Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Jason Fabok
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Rob Leigh
In the waning days of DC’s failed New 52 and in the infancy of Rebirth there were hints and innuendo that the Clown Prince of Crime, the homicidal madman known to the world as the Joker is actually a triumvirate of terror. First hinted at in Justice League: the Darkseid War and then revealed in DC Rebirth that the moniker of the Joker was actually a collection of three and that the horrors and terrors perpetrated by DC’s resident madman were actually the work of three and it also explains why the Joker has so many distinct characterizations that don’t always jive with previous iterations. Yet this revelation seemed to be glossed over, purposefully forgotten as the Joker, a singular entity, has been the antagonist of many Bat centric stories over the past few years. That is until this week and the release of Batman: Three Jokers #1.
In 1988 the Joker carried out two of his most violent assaults on the Bat-Family. First in Batman: the Killing Joke the Comedian of Crime shot and crippled Barbara Gordon, the Batgirl, then tortured her father Jim in a carnival of freaks with images of his daughters nude and traumatized body in the attempt to break Gotham’s most moral man. Eventually defeated by the Batman the Joker ends the story with joke and a shared laugh between long time foes. Then later that year the Clown Prince of terror beat Jason Todd, the second Robin, to death with a crowbar forever changing the perception of the Joker as nothing more than a psychotic child killer. Yet what if these acts weren’t carried out by the same man, the same Joker. What if these were the acts of two different Jokers? It would explain the differences in behaviors, in actions, and temperaments. Yet what if there was a third iteration? The want to be kingpin of Gotham, the Joker who is at constant war with the mob for the control of Gotham’s underworld. This gives us the three, the Criminal, the Comedian, and the Clown. For these are Geoff John’s Three Jokers.
Gotham is under siege (I feel like I write that a lot in reviews) as the city is crippled with three violent acts. The first is the assassination of a mob family at the hands of the Joker. The second act is the murders of three men and the theft of a vat of chemicals from Ace Chemical by the Joker. The third is the livestream murder of a comedian best known for putting on a cape and cowl and performing as the Fatman, again perpetrated by the Joker. This is not the night Batman needs as he is once again at his limit, patched together by Alfred but quickly on the trail of the Jokers. While the Jokers meet in a cabin in the woods, with nostalgic costuming and white retorts, we see that there is a hierarchy amongst the Jokers and that they have a plan. While the Jokers carry out their plans Batman is joined by Batgirl and eventually the Red Hood, the Jokers two previous highest profile Bat-Family victims, in his race to stop the impending reign of terror. The Dark Knight tracks a Joker to the Gotham City aquarium. With some high doses of the Joker Toxin in the aquarium tanks and some historic call backs to the earliest Joker appearances Batman: Three Jokers #1 ends with a vicious fight, and a brutal cliffhanger that is both satisfying in one sense but opens up more questions for what’s to come.
Batman: Three Jokers is rightfully produced by writer Geoff Johns and artist Jason Fabok as they were the creative talent behind the Darkseid War where the concept of three Jokers was first posed. It also feels that these two may be the only creators who still believe in this conceit. Produced under the Black Label line it’s easy to believe that Batman: Three Jokers is set outside current continuity, especially with the Joker War waging its way through Batman right now. That being said Batman: Three Jokers is a hell of a first issue and one that I found myself very interested in. Geoff Johns skill as a writer with a deep appreciation for the history of comics is on display within the pages of this debut issue. Riffing on Alan Moore’s Batman: the Killing Joke and Jim Starlin’s Batman: A Death in the Family Johns crafts a compelling tale that delves into the psychological impact the Joker and his actions would have on Batgirl and the Red Hood. Yet Fabok’s art delivers the impact of the Jokers actions as his artwork details the physical toll being a vigilante has on the body but with his facial work, he also gives a glimpse of the emotional pain. Fabok has obviously put time and effort into the book and it shows as his artwork is dense, emotional, and dark. Brad Anderson’s colors perfectly complement the atmosphere on this book and really bring out the best in Fabok’s art. They have a creepy quality to them that helps send a shiver down your spine.
Verdict: Buy! Batman: Three Jokers #1 is an obvious labor of love and a beautifully dark look into the psychosis of violent trauma in the world of super heroics. While the concept of having Three Jokers might not be popular or even canon, I find it interesting, especially in the hands of Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok.