Take Harley Quinn, remove everything funny about her and then add in aspects of The Lord of the Rings’ Gollum and Dracula’s Renfield and you have The Joker’s Daughter.
I tried my hardest to avoid this character, mostly because she’s always been written by the literary Caligula that is Ann Nocenti. But with this one-shot $4.99 issue being written by Marguerite Bennett I figured I would give it a chance and it wasn’t as bad as I expected. It’s definitely not worth $5 bucks, but it’s not as bad as I expected.
Essentially, Bennett has portrayed The Joker’s Daughter in the way that many writers mistakenly characterize Harley Quinn. All too often writers will show Harley as being a zero-empathy psychopath just like the Joker himself or someone who strives to be as mad as Batman’s arch-enemy. The logic is that anyone who could fall in love with the Joker must surely be just as disturbed, but that’s not the case. They’re missing the point, or at least what I think is the point, I shouldn’t speak for everybody. The thing that’s always made Harley so endearing is that she was the one person who had a heart big enough to care about the Joker. Her innocence is what’s made her so lovable. They aren’t kindred spirits at all! Watching Harley and Joker cuddle together is like seeing a Youtube video of a viper and a mouse sharing an enclosure as if they’re best friends– it’s amusing for now but we all know it’s not going to end very well for the mouse. Harley’s ambition led her into a situation where she allowed herself to have sympathy for the devil and the only thing letting him into her heart accomplished was giving Joker the chance to get close enough to twist her mind. Joker’s greatest ally was born out of a place of compassion. The Joker’s Daughter on the other hand is a far, far less complex character. She’s the easy answer to “Why would someone care for the Joker?” and for that reason (along wither her hideous character design) I find her to be uninteresting.
Does that mean that this is automatically a bad comic? No. Just bad subject matter. Writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Meghan Hetrick make the most of it that they can, but ultimately I think the only rewarding aspect of this one-shot is that we get somewhat of an epilogue to Batman: Death of the Family, Detective Comics: Faces of Death, and a possible setup for The Joker’s eventual return. However, readers who enjoy the excessive violence and gore of Batman: The Dark Knight or Batgirl will likely enjoy this far more than others. For crying out loud, the very first page begins with The Joker’s Daughter eating a face! Or at least I think that’s what was happening… At first I thought it was Joker’s face she was disgustingly gnawing and slurping on– entire pieces are ripped away– but then in the last panel she’s still holding a full Joker face. Then I thought that maybe she cut off her own face and was eating that, but the artwork gets inconsistent in that regard as well. For the first half of the book it looks like she’s skinless under the mask, but then in the last half it appears as if she still has all her skin intact. Who knows? Either way, that’s just the beginning of the gross things you’ll see Joker’s daughter do.
Her motivation throughout this issue is two-fold: to be taken seriously as a villain and to find out where the Joker is. By exploring that first half of Joker’s Daughter’s motivation, I thought that Bennett offered up some nice commentary on the backlash the community has had against the character. The orderlies of Arkham take her as seriously as we do, which is not at all. To see the villain actually react to everyone’s displeasure at her very existence was interesting. Bennet’s magical villain from the Batman Annual she wrote (and I hated) also makes an appearance and is used as a quick and convenient way to dive into JD’s (I’m gonna call her that now, cool?) past– which appears to be multiple choice much like the Joker’s. Again, I find choices like that too derivative. There’s really nothing all that exciting about a new villain when it’s essentially a doppleganger for an existing one but younger and without the Y-chromosome. However, I think the second aspect of what drivers her will eventually set her apart enough and everyone’s hatred for the character will be channeled appropriately. I can definitely see JD working behind the scenes to bring the Joker back throughout Batman Eternal only to be killed or sacrificed by the Joker in the end.
The entire comic describes JD’s journey to become famous as a villain and find her lost “father.” She searches Gotham alongside her pet cat, Ugly Cat. She wears a costume and uses weapons that look like they were all assembled from scraps found in the garbage, but she somehow has a tracking device as well that she places on Batman himself. It’s not a great setup and Batman’s treatment of her wasn’t great either. I’ll go ahead and say that he basically scolds her at the cave of Joker’s demise, leaves her with her weapons, and then waits for her to walk out on her own and be confronted by the police. I guess he was just too lazy to carry her out himself, but he could’ve still taken her weapons away. And don’t even get me started on the logistics of how she manages to get down to the cave and then climb right back out onto the busy streets of downtown Gotham. I won’t spoil the rest (and I also just want to stop here because I think I’ve gone on too long already), but it’s a lot of insane inner monologue with her crying out to “daddy” all while she kills a bunch of people.
The artwork by Meghan Hetrick is serviceable, but I felt that JD herself looked inconsistent from panel to panel and that the action was quite stiff. The somewhat warped perspective on some pages– especially for the architecture– reminded me of Rafa Sandoval, who illustrated Nocenti’ Catwoman and much of JD’s first appearance in comics. Colorist Michelle Madsen did a fine job overall and made a very foreboding atmosphere, but I was slightly confused by the use of red during the cave scene. I found that really distracting. It was like the cave was lined with rubies.
- Gore and other gross stuff are awesome
- Ann Nocenti’s Gotham Underground arc and Joker’s Daughter Villains Month one-shot were phenomenal
- You have $5 bucks burning a hole in your pocket. It’s a pricey book
I’m sure it’s infinitely better than what Ann Nocenti was coming up with and the brief tease of the Joker’s possible return might interest a few, but Joker’s Daughter is still an unimaginative and often times annoying character that tries too hard to be edgy by employing excessive amounts of violence and gore. It’s not as terrible as many expected, and I think Bennett and Hetrick did the best they could, but I still don’t think it’s worth five bucks! NOTE: You do not need to read Catwoman or The Joker’s Daughter’s Villains Month issue prior to picking this one up.