So our fellow reviewer Theresa Campagna has given me this unfortunate wreck of a comic to review. I had to catch up and watch as she slowly turned bitter towards what has been an endless barrage of nonsense known as Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing. I’m all caught up now and would definitely be just as frustrated as Theresa if I had stuck by this comic since the beginning.
I’m going to complain a lot about the story in this review so if you want to see me be a bit more positive you can skip to the parts where I talk about the art, colors and lettering respectively. But right now I have about ten issues-worth of complaining to summarize as quickly as possible. Theresa already talked about the fact that the title of this series makes zero sense. The comic barely latched onto the idea that Joker was turning a new leaf and is only slightly more focused on the fact that there are two Jokers now. In fact this comic has been completely unfocused and all over the place with its two main characters. It spends way too much time presenting fluff pieces that have almost zero impact on the reader because there’s nothing to really connect it to. I can’t tell you how bored I was reading the middling sections of Joker one and two doing their random shenanigans in their respective cities, how little I cared about Red Hood hunting them down and how absurd it was that any of this could be seen as Joker no longer laughing!
We have this war that’s supposed to be a massive clash between the Jokers. We’re supposed to be excited about unfolding the mystery of which one is the real Joker but in all earnestness who cares! I find myself enjoying some bits and pieces of the Jokers’ comedy but each goof and gaff exists in this void where the plot gets sacrificed to have the characters commit to the bit. Their confrontations feel toothless and Joker’s grand escape from LA, while also having some funny moments, was this endless barrage of “get it, he’s in LA!” with so many nauseating references to the city that I wish Mathew Rosenberg had saved his complaints for like a google review or something.
Also something I haven’t seen Theresa touch upon that really grinds my gears is that each issue starts off with an internal monologue with a punchline or two. These jokes in isolation are hit or miss and I think they could be used well but my God are they annoying to read here. I don’t know who’s to blame for the way that each part of the joke is trickled into the handful of panels they exist on but it’s some of the least intuitive writing I’ve seen in a while. We’re supposed to follow the story while this annoying side joke that barely has anything to do with the story just keeps popping up in tiny boxes that you have to go back to every two seconds just so you can follow the joke well enough to reach the punchline.
Do I even have to really talk about what happens in this issue by the way? Does it matter? The Jokers are just screwing around on their own, barely impacting each other, like they’ve done for the past nine issues anyways. There’s some references to the previous issues sprinkled in here and some of the same comedy that you’ve either laughed at or didn’t. I’m not excited about any of it. I don’t think it’s been a smooth transition from the previous arcs to the point where I legit thought I had missed an issue between this and the last one when I opened it up again for this review. I’ve come across the term “Joker fatigue” quite a bit when gearing up for this review and I don’t read nearly as many comics as my fellow reviewers (though I’m currently savoring Grant Morrison’s Green Lantern: Intergalactic Lawman story right now) but you can probably tell from my description of this issue that this series alone has given me Joker fatigue.
So with the terrible writing out of the way I’m gonna spend a bit of time writing about the few positives I’ve found in the art. I might be a tough critic but I genuinely prefer writing about the good over the bad so let’s dive into that!
I’ve noticed that Theresa pointed out on several occasions that there’s a slight dissonance between the early and later issues when it comes to the art. She was bothered to the point that it took her out of the comic and while I see where she’s coming from I have to say that this issue still looks incredible to me. I love the amount of detail Carmine Di Giandomenico has put into every panel with some clever comedy resonating from the placement of certain props here and there. The penultimate panel of this issue is a great example of prop comedy while the final panel shows you this remarkably twisted depiction of Joker’s smiling face. I also love the way the action is presented in this crisp way where the details of each motion follow the next in a very intuitive way. While the panel composition isn’t incredibly original or remarkable it takes a back seat to the way the scenery and characters showcase Giandomenico’s wonderful attention to detail.
I take my hatter off to the mad coloring by Romulo Fajardo Jr. who really makes the beginning vapors of Joker’s trap come to life like a deadly mixture of perfume and poison. The perfect balance of green and purple, charm and danger, that embodies the Joker character to a T. The shadow work is also beautiful! The way the shadows hide certain characters and gives you an immediate sense of atmosphere for the scenery, the way light is slanted and sparsely illuminating certain sections to showcase the grimey grimace of the Joker, just wow! I do feel like there could’ve been a bit more creativity when it comes to coloring Red Hood’s sections with the beige being so omnipresent that you forget about the scenery altogether but apart from that, bravo!
Tom Napolitano’s lettering has been the saving grace in a lot of comics I’ve had to review and while he’s not the only remarkable thing happening here I’m as happy as always to see the creativity behind his unique decisions. The way Joker’s speech balloons serpent their way through the scenery, getting coiled up by hospital poles or resembling sperm as he sows the seeds of chaos wherever he goes. A stark contrast to the jagged speech of his enemies and the bold sound effects spread throughout the comic.
I’ve actually enjoyed these backups a lot more than Theresa. Sure I think they have their problems and I think it’s pretty dumb that so many of them have revolved around unrequited love but there’s at least something in each one I’ve read that has made me chuckle. I’m always a fan of the way the back ups look and it’s definitely made me want to revisit silver age stories. This backup also has the classic spread of a character being split by two pages with snapshots of insanity splattered on the side. One of my favorites from the backups so far. I also think that this story manages to execute a micro story well and while I don’t think it’s incredible or gut busting in its comedy I still find it a relief after the horrible story that preceded it.
- You want to see some beautifully detailed craziness
- Psychedelic coloring psyches you
- The lovely lettering leaves you wanting more
I really couldn’t recommend slogging through these issues despite the decent art. I’ve had to catch up and the fact that I was over with it by the end of three days of intense reading was honestly a sweet relief compared to anyone following it every month with the faintest hope that the story won’t just keep meandering along its asinine plot. Is it the worst thing I’ve ever read for Batman News? Absolutely not. But it’s the terrible way this comic decided to use Joker and other Joker that stands out for me. I don’t read many comics compared to my fellow reviewers but this already gave me serious Joker Fatigue…