The last time I reviewed an issue of Mathew Rosenberg’s Joker, an unintentional firestorm was started. It was over the back-up story where the Joker appeared to be pregnant after a magic spell went wrong. No, it had nothing to do with “Joker becoming transgender,” as some people tried to make it out to be. Still, it was a bizarre story. I’ll have more to say on Rosenberg’s Silver Age style back-ups when we get to it, however.
For now, I’m discussing something that’s a bit less interesting: the main story. I haven’t been thrilled with the overall direction of it so far. Will this issue change anything? Let’s see!
While the last couple of Joker issues were a chore to get through, this entry manages at least to be more entertaining. The big reason for that is we finally are getting a meeting between the two Jokers (supposedly). It’s entertaining to watch the two Jokers interact with each other. They are simultaneously friendly and “flirtatious,” while also giving off the subtle sense of aggression. The differences between the pair’s personalities is incredibly slight, but thanks to the artwork, they are still very distinguishable between the dapper and polite Joker and the scarred and ragged version.
There was finally a sense of plot progression with this confrontation. It kept me engaged throughout the book. We finally seemed to be getting somewhere, or so I thought. I’ll get to that later.
Di Giandomenico is still the artist on the book, but the overall art seemed to change with this issue. Characters and backgrounds in previous issues were well-detailed to the point of looking almost 3-dimensional. There is a more two-dimensional look here, however. It’s more cartoonish. That’s not a bad thing by any means; it still services the book well, but it was something I noticed.
Moving over to the negatives, I can’t say I like how Red Hood is being handled here at all. He still hasn’t been given any motivation for why this particular mission against the Joker is so important. He seems like he’s just there so someone can be on the hunt for the clown, and it obviously couldn’t be Batman. I also did not care for much of Red Hood’s dialogue, particularly a cheesy line where Stephanie says “fire” (because a building is on fire) and Jason says “He (Batman) can’t fire me. That’s his problem. He thinks everyone here works for him.” Ugh.
But what really ruined this issue happens at the very end of the book. So, don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoiled…
Scarred Joker shoots dapper Joker, but dapper Joker is revealed to have been Clayface. Joker has been in LA this entire time. He is only now deciding to deal with this Joker double himself. So we are essentially back to where we started at issue one where there are two Jokers and each one thinks they are the real Joker. This reveal made this and the last three issues feel pointless, and it brought up questions like why did Clayface Joker bother visiting Harley Quinn? Why did the inner thoughts of Clayface Joker read like the actual Joker’s thoughts?
I nearly threw my computer out the window when I saw this back-up begin with the Joker infatuated with ANOTHER female DC character. This time it’s Giganta. Joker tries to turn over a new leaf to win Giganta by doing things like painting buildings. He later summons the demon Etrigan through a ritual to try to make himself as tall as Giganta in hopes that will make her love him. It ends up making him break out in boils that produce tiny naked versions of himself instead.
What’s Not Working…
Ok, let’s talk about this. The problem with these back-ups is not that there’s any kind of political pandering or gender ideology as some tried to accuse the “Pregnant Joker” issue of having. The problem is that Matthew Rosenberg is trying to pay homage to the crazy DC stories of the 1950s and 60s (the Silver Age) but he’s failing miserably when it comes to capturing that tone and style.
The big thing that characterized the Silver Age of comics was that the new comic book rating system, the “Comics Code Authority,” was so strict that there really weren’t many stories that the writers could tell. The result was you’d get these silly, light-hearted, innocent tales aimed at kids. However, while Silver Age stories were goofy and squeaky clean, Rosenberg’s stories are morbid and bizarre. The gunplay and violence he’s been inserting would not be allowed in the Silver Age. (Joker outright disappeared from comics for 4 years because he just couldn’t fit in that tame era). I highly doubt that the images of bare-buttocks miniature Jokers would’ve been allowed back then either, or the sight of a Joker who think he’s pregnant. I must say, even the black background of the artwork give these stories a darker feel compared to the brightness of Silver Age comics.
Rosenberg’s only understanding of that era seems to be “well, things were wacky!” Yes, that’s true, but there are more nuances than that when looking at the different sensibilities of different decades of comic books. Rosenberg is not really catching the Silver Age vibe, and his attempts at humor are weird and off-putting rather than funny.
Everyone reading this comic understands what Rosenberg is trying to do, but frankly, sometimes you try something and it just doesn’t work.
- …You know what? I’m having a really hard time thinking of reasons to recommend this book.
Believe it or not, I wanted to give this comic a better score. I don’t want to be negative about DC all the time. When I feel like a comic book story lacks progression and is just wasting my time month to month, however, how can I give the comic a good rating? These pages aren’t worth your pennies, if you know what I mean.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.