Now this is how you write a Batman Annual!  While the cover indicates that this is a EndGame tie in, the truth of the matter is, it is really just an awesome, oversized Joker story, that requires no additional contextual knowledge in order to enjoy.

Right from page 4, I knew exactly where this story was headed.  Some people might think that is a bad thing, on the contrary, this was a journey I absolutely wanted to go on!  Kinda like taking a vacation to a spot you’ve been to before: you’ve been there before, you know how great the potential is for additional fun, and you’re ready for more.

The main character of our story is Thomas Blackcrow, a journalist writing for the Gotham Gazette.  Thomas has been overseas as a foreign correspondent, where he has witnessed many war atrocities.  After returning home to Gotham, he finds the city overrun with costumed freaks.  He sees them as nothing more than a joke compared to the serious events that he has witnessed.  Can you see where this is going?  That’s right, he insults the Joker!

The story evolves into the slow mental breakdown of a man as he is mercilessly hounded by the Joker over years and years.  It is a shining example of how, to the Joker, it’s not about the money, power or fame.  Money is merely a byproduct of his schemes, it is the enjoyment he receives from his hijinks that is his true goal.  There is nothing grand or epic about torturing a single individual, the Joker isn’t on some world stage for all to see.  This is a personal project meant for his benefit only, and it doesn’t matter how insignificant this one individual is in the bigger scheme of thing, to the Joker, this is a project worth doing.

As I stated earlier, you don’t need to know the Joker’s past comic history in order to have an enjoyable read from this story, but if you do know his history, there are a lot of nods in the story for hardcore fans to smile over.  We see the classic Joker suit, Harley Quinn, the hyenas, acid shooting flowers, Joker televised insanity, murdered henchmen, and removed faces.  It is a cornucopia of everything Joker.  Not only are we treated to all these nods, but as the comic jumps from year to year, we get to see an evolving Joker representative of varying eras in actual comic history.  I really have to give it to James Tynion IV:  the different depictions of Joker in this story  maintain the characters root personality with enough variation to simultaneously be archetypal but also specific to the works of others.  Regardless of which version we scrutinize, he is the Joker, but the thumbprints of various other writers can be seen in Tynion’s work.

This issue’s art is handled by Roge Antonio on pencils and Nick Filardi on colors.  Roge’s biggest contribution to the story is in his depictions of the Joker’s face.  Nearly ever image of his face is unique from the last, even if only in a minor way.  I also loved the expansive spectrum of emotions that Roge was able to exude from the Joker.  Nick’s gift to the story is in the atmosphere he instills with his choice in color pallet.  All the colors are muted and generate an unnerving aspect that heighten the tension and creepiness of the story.

Interesting Facts…

  • Harley Quinn’s Hyenas are named Bud and Lou after the famous comedic duo Bud Abbot & Lou Costello.
  • The story presented here reminds me slightly of an episode of Batman/ The Animated Series: Episode 22 (1992) The Joker’s Favor.  In this episode an average citizen makes the mistake of insulting the Joker.  Years pass and Charlie Collins lives in daily fear for himself and his family, even going so far as to change his name and relocate to another city.  Eventually the Joker gets back in touch with Charlie to cash in on the favor Charlie owes him for having spared his life.
  • This episode of The Animated Series was also Harley Quinn’s very first character appearance in any medium.
  • In case you don’t remember, Warren Spacey is one of the senior writers at the Gotham Gazette, specializing in criminal journalism.  We have seen him interact with Vicki Vale several times during the course of Batman Eternal.

Recommended if…

  • You love the Joker.
  • You want to read a good Joker story that requires no previous experience with the character or familiarity with the continuity.
  • You want to see various interpretations of the Joker from the last 20 years depicted in one story.
  • You like reading a done in one story with a complete and satisfying arc.

Overall:

This is one of the best Annuals I have read in the last 3 years.  Back in 1991 the Annuals started either tying into whatever major event was occurring at that time in the DC universe, or sharing a similar theme.  Prior to that, Annuals were just really well done stories.  While this one is advertized as an EndGame tie in, because it is all about the Joker, the main villain of EndGame, I am actually likening it more to the Annuals of the 80s, as it is ultimately just a very well done, self contained story.

SCORE: 9 / 10