Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A clown walks into a room, shoots some poor policeman’s daughter in the spine, and then kidnaps and tortures him. What? That’s a famous Joker story? You don’t say? I had no idea, truly. Good thing James Tynion’s here to remind me with an exposition-dump of a monologue this issue.
Hope you like expositing, by the way, ‘cause The Joker #3 spends more than half its pages on the stuff — with around forty bits of non-expositing and a whopping seventy plus bubbles/boxes stuffed to bursting with exposits.
All that said… I kind of like this issue. Well, a bit.
The first four pages of The Joker #3 are dedicated to reminding us that the Killing Joke exists. And… reminding us of much better Joker comics is a, uh, bold move. Is Tynion trying to piggyback on the prestige of that story? Hoping a bit will rub off? Illicit fond memories? Does anyone even have fond memories of The Killing Joke? Don’t answer that, I don’t want to know.
The rest of the story mostly carries on with Jim’s search for the Joker. I say “carries on” but he hasn’t been searching the past couple issues as much as getting around to searching. But he finally puts boots to the ground this issue, traveling to Belize to pick up the Joker’s trail. Problem is, paragraphs of expository text are plastered over every page of his quest. Panels that could have been entirely wordless and achieved the exact same result. I guess Tynion really wanted us to know that Gordo’s Spanish is on an elementary-school-level.
But! I said I liked this issue a little, remember? Why, after all this whining and whinnying, do I like this issue you ask? Because it gets the ball rolling! Unfortunately, I have to wade into spoiler-y water to elaborate. Spoiler’s below:
In the issue’s last five pages, Jim just… runs into the Joker. And it’s kind of great. Things obviously aren’t what they seem, and the poo is absolutely about to hit the fan. Remember those southern fried cannibals? Lady-Bane and her Santa Prisca militia? They’re coming in, guns blazing. And the Joker and Jim Gordon are side-by-side, ready to face them down.
The fun ending nearly saves the whole thing. Here’s hoping the next issue(s) pick the series up.
Well, the Joker’s freakish botched-surgery chin is back. I get that the Joker in Gordon’s memories/head is supposed to be grotesque, but please, please, Guillem, I’m begging you — stop with the tumescent chin. You can keep your aged Clint Eastwood Batman, just nip and tuck that chin.
The other art standout this issue — in the uncanny department anyway — is the cold dead stare sometimes affected by our Court of Owls aligned femme fatale. I noticed it in previous issues, but other bits of the art were more noteworthy. But now it’s starting to get under my skin. I can only hope that it’s on purpose, and unlike the Joker’s silly abomination of a face, it adds to the character.
The real shame this issue is the fact that Guillem March’s art paired with Arif Prianto’s psychedelic colors could have made the flashback pages impactful — if James Tynion’s big yellow boxes weren’t expositing all over the place ruining any potential emotional weight. Everyone knows the primary characteristic of flashbacks/flashbulb memories is the calm thorough manner in which the person recalling them narrates what’s going through their head… I wish he would just trust his artists to — you know — do art. They don’t call comics sequential art for shits and giggles.
This backup is still not good, folks. Not much more to say. Bluebird gets one-upped by a college student… And Orca is going to stomp Punchline! Egads! Sigh. Why are we supposed to care that this one-dimensional Harley-rip off is in trouble? I’m really failing to grasp the point of this backup feature.
Mirka Andolfo’s art is getting a little more polished with each issue, though it still looks a little rushed or sketchy here and there. Some background elements are still real unfinished looking though — like the panel below that just has a gradient as a background…
- You like exposition.
- Large, misshapen jawlines and cold dead soulless eyes are your idea of a good time.
- You’ll ride or die for Gordo.
- You don’t mind ignoring the Punchline bits.
The sheer onslaught of exposition plastered all over every panel really sunk this issue for me until the end nearly turned it around. A decent ending might not have saved the entire issue, but it at least gave me hope that the next ones can be enjoyable. The Punchline backup is still worth skipping. I’m not going to average the two scores because that’d tank the Joker main feature, so instead I’ll just knock a half point off the score.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.