Published in 1988, the Alan Moore written and Brian Bolland, Batman: The Killing Joke has (thanks to this video posted by Jordan Gibson) become a hot topic for Batman fans.
The question is: did Batman kill the Joker at the end? The book is amazing: well written, well illustrated and well coloured. It also has an amazing ending that forces the reader to decide if the Joker finally won, completing his final sick joke – his own death at the hands of Batman.
If you look at the source material, which was apparently supposed to be a one-off story, I think the ending is pretty clear: Batman kills the Joker. That’s the best ending, examining all of the prominent themes of Batman up until that point. It builds to that climax, and Moore masterfully forces the reader to decide that for themselves, by not showing the action in a panel or giving it away through an overt sound effect (“SNAP!”). He leaves that decision up to the reader, who could choose to accept the Joker won, or not.
DC however, did not choose to let the Joker win, and rolled the story into Batman canon by turning Barbra Gordon into wheelchair-bound Oracle and bringing the Joker back in the subsequent books. This decision by DC forced the reader to accept that Batman did not compromise his principles even though the book might suggest otherwise.
I LOVE this controversy, and I LOVE that Alan Moore had the balls to take Batman to the edge and let him walk off. I will always read The Killing Joke and have it end that way – even though I enjoy everything that came after. For some reason, I’m able to enjoy both Batmans: the uncompromising one we continue to read, and the Batman that murdered the Joker, crossing the line forever.
What do you think happened at the end of The Killing Joke?