27th Aug2020

‘Batman: Three Jokers #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Geoff Johns | Art by Jason Fabok | Published by DC Black Label

I think when everyone first heard of this upcoming book, they were both intrigued and confused. Three Jokers? Say what now? That’s to say nothing of the fact that the tease has been going on for 4 years or so, ever since Justice League #50. Is there literally three Joker’s? Three in the sense of three personalities in the same body? Three across three realities? It is both an odd concept and yet one that makes perfect sense. The representations of The Joker have changed through the years after all. Sometimes an unrepentant psychopath, happy as Larry to murder everyone in his path. Sometimes literally a ‘joker’, happy to set traps and games, and sometimes a tragic, sad figure beaten down by life until reborn this way. Johns has seized on something that has always been there and decided to run with it.

Behind a simply gorgeous cover, we start in muted fashion. A beaten up Batman staggers back home yet again, this time after taking down The Penguin. As Alfred stitches him up yet again, Bruce’s brutally scarred body tells a story of every fight he has had. Every scar tells a story. Bane, Riddler, Catwoman, Killer Croc, Scarecrow and Joker. And Joker. And Joker. As Alfred stitches, Bruce’s mind drifts away to a certain dark alley on a certain dark day, and the murder of his parents by Joe Chill. We drop in on Barbara Gordon, still haunted by The Joker shooting her in The Killing Joke, and Jason Todd fighting some Joker goons, himself still haunted by his suffering in ‘Death in the Family’. Johns cleverly guides us through three iconic storylines, and our three Jokers. The Criminal. The Comedian. The Clown.

On this one night, the television news seemingly tells us The Joker has been spotted in three places at the same time. Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD are flummoxed. Three crime scenes, all point to The Joker. Batman and Batgirl arrive at the Ace Chemicals crime scene, this being the place The Joker was born, after falling in that vat of chemicals. I love the classic feel of this scene, Bruce and Barbara investigating together. Batgirl on her Batbike too. Geoff Johns sure knows how to please an audience. As the escort the ambulance, with one of Joker’s victims alive in the back, little do they know that Jason Todd is in there as well. Jason’s approach to getting information is a little more, shall we say, direct. Misunderstandings put aside, all three decide to work together.
So, just why did The Joker steal a truck full of the chemicals that supposedly created him? I won’t give too much away, but the title of this book may be a tad misleading. Anyhow, the three make their way to Gotham Aquarium where they find an aquarium full of the chemical and The Joker. Or a Joker. Fisticuffs ensue, and The Joker is captured just as Gordon contacts them to say he has The Joker cornered elsewhere. Batman leaves to help, leaving Jason and Barbara watching this Joker. When he starts talking, you realise just how much psychological damage he has caused to these two. Funnily enough he focuses almost solely on Jason, making you feel he is the ‘Death in the Family’ Joker, the one who beat Jason practically to death. He tells Jason he wanted him to be Joker’s ‘Robin’, and by becoming the Red Hood he has done just that. Things don’t end well. We end on a true gasp out loud moment.

Wow. An amazing book. Geoff Johns script and characterisation is just perfect, and Fabok’s art is incredible, reminiscent of Gibbons and Bolland’s best. The plot and story is incredibly well done, and the tying together of past major storylines with the Three Jokers concept is executed perfectly. The dialogue and long time fan Easter eggs scattered throughout can’t fail to make you smile. Johns makes you think you know what’s going on, then hints that you don’t throughout, classic Joker show and tell. Fabok’s art is simply outstanding, often using the Watchmen style nine panels to a page for that cinematic quick cut effect, and Brad Anderson’s colours complement the art perfectly.

You can tell the entire creative team want this to be more than a throwaway event book, they want this to be both enjoyed now and be Batman mythology in the future. If this first issue is anything to go by, they have more than succeeded in making me smile.

Which, when you think about it, is pretty apt.

***** 5/5


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