Batman: Arkham Knight #2– “The Last Will and Testament of the Joker”
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Illustrated by Viktor Bogdanovic
Inks by Art Thibert
Colored by John Rauch
Letters by Travis Lanham

There seems to be an awful lot of focus on the psyche and history of the Joker lately.  I suppose there always has been, but with Endgame over in the Batman title coming to a conclusion later this month, and all of the various threads therein that point to the villain possibly being immortal, another characteristic of the Clown Prince of Crime is brought into the fold.

Here, in Arkham Knight, the death of the Joker has left shockwaves across its own universe that are as widely felt as those  in the mainline DC continuity.  The chaos that is beginning to ensue raises the question “would Gotham really be better off with the Joker dead?”  It’s all hypothetical, and nothing is explored in great detail, but it’s a fascinating direction that the arrival of the brutal, titular Arkham Knight shows that it may not be the case.

The issue is titled “The Last Will and Testament of the Joker,” but it’s really only in the first third of the issue (or the first digital-first segment) that focuses on that.  Everything that comes after follows logically from the first chapter, but it doesn’t really tie in that well with the story’s title.  That’s my biggest criticism with this issue, that the promise of a “last will” of Batman’s greatest foe is only given a short amount of focus before going in a different direction.  It doesn’t kill my enjoyment of the issue by any means, but this first third is by far the strongest work out of this title so far and I just wish they’d dove in deeper than they did.

The brilliance of this opening segment is that in the Joker “explaining” things about himself, we don’t learn anything.  It’s all a joke to him, whether he’s a victim of circumstance or the last surviving member of a doomed planet (which, yes, makes sense in context).  He doesn’t see himself as any of those things, just as a guy who found a best friend in his arch-nemesis and began to have a bunch of bad days because of that.  To the Joker, if he’s a victim of anything it’s of Batman ruining all of his fun and nothing more.

Fun to the Joker being, of course, casually blowing up a senior living facility while on an evening stroll.

It’s all fascinating and morbidly funny stuff, but it ultimately gets cut short when Jim Gordon is revealed to have been exposed to Joker toxin.  This leads Batman on a chase to find the antidote with the aid of Harley Quinn that takes up the majority of the book, and it’s a pretty entertaining romp with some great lines and fluid action.

The only problem, as I said, is that it goes from very interesting case study to solidly entertaining action piece.  It’s a good problem to have, as neither story is bad in any way, but it could have been so much more too.  As it is, the team of Tomasi, Bogdanovic, Thibert, Rauch, and Lanham bring us what ends up being a pretty average book.  While I was reading it in installments it was gripping and exciting, but when I sat down to write the review only bits and pieces stuck out and I had to reread it twice to get a good grasp on things.  The two parts work well, and could have worked well together, but I can’t help but think they needed a few extra pages to really get both of these stories flowing.  With the need to end on a weekly cliffhanger and only 22 or so pages to tell at a time, though, the creative team was a victim of limitation this month.  Thankfully the story continues in just a few weeks, so we’ll have plenty of Arkham Knight to get us through this month.

Recommended if:

  • You love taking a look into the Joker’s mentality.
  • You love the Arkham series of video games.
  • You want a solid alternative to the massive Convergence event.

Overall: With limited space and time the creative team wrung pretty good stories out of two great concepts, but if they had been allowed to explore the themes of the first third more than they did and give the hunt for the Joker toxin antidote its own room to breathe we could have had two great stories.  Instead, we got one pretty good one that feels rushed and just the tiniest bit undercooked.

SCORE: 7/10