The Killing Joke, first published in the late 1980's is an atypical Batman story and yet, remains, one of the best ever written. Back in print since the 90's I was happy to relive the tale after losing my original copy of the book.
As regular readers and followers of the Batman mythology already know, the Joker, is the Dark Knight's most well known and popular adversary. Talented comic book scribe Alan Moore broke with tradition. He decided this story would not just be about the Joker having some demented plan and our hero has to find a way to foil those plans, rather, he chose to examine what makes the villian tick. The story has Joker shooting and crippling Barbra Gordon, then kiddnaping her father Police Commissioner James Gordon taunting him, to see if a man can truly go insane within a short period of time. While the Joker awaits the inevitable confrontation with Batman, he allows himself to reflect on his early days, and thus, the reader learns his origin. The book focuses less on typical "superhero action" and more on the psychology of these characters. Mr Moore weaves his story with such effortless ease that it never gets bogged down. It's all about the choices that a person makes and how much these two mortal foes really do mirror each other.
The artistic talents of Brian Bolland and John Higgins really shine in the book. Their rendition of The Joker is quite spectacular and among the best ever produced in a Bat story...Really. The "dynamic duo (sorry I couldn't help myself)" set a standard for the way Joker is now drawn today. Batman doesn't look too bad either. The artwork is a nice mix of subtlty and some broad strokes-matching the story perfectly.
I have read a lot of Batman stories over the years, The Killing Joke may not be what you would expect for these icons, but it is worth reading for sure. It is one of the best. The book has 48 pages