THIS WEEK: Look, I am as surprised as you are but it’s time to talk about The Joker #2 because this series is excellent so far.
Note: the review below contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Writer: James Tynion IV, with Sam Johns
Artist: Guillem March, with Mirka Andolfo
Colorist: Arif Piranto, with Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Tom Napolitano, with Ariana Maher
When an ongoing The Joker comic was announced, I was a naysayer. I was burned out on the character, as well as just broadly on the idea of a gritty murdering clown who subverts all that Batman stands for. We’d seen him done artfully via Black Label, we’d seen his 80th anniversary issue, we’d seen him mashed-up with Batman, we’d seen him in triplicate, and we’d seen him go to war. We’d just seen The Joker a lot. At the same time, we’d also seen all of those projects sell and sell like bonkers.
So, I understood why DC Comics was publishing a Joker comic as opposed to something more insular (like, say, Booster Gold, or my personal favorite, Green Arrow), but I didn’t have to like it. As a result, I came to this new The Joker series with diminished expectations. After reading The Joker #2, however, I am sitting down here to officially eat some Jokerized crow.
This is a very good comic. It’s written by James Tynion IV, also the mastermind behind the flagship Batman title (which I also enjoy), with artwork by Guillem March and Arif Piranto. The premise is such that this is actually not a comic about The Joker, not really, but about Jim Gordon, who is on an international manhunt for the Clown Prince of Crown, encouraged into it by mysterious forces from within Gotham.
There is a core move here that starts this comic off on a very solid footing. It almost feels as if when Tynion was given this assignment, the writer made a foundational decision to not make this a story of the criminal, but rather a story about his victims. And who are, perhaps, the most famous victims of The Joker in the modern era (with apologies to Jason Todd)? The Gordons, Jim and Barbara both. The Joker #2 leans into that idea, and what results is a fantastic and pivotal Batman comic.
In this issue, Jim Gordon reveals to his daughter that he has known for a good long while that she operates as Batgirl and Oracle. Tynion and March play out this reveal as well as the resulting conversation expertly, doing so in ways that feel both entertaining in terms of issue pacing, as well as satisfying to long-term readers. Frankly, with Batgirl wearing the smallest of small domino masks in a way that clearly unveils most of her face and all of her hair, this revelation was long overdue. What I like about it most is not the realism (this is, afterall, a story of bat-people punching clowns), but rather the emotion behind it and the way it seeds more interesting directions for our main character dynamics. It’s great stuff, and I’m convinced this will be the most memorable individual issue from this current Bat-era, at least so far.
Speaking of this current era, that’s a nice transition into the other reason I really like The Joker #2. It’s firmly-rooted in happenings in the other books. Gone are the days when Batman and Detective Comics felt totally separate. This new era is just crushing it on cohesion, with everything from Catwoman to Harley Quinn exploring a set of core plot points and events in different ways. This book is perhaps most concerned with the aftermath of The Joker War story arc, and with this second issue, it expands that into new areas while also doling out a major reveal to fans with the introduction to this story of the Court of Owls.
We don’t just see characters grumbling about how some usual craziness destroyed buildings, killed people, and disrupted life massively. We see the events of the Joker War manifesting in their decisions and actions, doing so in logical ways. The book isn’t just about Batman’s reaction to The Joker, it’s about everyone’s reaction to The Joker, good and bad, in ways that actually matter. It’s a comic that looks at The Joker and definitely says, this is not normal, and then explores that.
It’s all well-done, very well-done, and — as unlikely as this would seem a few months ago — I’m writing this today very grateful that we have a Joker comic.
Verdict: Get over the shock, and BUY this comic
- We also probably have to talk about Rorschach #7. This issue introduces legendary comics creators Otto Binder and Frank Miller as characters in a story that already prominently features a Steve Ditko analog. As a whole, this book is silly — this issue, for example, introduces The Dark Fife Returns…which c’mon, man — and not very self-aware. It’s a silly comic that thinks it’s very smart, to be blunt, and normally I’d ignore it. This issue, however, demands mention because the series seems headed for volatility. To me, Rorschach #7 begs the question: will this book feature Alan Moore, or an Alan Moore analog? And if so, how quickly will comics Internet explode? It’s like watching a train wreck in slow-mo. A Tom King appearance also seems inevitable. And with the investigator here conspicuously lacking a name, I’m starting to think we’ll find out it’s Alan, or, more likely, Tom…
- Superman #30 continues the strong start to new Supes writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s run. He teams on this issue with Scott Godlewski and Gabe Eltreb. This issue continues the thematic interests of the first arc, indicating that this new run is perhaps not only about a father-son relationship, but also about broader dynamics between generations. It’s examining peoples of the future not as our replacements but as extensions of our work (good and bad), even if they aren’t how we envisioned them. It’s an interesting concept for a character as long-tenured as Superman, made all the more powerful by the high level of craft and precise execution of these books so far. Oh, and the Ambush Bug backup is a blast.
- Finally, in addition to The Joker #2, there was quite a bit more Batman this week (shocking!). Tom Taylor and Andy Kubert’s Batman: The Detective #1 is a well-done and crisp Batman story, harkening back to the previous uber-wealthy Bruce status quo versus the character’s new financially-diminished circumstances. It’ll definitely find its fans.
- Batman: Urban Legends #2 was another great anthology of stories about characters throughout Gotham. The Matthew Rosenberg-penned and Ryan Benjamin-illustrated Grifter revival remains one of 2021’s most pleasant surprises. The real star of the anthology so far, however, is Chip Zdarsky teaming with Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreria on what could be a character-defining Red Hood story. Look, I know (again!), but this is just great comics, feeling poignant and personal within the world of corporate superhero IP, and it’s doing major work to build-out our new Batman era.
- Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!