Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Killing Joke

Great graphic novel with one serious problem.....it's waaaaaaay too short. Something like 45 pages to be exact. If you've read the "Watchmen" and/or "V For Vendetta" posts on this blog, then you may remember that I have become a colossal Alan Moore fan. I always look forward to his vivid and provocative works.

In reading about "The Dark Knight", I read that both Heath Ledger in his portrayal of the Joker and Tim Burton in his direction of the first Batman film in 1989 drew inspiration from "The Killing Joke" in their work. I was already interested in it from the simple fact that the history of the Joker was put in Moore's hands, but I was immediately compelled to order the GN after reading about its basis in the industry's portrayal of everyone's favorite winged-mouse. I placed my order at B&N.com and wildly anticipated diving right into what I was sure to be a complex, jigsaw puzzle of a story. So you can imagine my extreme disappointment in finding that the book itself was only about 45 pages. I finished it in a single train ride =*(

Batman is heading to Arkham Asylum, a center for the criminally insane note below, to see and talk to the Joker. After arriving in his cell and trying to get to some reason as to why those two hate each other so much and don't even really know each other, Batman soon discovers that he is indeed talking to some other lackey who is face-painted as the Joker, as the real one has escaped. The story then follows Batman tracking down and arresting the infamous criminal while we are given a look into his past and the circumstances that made him the maniacal and demonic Clown he is today.

There is some turn from previous incarnations of both of the protagonists. Batman is much more sensitive and diplomatic, which seemed to weaken him as an entertaining character a little. The Joker, however, is much more deliberate and philosophical, which actually served to give enlivening glimpse into his psyche. As I complained about above, the story had plenty of room for a lot more elaboration. But all in all, this is a brilliant piece of writing.

NoteThere is no such thing as "criminally" insane. Insanity is just insanity. There isn't any different breed of crazy for lawful people and unlawful people, because all of the insane have cut themselves from any attachment to societal norm and law and just focus on their own. They are not intent on being criminals. But I'm sure Moore knows this.

Monday, February 9, 2009

God's Spy

Here we are, once again: an "intriguing" new thriller by Juan Gomez-Jurado that's supposed to be the competition for "The Da Vinci Code". It's sure written in the same vein: murder mystery that leads into the most powerful figures and institutions of Catholicism and their corrupt ways of upholding holiness in the public eye. I wasn't fully able to cast judgement on TDVC because I didn't finish it. I didn't finish it because, as intriguing as the unfolding conspiracy was, Dan Brown had no sort of flair for poetry or style or substance in the writing itself what-so-ever. Rest assured, neither does Mr. Gomez-Jurado.

This particular work takes place entirely in the Vatican (which was a lot bigger than I thought) and starts after the death of John Paul II and a couple of weeks before the Conclave, an event where many priests gather to vote on who will take the seat as earthly head of the Catholic Church. A corpse is found in the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina. Its eyes are gone, its tongue is cut out and his hands are severed and found nearby. Assigned to the case is Police Inspector Paola Dicanti, one of 20-something qualified profilers in the whole world, and Father Anthony Fowler, an American priest with a dark and brooding past. Together, they track and pursue the serial killer into what maybe a looming conspiracy against the church by head members of it.

I know now what to expect from this particular genre. I'm guessing that, in order for the thrills and plot twists to be truly effective, you have to write the story like it's some sort of researched thesis with tired, plain dialogue and weak descriptions that are easy for your teacher to breeze through and grade. And so, the mystery itself is interesting, but I can't really say I care about any of the characters or have fun reading any writing that doesn't concern the mystery. For instance:
"Hearing Robayra's name in the film dispelled her doubts the way a drunken fart
would blow through five o'clock tea at Buckingham Palace." (pg. 269)
This may have been a stab at some humor in what is for the most part a dramatic intense narrative, and that is fine. I cannot fault the attempt just because I didn't find it funny. But the joke itself was entirely too immature and third-grade slapstick for a book of this tone.
"She shut the door as abruptly as she could, but the man on the other side
wedged his foot in like an encyclopedia salesman with a large family to
support." (pg. 274)
What the hell is this? Yes, yes, I got it, support a large family, urgency, not difficult to understand. It is difficult, however, to take this humorously or seriously or at-all-ously.

There are a few other larger passages that are written badly, some of which are spoilers, but I think the above two quotes drive home the point. The mystery itself is satisfying and intriguing, but if you're looking for a thought-provoking and realistic story with vivid, three-dimensional characters that are realistic and not just technically correct, I'd advise that you avoid this. If you don't care about the writer being all "artsy" and want the story to just hurry up and get to the point, then this novel would be for you.