Joker (aka Jim Gordon but we can’t call it that because it wouldn’t sell) issue #2 is out, folks. The stakes are raised as new contenders for the Joker’s head enter the picture. Will Gordon’s newfound bat-resources be enough to give him the edge over these powerful new foes? Will our plot-armor-clad murder clown ever feel even a teensy bit in danger? Read on to find out!

STORY

Look, I know I was quite harsh on the first issue. As far as I’m concerned it was nothing but a cavalcade of clichés. But this issue is, well, also a cavalcade of clichés… and I kind of like it? Let me elaborate: Last issue a femme fatale made Gordo an offer he couldn’t refuse and pointed him like a mustachioed clown-seeking missile at the Joker. This sets up, at best, a cat and mouse dynamic, or at worst the slog of Gordon following a trail of breadcrumbs/bodies until an inevitable showdown. I was, to put it mildly, entire light-dimensions away from hyped for this setup. But issue #2 complicates things by moving away from noir clichés towards a more Kill Bill/John Wick 2 and 3-esque rival assassins try and kill one person shtick by introducing several groups of baddies vying for the clown’s life:

Spoiler
A female Bane, a group of Southern-fried Cannibals, and the Court of Owls (who Jim is sort of working for… but come on, you know that’ll fall apart sooner or later.)

All of this is still extremely well-trodden trope territory (see: Carnival of Killers). And having not one, but two issues of setup wasn’t the smartest decision — but, while stories being original and being well done/thoughtful are often correlated, they have a causal relationship. In other words original =/= good. Smashing this second setup with the first like a couple or muscle-bound action figures could make the series markedly better, or at the very least a bit more involved. So, sure, it absolutely could still end up being one big ol’ pile of dook. But I’m choosing to slip on my rose-tinted glasses and say “not today Satan cynicism!” and be a little more hopeful for where this story is headed.

As you might have noticed from Josh’s Batman #107 review and its comments, quite a few folks aren’t big fans of what James Tynion IV is doing right now with the Bat-books — that doesn’t mean he can’t make good stories. I personally thought his Detective Comics run was alright, if a little sloppy. And I’m fairly certain no one (at least here at Batman News) hates him. We just want good comics to read. Point is, I would like nothing more than for Tynion to turn this series into a fun yarn.

Also, out of nowhere and as a complete surprise to me: there’s a eensy weensy bit of character development in this issue packed in amongst all the random new character intros and heaps of setup (In a Joker comic! Can you believe it?). Character development for Barbara Gordon, of all people, which elaborates a bit on why she’s slipping back behind the computer. It didn’t fit into the issue at all, but I liked it nonetheless. 

ART

Guillem March’s art is still pretty good, if sometimes off-putting to me. March’s geriatric Clint Eastwood-esque Batman continues to irk me. Batman looking older than Gordon is just bizarre. Issue #2’s character design is less grotesque than #1’s — especially the Joker himself, who looks decidedly less like a botched plastic surgery victim.

Though it’s still plenty grotesque.

Though I can’t help but think it might have lost some of the hint of horrific surrealism that made issue #1’s art at least stand out, even if I didn’t care for it.

Arif Prianto’s colors continue to be mostly solid. I’m still a fan of the faux-Ben Day dot shading. It’s a great stylistic choice and it adds on loads of mood to any panel that needs it, but for some reason it’s still being used haphazardly and it bugs me.

I mean… they used it on some lamps…

PUNCHLINE BACK-UP STORY

When we last left Punchline, she’d just — well — punched the Queen of Spades while spouting the one-liner: “You know why they call me Punchline?”. In this exciting(?) issue the Queen calls some help from a killer (if Tynion is going to pull this nonsense, so can I) new ally. Will Punchline survive? (Yes.) Will Bluebird a.k.a. Harper Row find enough dirt to keep Punchline behind bars? (Probably not.) Read on to find out.

STORY

I’m not going to pretend to like this story. I’m not even going to spend a lot of time nitpicking all the reasons why I don’t like this story. This backup brings me no joy. I don’t like Punchline. I don’t care about Punchline. I will never care about Punchline. I do like Bluebird (from the minuscule slivers of panel-time the character has been given to work with) and I adore Leslie Thompkins (minus that weird convoluted nonsense involving Stephanie Brown), but I want to like and adore them in a story not called Punchline.

ART

Mirka Adolfo’s art has tightened up this issue. I still don’t like the general web-comic-y style, but outside of a few bits here and there, it looks a bit more polished and a bit less unfinished. 

Mostly. Even these two sketchy individuals would be forgivable if they weren’t in the exact center of the half-splash.

Recommended if…

  • All you want for Xmas is a Jim Gordon focused story.
  • Crime/assassin/battle royal stories bring you great happiness.
  • Against all good judgment, you are still a fan of Punchline.

OVERALL

Overall, I didn’t hate Joker #2. I went in dreading it a bit and came out pleasantly surprised. It’s still chock full of cliches, but the decision to continue to focus on Jim Gordon is a smart one, and the introduction of all these new rival factions makes me a bit more hopeful for the story overall.

The Punchline back-up is still bad, but at least it has art that looks mostly finished and a monster-person in it now I guess.

SCORE: 5.5/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.