I believe that I picked some of the worst books to review here at Batman News.
Here we are, six issues into Joker: the Man Who Stopped Laughing, and we still have absolutely no plot progression. In fact, I’d argue we have plot DIGRESSION.
A Story Going Nowhere
In the last issue, we discovered that one of the Jokers we had been following was just Clayface in disguise. That meant we were no closer to uncovering the mystery of the two Jokers, and everything that had happened for the last four issues was essentially pointless. However, at least it seemed that “the real other Joker,” as I’ll call him, had finally chosen to leave L.A. to take care of his doppelgänger himself.
Instead of this issue picking up that plot thread and finally moving the story forward, however, we have an entire issue that meanders in L.A. The Joker is offended that the people of L.A. didn’t seem to fear him during his stay. Therefore, he blows up some police stations and causes mayhem in order to teach them a lesson before he goes. It looks like this whole thing will last at least another issue after this.
So… what was the point of the Joker coming to L.A. and announcing that he was a good guy? Wasn’t that the whole reason this series was called “The Man Who Stopped Laughing?” If the Joker never had any intention of going straight, even as a part of a greater scheme, why did he send Clayface Joker out to masquerade as the reformed version of himself and visit Harley for no reason? Some of this writing is so broken and confusing I’m having a hard time explaining it all. This isn’t a plot. It’s plot goo.
Not Worth the Price
To add to the problems with this train wreck of a series, Joker’s destructive romp through L.A. isn’t even well done. Joker’s charisma and humor is overpowered by his violence. While that’s perfectly in character for old Mr. J, it is a reminder of why giving him a solo book really doesn’t work. He’s just too violent and unsympathetic a character for us to relate to as a protagonist.
I was also underwhelmed by the artwork in this issue. It continues along the pathway of becoming more 2-dimensional for one thing. Secondly, we’re supposed to be in L.A. here, but the artist doesn’t do much to portray that other than throwing in some palm trees in the background. There’s a moment when a Batman cosplayer and some tourists run up to the Joker. This would have been an opportunity to draw the Hollywood Walk of Fame or some other area where cosplayers and street performers frequent in L.A. Instead these characters are drawn like they are just meeting out in the ether somewhere. There’s no real sense of their location.
The bigger picture of this series is what really bothers me though. Once again, this is the sixth issue of the run. DC will repackage this as a trade paperback and sell it for about $20, more or less. Yet these 6 issues don’t have a self-contained story, nor do they give a sense that any actual story is happening.
The Back Up
To make matters worse, each and every one of these Joker issues ends with a back up that feels like a weird acid trip. We get a different artist this time (Will Robson), but the writer is still Mathew Rosenberg. He tells a story here of two Joker-looking characters named Ralph and Edward, who are twins. Ralph has a wife and kids and works as a regular clown. Edward works as a supervillain in Gotham, until he is killed by Man-Bat. Ralph gets revenge on his twin and then takes over as the new Joker of Gotham.
What was that?!
The artwork is nice, consistent, and colorful, but your guess is as good as mine as to what that story was supposed to be. These acid-trip back-ups effectively bring down any positivity one could have toward these comics. Remember, the final impression someone gets from a comic is from the ending. Whatever Rosenberg thinks he’s doing with these back-ups, it’s not working.
- You love Joker so much, you’ll buy anything with his name on it.
I have no idea where Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing is going and, at this point, I don’t know what it’s even supposed to be about. I feel that DC should just cancel this book and go back to using the Joker as a villain in various Batman books. That’s where he works best. Not every popular DC character needs to have a solo book.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.