What can you really say about a comic when nothing is happening in it? That’s the question I asked myself when I started this review. Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing is the story of two Jokers. We are supposed to be invested in discovering why there are two Jokers and where the real one is. Since that plot has been introduced, we’ve spent a total of seven issues running around in circles, winding up with misdirections and fill-in issues. I say “7 issues” because this 7th issue is yet another fill-in comic. The story doesn’t move forward at all.
Another Filler Issue!
We get merely one development on the mystery of the two Jokers, and it is the kind of development that deepens the mystery rather than bringing us closer to solving it.
Everything else is the comic is focussed on one of the Joker’s madcap antics in L.A. Page after page he goes around, causing mayhem, making sadistic jokes, and battling “Manhunter.”
I’ve both praised and criticized Rosenberg’s voice for the Joker during my time reviewing this series. In the end, I think the quality of the writing evens out to give us a pretty passable, yet uninteresting, rendition of the iconic villain. Ninety-nine percent of this issue is spent on the Joker fighting and joking, but none of his jokes are particularly funny. For example, he spends a good amount of time bantering about how the name “Manhunter” is a bit sexist and that the name “Womanhunter” would not be allowed in this day and age. These jokes felt like the author was trying to be meta, but also trying to be safe. The result is that everything in the book feels mundane.
Could This Have Been Better?
Perhaps if there was a writer who was better at presenting dark comedy for this book, this issue could have been entertaining despite not going anywhere. As it stands, it was a whole lot of nothing.
The artwork, meanwhile, does nothing to save the book. There was but one page that I thought was interesting. It was near the end of the Joker’s crawling away, when one long panel is stacked on top of another for each movement. Everything else looked two-dimensional and boring. There was no style or color in this book to give it personality. It, like the story itself, is disposable.
Perhaps the point of the issue is to put a spotlight on Manhunter? If so, this has done nothing to make me like the character. She’s just another generic, stoic, ninja-like warrior. The only bit of unique characterization she had was that she’s a hero based in L.A. Apparently, there were no heroes in L.A. until now. I find that hard to believe given the glut of superhero characters in the DC universe.
The back-up is another silly tale for the Joker. It’s a story about him trying to run for President, which goes horribly wrong. While there’s nothing terrible about this story, it suffers from the same problem as does the main story: Rosenberg just isn’t good at writing comedy for the Joker. It is another mundane read that felt like a chore to get through as all of the Joker’s wackiness in trying to stage his own assassination fell flat. I am liking the artwork for these back-ups better than I did the initial issues, however. Will Robson makes the characters feel more alive by using more natural colors, rather than the purple, yellow, and orange coloring that Francavilla did in the first 6 issues.
- You’ll buy anything with the JOKER in it, and I mean anything.
- Manhunter is a character you like.
Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing is an absolutely terrible book that is going nowhere. It may be selling somewhat decently now because it’s the Joker, but DC had better be careful that they don’t “poison the Joker well” and bring down the reputation of this character.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a free copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.