by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo (DC Comics, 2008)
The Joker has been released from Arkham Asylum, for reasons that are not clearly outlined. A vicious, utterly unrepentant, extremely well-known and highly unstable killer is back out on the streets, but why just isn't important. It might have helped make the entire premise of the book acceptable if some type of reason had been given, but it's more or less a signal that nothing in the story is on very solid footing.
The Joker goes on a crime spree. Utilizing his fellow criminals such Killer Croc and the Penguin, he kills and robs like a real, live gangsta until a terrified and beaten Two-Face summons Batman, who was completely absent during the murder-rape-robbery-extortion one-man crime wave the Joker was responsible for starting. Batman stops him, after letting him get away with all that.
The only novelty is the telling the story from a henchman's point of view. Apart from that, Joker isn't edgy, has no real depth and doesn't tell the reader one thing about the Joker as a character. Here, he's just some random, gross bad guy, who does the same sort of crimes as any off-the-rails sociopath. Lots of gruesome stuff but no sense of direction at all.
Once upon a time the Joker was a tortured soul whose final step into madness was brought about by the actions of a self-styled vigilante who was himself teetering on the brink of some rather serious mental health issues. After his rebirth at the hands of a so-called hero, he committed crimes with the sole objective of trying to drive the Batman over the same edge over which Batman had once driven him. His main henchman was the interesting, exciting and highly inventive character of Harley Quinn, herself a bag of nuts and razor blades. The Joker was an artist, his savageness touched with true genius, and that's what made him so freaking scary.
This Joker isn't the stylish, graceful madman who gives you nightmares; just some cruel bastard you want to wipe off your shoe as soon as you can. The Joker earned his moniker because he turns crimes into satire that shows the world and humanity for the joke it is, condemning him for being mad while people do all they can to destroy each other and the planet on which they exist. The Joker has achieved iconic status because he is a reflection of all that has gone wrong with society, with the world.
Everything to do with his history, character and personality went out the window in this conception. The slow, dull story doesn't help and the artwork reads like unfinished sketches that were colored over in a hurry. If you're an Azzarello fan you may like it well enough but if you're a Batman/Joker fan, you may want to steer clear.
12 April 2014
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