Kudos to John Layman for not taking the easy route with his Death of the Family tie-in. Instead of finding another character for Joker to torture and monologue at the author opted to not use the Joker at all. Rather than give into the allure of writing for one of, if not the greatest villains of all time and boring those of us already suffering from Joker-fatigue, John Layman focused on the fallout of Joker’s actions. He does this not only by addressing some of the major acts Joker has committed in Death of the Family that were cast aside as minor (wiping out every mafia lieutenant? That is something that could’ve spawned an entire arc in itself!)  but by bringing back elements from Tony Daniel’s run on Detective Comics. Remember those weird, flamboyant villains in Penguin’s Ice Berg lounge? What about the crowd of Joker fans protesting in the park all those months ago? Although I didn’t like either of those things when they were first introduced there was something amusing about seeing them crop back up again.

I mean, really the Jokerz gang thing only made sense to me in a Batman Beyond context. None of those kids were even born when Joker was still alive and they were all too naive to understand how terrible his crimes truly were but for there to be hundreds of people in today’s Gotham showing loving support of the madman? That doesn’t seem right. It would be like Timothy McVeigh fans rallying in Oklahoma City– it just wouldn’t happen. Anyway, setting that criticism aside, I suppose it was good to see that this element of Detective Comics wasn’t forgotten and Batman is making it a point to bring all these punks down. It’s certainly more entertaining than following the same formula as every other Death of the Family tie-in. Do I sound bitter? That’s the Joker fatigue talking, that’s not me.

Speaking of characters not quite sounding like themselves, Batman continues to be a little bit too chatty in this series. When Batman confronts some baddies he proclaims “This is Batman. Cease your activities at once. Disperse. And return to your homes.” This to me sounds more like Robocop than Kevin Conroy. To me, Batman should be far more direct, more curt when speaking to criminals. Barking “Go home.” and that’s it would’ve felt more in tune with how I hear Batman. Or “Go home.” *pause for crooks to look scared. Paralyzed even. They’ve only heard of Batman, they’ve never seen anything like this before.* “Now.” *show the bad guys run like hell*

But really Batman is hardly in this book at all

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Which was funny to me at one point because he had a cool jetpack that should have gotten him to these crooks way, way faster yet he still opted to drive everywhere instead
. Ogilvy even gets more attention than Batman and even that isn’t very much. The main focus here is on the Joker gangs and the random crimes that they commit. It was entertaining, but at the same time I want this Jokerz stuff to be over so Layman can concentrate on the Emperor Penguin storyline alone. It’s a plot that’s always slipping away because of Death of the Family or Poison Ivy showing up…but at the same time it gives the feeling of just how constantly overwhelmed Batman is so that’s pretty cool.

You know what else is cool? The artwork. This is one sexy looking book. Jason Fabok and Andy Clarke are a brilliant one-two punch and we’re all going to look back one day and laugh about how lucky we were to have these two artists working on the same book month after month. Faces, mood, shadows, detailed backgrounds, kinetic action scenes, iconic shots of the Batman, it’s all here! And the colors by Jeromy Cox really make this book pop. We Batman fans are really fortunate to have so many good looking titles on our hands right now. My only qualm about the artwork has more to do with the writing, actually and I’ll put that in spoilers.

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There needed to be panel or a caption or a bit of dialogue or something added to this story to make it more evident that Torch had a tattoo on his mouth. When he sliced off part of his face at the end and said he didn’t want to be like the Joker I was like “What? But that’s what the Joker did. He doesn’t have a face anymore. How does this make you less like the Joker?” But then it struck me that it wasn’t makeup the boy was wearing, it would’ve had to have been a tattoo.

If you’re just in it for more Joker, look elsewhere because the cover is rather misleading. This is the tie-in book for those of us who are interested in the ripples Joker has made in Gotham, not Joker himself. It’s a stunningly illustrated work that continues the Emperor Penguin plot all while starting something entirely new with a gang called the League of Smiles, who are lead by a baddie with a very interesting character design. I felt it was money well spent. This creative team knows what they’re doing and I can’t wait for them to get away from the crossover events and produce an arc that is purely their own.

SCORE: 8/10