Batman: The Killing Joke is part of my DC Read-through, an ongoing series of posts inspired by a free eGalley I received. The eGalley was a magazine of the books DC claimed were the best places to start with their comics and I took this as a challenge. I handpicked about two dozen, and I try to read one or two a month. If you're interested in the rest of this series check out the tab above. My last post was a review of the first volume of Sandman and my next one is going to be V for Vendetta. Because this isn't a typical review I don't focus on the typical things, I stick mostly to looking at whether this is a good place to start with DC comics or not in lieu of plot details and my personal enjoyment.
This one is up there with Watchmen as one of the darkest comics I've ever read. Seeing as they're both written by Alan Moore I really shouldn't be surprised. I would argue, however, that this is darker, and perhaps, because it is shorter, it packs a very different, but still powerful, kind of punch to the gut than Watchmen did. Which is why I'm going to say that this is a poor place to start for any comic reader.
If you're looking to get into Batman comics this isn't the place. Sure, you're probably well versed in who the characters are, but if you want the full impact of the emotions that this is meant to convey I think you need to spend more time getting to know exactly who it is within these pages. I've read Batman comics before, but I still didn't get all the emotion that I think this is meant to convey. It's also not meant to be a set up for anyone really, but the Joker, as it does reveal a "version" of his backstory. While he may be one of the best character's ever written I don't think his is the head you want to enter into this series with.
If you're looking to get into superhero comics this also isn't the best place. The only hero to really appear is Batman and it's in a limited capacity. He's there, and his morals are certainly fleshed out nicely and quickly, but he himself isn't the most interesting part nor is he meant to be. It's not a comic about a hero as about the human condition, which it portrays beautifully.
Finally, if you're looking to get into comics in general I would say it's so-so. For a one-shot it's a really solid story, and if you're a connoisseur of fine things, particularly fine art, this is definitely a piece you need to add to your collection. However, if you're just generally looking to get into comics this will either be a turn on or a turn off. There's not really a middle ground with this one, so I would recommend starting somewhere else. If you're pretty sure this is the kind of things you want to read regularly, than by all means go for it, but if you're just kinda curious and not sure, try something else first to get a taste for the medium.
I do want to add a word on whether I liked it or not: I did but not really because of the plot (which I find a tad too disturbing for even my tastes) or the art (though it is very nice art that matches the story well) but because of how much of a statement piece it is as art and what it contributes to the genre. I like being able to see it on my shelf and I think it will be a nice piece for my collection for many years to come.
TL;DR? Perhaps not the best place to start with comics or graphic novels but definitely a must read if you think you can stomach it.