After an action packed issue last month, I expected The Joker to slow down again this month, though I didn’t realize how much the narrative would grind to a halt. There are things I enjoyed about this issue, but too often I was frustrated and felt a little let down by the events playing out.
So just what does this issue have in store for readers? To start with, it jumps ahead in time to feature Jim Gordon back in Gotham, his worldwide tour over. It then spends the rest of the issue jumping back and forth between this present and the remaining events from the Sampson barbecue. It’s not the first of the time or location jumps the series has made, and to be honest, I’d rather have seen events play out chronologically instead of through flashbacks. I’ve spoken frequently on my preference for chronological storytelling, so I won’t spend too much time on it here, but suffice to say, I think that the goal of the issue could have been met using either technique.
Despite my preference, I can understand why Tynion chose to do this issue in flashbacks. They’re a useful tool in building tension and keeping readers in the dark about events. He uses it here to build tension higher and higher through the pages by focusing on the fate of the Joker, specifically the fact that the only character who really knows what happened was Jim himself. Joker himself isn’t completely absent, he features in a number of panels, but the question is repeated through the issue: Where is the Joker? I get it, and I can feel the tension in the pages, so much so I did find myself very invested in the whole conflict of Will he Won’t He conflict featuring Gordon killing Joker or turning him in to the authorities.
My problem is that it builds and builds and builds to nothing. There is no real release of this tension. A good plot thrives on the idea of tension and release, question and answer, and the payoff for pages of tension should be some kind of release of that. Now, it might read better when this is all packaged together in a trade or if you had issues #14 and #15 to read back to back, but for a monthly release it’s an incredibly frustrating turn of events. If you’re waiting on it issue to issue, you’ll be disappointed to find that this one answers hardly any questions, least of all the ones you really want answered.
Added to the issue of a lack of resolution, is the fact that the rest of the issue is hard to get through. It’s a lot of talking and exposition, both in the flashbacks and present. It’s trying to both drag out it’s page numbers through Jim’s reflections, and start to wrap things up with characters like Bane and Vengeance. Altogether it feels like half an issue dragged into a full one. Unfortunately, I’ve had that complaint often with The Joker, but it’s doubly frustrating here knowing the season is close to wrapping up. I’d rather have the narrative short and tight instead of dragged out and floundering.
The art itself is still solid, and I wanted to point out something I really enjoyed about it which was the way Giuseppe Camuncoli sets up his pages and panels. There’s a number of unique and fun panel set ups in this issue, but I wanted to talk about my favorite. There’s a page of information describing just what happened with the Sampson family after the authorities finally arrive on the scene that’s creatively done. Text is spread across the page in white space, and balanced out by little art bubbles. It’s a unique way of providing a lot of exposition while also keeping the layout clean and uncluttered.
The issue wraps up with a promise for some answers, or at least the hope of them as Jim’s finally pushed into a place where he’s got to explain just what happened to the Joker. I honestly wanted those answers here with the next issue as a kind of wrap up to this chapter of The Joker as a comic. DC’s announced the season is ending, which means another is on its way so I was kind of hoping for a wrap up that felt more whole than this has been so far. Hopefully we’ll get that kind of satisfying ending I’m looking for next month.
This chapter of the backup takes a step away from the continuing trial narrative Punchline has been following and instead focuses on an individual tale featuring her set before her arrest. I actually enjoyed this a lot more than the trial story, as it’s a contained narrative that doesn’t really make any wild judgment leaps like the main story has done. It follows a young veteran woman who was tangled up in one of Punchline’s early experiments with Joker venom, and Puncline’s own reaction to her surviving. It’s an interesting look both at how Punchline herself reacts to the consequences of her actions, and in how other characters have been impacted by her. If you want a short bite sized look into a Punchline story this is not a bad place to look.
- A tension heavy narrative is your thing
- You don’t mind a slower issue
- You want to read a bite-sized Punchline story
It’s hard to say a lot about this issue because it really feels like so little happens. The answers I wanted don’t materialize, and instead the narrative is dragged out in a way that can feel frustrating and boring. At this point, I am quite simply ready for this comic to wrap up. It goes through spurts of plot, then seems to drag into issues like this where we get almost nothing. It feels like a waste of time, energy, and money and it’s hard for me to be excited for more and it’s genuinely hard to recommend it month to month.
Overall Score: 5/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.