Batman #23.1 (DC)

Joker

Rating: 3/5 – An unwanted glimpse into Joker’s origin.

Batman #23.1 Joker is an solid book dealing with the Joker in the New 52, prior to him losing his face.  Although it’s an entertaining read, this issue does have one problem, which to me is a big one.  Writer Andy Kubert dives into the Joker’s past by visiting his childhood, giving us just a brief glimpse into his origin.  There’s a reason why the Joker doesn’t have an origin as it takes away from his mystery.  By trying to provide reasons or justification for his craziness he becomes similar to other characters, losing what I feel makes him so unique.

This issue’s start is just that, providing one of the possible reason for how the Joker came to be.  We see a young boy who is being abused at the hands of his aunt.  It’s a powerful and disturbing scene that’s tough to read.  Although they don’t show the actual abuse take place, you know what that abuse is and it’s quite disturbing.  The book then flashes forward to the Joker in a zoo, where after thinking back to this horrific event and seeing a baby gorilla who he feels a connection to, decides to “adopt” him.  The rest of the issue explores the Joker raising this gorilla, and paralleling the raising of this gorilla to his own childhood.  Within these parallels Kubert shows us again how the Joker’s childhood was traumatizing, and how he wasn’t going to allow the same things to happen to his gorilla “son”, who he’s creatively names Jackanapes.  The humor and violence both increase as the issue goes on, finishing in a crazy ending that is true to how the Joker would act.

Andy Clarke’s art here is excellent and his Joker is reminiscent of the Bronze Age Joker with his crazy facial features and his purple suit.  Clarke also uses two styles for his art choosing a scratchy style for the flashback origin sequences, and then going with his traditional style for the main story.  Although Clarke’s Joker isn’t as creepy as Capullo’s from the main Batman title, because Clarke shows Joker using a wide range of emotions, he comes off that much more crazy.

This book was entertaining, it’s just very difficult to agree with DC’s choice to show the Joker’s origin.  By making us feel for the Joker and trying to give us reasons for his insanity, I feel it actually disservices the character.  Although it was well done, it took away from this character and in a way, makes this New 52 Joker less intriguing.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas – shawn@comicspectrum.com
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