Review: Batman 23.1/Joker 1 by Andy Kubert and Andy Clarke

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Review:  Joker #1

“Time to Monkey Shine”

Published by DC Comics

Written by Andy Kubert

Art by Andy Clarke

Coloured by Blond

The Plot

A young boy is hiding in a closet as his mother breaks through with a hammer.  The mother is both physically and emotionally abusive to the boy.  She also reveals that she murdered his uncle with a Colombian necktie.  The boy screams in agony as his mother cleans him.  In the future at the Gotham City Zoo, the Joker is sidetracked while thinking about his childhood.  It is also revealed that it was his aunt that was abusive towards him (and not his mother as I originally thought).  While a snake is eating a man, the Joker makes his way over to look at a gorilla and her baby and decides to start his family.  He takes the gorilla under his wing and seeks to raise him in a happier envirnonment than his own upbringing provided.  Oh and he decides to name him Jackanapes (who come to think of it used to have future ties to Damian Wayne in the pre-52 DCU).  The Joker raises him to become his partner-in-crime  as he becomes more adept at building and causing mayhem.  In an effort to save the zoo, the Joker and Jackanapes engage in a mission where they have to kill some officials.  The mission does not go as planned, but the Joker continues on anyways.

The Breakdown

It was nice to read a Joker tale and one with his face intact.  The insanity of adopting a gorilla  in order to become a criminal actually made sense because it was the Joker.  There was one interesting aspect of the upbringing of both the Joker and Jackanapes.  Jackanapes wasn’t inherently evil and did actually possess a conscience.  Despite the Joker’s best attempts to nurture him into becoming what he wanted, he wasn’t able to succeed.  It was enjoyable in a nostalgic sort of way to read about the Joker just being the Joker.  I enjoyed Death of the Family, but I liked reading a more typical Joker story.  There were some very well done pages in this book.  The pages in the beginning reminded me a lot of the scenes from the Scarecrow’s childhood over in Batman the Dark Knight.  The colouring was good and it helped to support the dark atmosphere of the story.  The splash page with Jackanapes all decked out made me laugh because it looked so silly, but it made sense being in a Joker story.  I’m kind of relieved that this was a flashback story rather than a new story because his eventual return should have more of an impact than just being brought back early for a one-off story.  I can also excuse the lack of mention of the Trinity War and Forever Evil events because Darkseid also focused more upon the past.  It may have been a bit misleading to some readers, but I’d rather have potential future storylines not ruined for a quick event.  I admit that I’m marking out a bit for these 3-D covers, this one also looks pretty damn good.

BUT…

Soooooo what we do see is a glimpse into the Joker’s childhood.  I can’t say that I liked it.  I like having possible events and stories explaining his origins, but this seemed to be pretty definitive in terms of the Joker’s mythos.  I like speculating on his past and not actually being shown what it is.  Furthermore, I would think that this kind of glimpse into his past would be saved for some kind of event and not just a one-off story.  It made him a bit too sympathetic as well.  I would prefer that it was a random chance or coincidence that turned him into the Joker (as he uses that kind of rationality to inflict his chaos upon Gotham), but this story implied that he was slowly bred into becoming a monster.  Also, the Joker’s pretty mad (like crazy mad) and he showed an awful lot of emotion in this issue.  I just couldn’t buy his childhood continuing to have such a strong influence on his mental state as an adult.  He’s so insanely crazy that I can’t see him reflecting that much at those past experiences and having such stromg reactions to them.  I am hoping that some of the other Batman titles have some relation to the current events of the DCU and aren’t all just flashbacks into each villain’s past.  There were some panels in this issue that I didn’t care for.  Some of the Joker’s facial expressions didn’t look as good as they could have.

Buy It, Borrow It, Shelf Read It, or Ignore It?

Borrow It.  I didn’t hate the story, but there was a lot that detracted from it overall.  Some people may very well like the Joker’s backstory, but it just wasn’t for me.  This one requires a full read in order for someone to determine whether or not they like it.  Grab it from a friend and check it out or maybe you have a really cool LCS owner that’ll let you read it for free.  Had I read someone else’s copy I may not have bought it.  Butttttt if I do decide to grab all of the 3-D covers then perhaps I would have anyways.  Some people may enjoy it and others may dislike it for the story or feel that including the Joker was done more for sales than actual creative reasons.  As many problems as I had with this issue, it was kind of nice to read a more classic feeling Joker story.

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