John Layman, Jason Fabok, Andy Clarke
Spoiler alert! You have been warned!
At its core, this issue is simply a filler issue, getting us from point A to point B. Not a bad one, but definitely not a great one or even a memorable one at that. John Layman is unquestionably one of the better writers in the industry right now, so the dialogue and storytelling is solid. The art of Jason Fabok in the main feature and Andy Clarke in the backup story are good. But this issue seemed to kind of be just another part of a longer issue. And nothing really seemed to happen. The story is pretty much the whole city going crazy and being overrun with Joker gangsters and Joker imposters and Joker wannabes. They’re seemingly just popping up out the woodwork and the next one is just as weird or even weirder than the previous incarnations, which is amusing, but also not something new. We’ve seen it done time and time again, and frankly, done better.
One thing that I did like was the fact that the cast is getting larger and larger and the plot is indeed advancing forward, even though it seems a little slow for my liking. But one thing that definitely rubbed me the wrong way was the scene near the end where the Joker gang’s leader, who turns out to just be a scared kid, cuts his own face off out of fear of becoming the Joker and becoming a monster. The scene in itself did not bother me. It was what happened next. He was, in essence, a typical lost soul of Gotham City who just wanted to belong and got into a bad crowd. He even lets the hostages go, in a sense doing Batman’s job for him. And I get that Batman isn’t emotional, but we get thought bubbles and monologue boxes to reveal his real thoughts, which were honestly, uncharacteristic and unfeeling, even for him. Bats would feel pity. And sorrow. And realistically, he wouldn’t think things like “idiot kid.” Any good Batman writer (or even good Batman fan) would know that. It seems trivial, but one moment of bad characterization almost ruined the whole issue for me. Almost. But not quite.
Part of me wants more Joker, and part of me is already over this Emperor Penguin guy, but to be completely honest, an even bigger part of me is somewhat impressed with Layman’s ability to tell a story about the Joker without him actually being in it. Needless to say, I’m interested to see where this goes. And man, do I hope Joker kills all of these new ridiculous characters sooner rather than later. I mean, come on. Did you get a look at the new Penguin’s gang? They almost deserve to die just for looking that stupid. Can’t wait to see how they croak.