe Grant Morrison for being obscure. Last night, I read Morrison's script alongside the graphic novel.

Now I blame Dave McKean.

There's no doubt that McKean's artwork is showy, and I'm sure it launched a thousand wannabe art careers (teenagers also turned on by the graphic design on the 4AD record label). But overall, it's just too frigging obscure. Batman is a cypher, not a character. I don't think he's ever shown in anything other than silhouette (which, again, may have been a selling point for the untold masses that bought this "adult" graphic novel after Burton's film premiered). The entire Killer Croc sequence, for instance, is shadowy and indistinct.

And I can't tell you how much of a problem I had just *reading* the art. It turns out that several sequences I had misread because I thought that McKean had created a two-page layout, causing me to read the top tier on the left page followed by the top tier on the right page before moving on to the bottom tier on the left, when in fact he had intended you to read the entire left page before moving onto the right. No wonder I felt like I wasn't understanding.

So: overwrought symbolism (check). Obscure but sometimes brilliant art that looks nothing like something that John Byrne or even Dave Gibbons would produce (check). One megaselling graphic novel that I really don't think I'll ever want to read again (check).


Blogger Bill S. said...

I completely agree with what you've said; I never got into this book (in spite of Morrison writing it), and eventually sold my copy on eBay. Occasionally I wonder if I'd like it if I read it again, but then I remember how inscrutable and murky the whole thing was. McKean should stick to designing inscrutable and murky bookjackets.

10:40 AM  

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