The Joker #5 review

In this flashbackular spectacular, Captain James Gordon over-promises and over-books District Attorney Harvey Dent, his wife and children, and his own internal need to keep an eye on the recently captured Joker. Hijinks ensue!


When I first looked over this issue, looking at the panels I thought, Who’s doing this half-arsed Francesco Francavilla looking art? It turns out, it was Francesco Francavilla doing a half-arsed imitation of himself

But what makes the art in The Joker #5 not stack up to Francavilla’s previous stuff? At first I thought it was the kind of messy sketchy brush-marker look of it all, and it definitely makes some panels (especially panels whose perspective falls in between scene-establishing and close-up) look more than a little goofy/quick-sketch-y — but after I went back and looked at his art in Batman: The Black Mirror, I realized it was the coloring. I pulled some panels from both to show you what I mean.

Setting aside the overall sketchy-quality of the linework in The Joker #5 (and the fact that all of the panels in #5 are crowded with blocks of dialogue), the difference should be clear. Francavilla’s art in Black Mirror looks like a hybrid of technicolor drenched Giallo film and the stark expressionistic shadows of many Noir films. His art in issue #5 of The Joker looks like, well, they sloppily threw some complementary colors down. That’s not the only downgrade either, Francavilla’s colors in Black Mirror do a great job of alternating between and within panels, providing gobs of contrast. He also varied up perspectives a lot more between panels in Black Mirror.

Don’t get me wrong, Francavilla is a good artist.

Art from Batman: The Black Mirror


From Afterlife With Archie #6

A really good artist.

Francavilla’s art in Batman: Black Mirror was good. Francavilla’s art in Afterlife With Archie was excellent. I’m gonna chalk the art in The Joker #5 up to either a lack of time or just messing around with a new style in a fairly low-stakes issue.


So we last left Jim hanging out with an unconscious, recently mutilated-by-the-Joker, cannibal. Can’t wait to see what wackiness befalls Gordo this issue! Oh. It’s a flashback? The whole issue? Good. Great. Grinding the fun parts to a halt… Thanks ObamaTynion. 


The Joker #5 opens with more of the same clichéd boilerplate inner monologue. Look, I know I’ve been harping on the monologue in every review, but I cannot. stress. enough. how extraordinarily generic and unnecessary the internal monologue is in The Joker. I’d probably have rated most of the previous issues around one or two points higher if not for so many of The Joker‘s panels being absolutely infested with the stuff.

Gordon runs around like a headless chicken for the rest of the issue trying to make obligations to his family, Harvey, and his apparently unending thirst for the Joker. When the linchpin of your comic book’s pathos is time management and/or task-switching, you might want to reconsider your story. I mean, Kurt Busiek wrote a fun issue of Astro City revolving around time-management — but come on, not many writers are Kurt Busiek.

For real though, what was the impetus for this issue? Why did we need this flashback? Flashbacks tend to be annoying because they interrupt the flow of a story, but they’re not all bad. There are a lot of things that can go into a good flashback, but arguably the biggest is revealing essential information. i.e. revealing something the audience is dying to know or something that will reframe the whole story (and if you’re lucky, blow people’s minds). So, with that in mind, what does this flashback contribute?

It sure as shite doesn’t add anything to Gordon and Joker’s history or conflict. Sure, there’s a tiny bit “fleshing out” (har) the country fried cannibals. But nothing we haven’t been told already in previous issues’ gratuitous exposition. There are no bombs dropped that recontextualize Gordon and Joker’s relationship. No light is shined on the cannibals, the Court of Owls lady, her creepy chauffer, or She-Bane (I refuse to call her Vengeance, because that’s a dumb name). Two-Face/Harvey isn’t even in this story. I guess we needed to see more of Gordon being a bad father and putting his job first? Crappy-husband/dad Gordo is about as tired as pushes-everyone-away Batman.

Recommended if…

  • Honestly? I’d skip this one if I were you.
  • Especially if you’re a fan of Francavilla’s art.


This flashback filler-episode-esque issue contributes nothing to the overall story of The Joker other than highlighting the already-beaten-into-our-heads fact that Gordo can’t stop thinking about the Joker. Normally, I would recommend checking out The Joker #5 on Francavilla’s art alone, but even he drops the ball this go around.

Score: 3/10

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