30th Sep2020

‘Batman: Three Jokers #2’ Review (DC Black Label)

by Dean Fuller

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

How good was that first issue? Obviously a rhetorical question, because Book One was a stunning piece of work. The writing and art were just outrageously good. Can that high bar be sustained? I’m going with a hard ‘yes’. So, last issue played around a bit with the idea, but essentially it came down to the fact that The Joker seems to be everywhere at once because he IS everywhere at once. He is a ‘they’. Or is he/ they? It was all suitably vague, but Johns pointed out all the iconic Joker storylines had slight variations. Sometimes The Criminal, sometimes The Comedian, other times The Clown. Could these actually be three separate people? Cue Batman, Batgirl, and Jason Todd following initially separate investigations and then, grudgingly, teaming up. It all went wrong at the end of course, and Jason decided he wanted the book renamed Two Joker’s, after shooting one in the head and killing him. The Joker? A Joker? Let’s jump in.

We start with a very disturbing ‘Joker in suburban family’ story that, I think, turns out to be all in the imagination of one Joker. He’s one of the two Joker’s left, the third, The Clown, was the one Jason Todd executed. Batgirl has gone to find Batman, to tell him the ‘bad’ news. Batman and Commissioner Gordon have been investigating the death of a corrupt former Judge, seemingly fed Joker toxin, but this requires Batman’s attention. The dialogue between Bruce and Barbara that follows is superb, really capturing both their relationship and Bruce’s guilt at what he did to Jason, and what he didn’t do for him. Touching stuff. Bruce knows Jason has crossed a line, or at least now can’t be excused for his excessive violence. He’s going to have to be stopped. Red Hood himself, however, is still on the trail of Joker through his goons.

First things first, Batman and Batgirl head off to Blackgate Prison. Batman found fingerprints at the scene of the Judge’s murder that belong to a current inmate of Blackgate. That’s bad enough. Even worse, the inmate is a certain Joe Chill. Yep, that Joe Chill. The one that makes even Batman take a deep breath. Times catching up to Chill, though, and he’s a very sick man now. Cancer. Clearly, someone took his fingerprints on purpose, to intentionally lead Batman to Blackgate. Why? To unnerve him? Distraction? Again, that will have to wait awhile as Batman has a heads up that Red Hood has found the Joker’s hideout.

Jason Todd’s problem has always been he has the brawn of his mentor, but not the brains. Jason’s so proud he found the hideout quicker than Bruce, he lets his guard down, and is soon tied up naked to a chair. We’ve all been there. Apart from the upcoming bit with the Joker’s of course. The Criminal is the first to talk to Jason, claiming he was the first, he ran Gotham before Batman came. He then seems to allude to trying to find the perfect Joker, as though they are being created in some way. More worryingly, they put Jason through some severe violence trying to make him into a ‘new’ Joker. Pretty graphic stuff. Batman and Batgirl finally arrive, though an entire swimming pool full of toxin created Joker zombies is pretty gross stuff too. Then, they find Jason.
Jason is badly hurt, but he didn’t break. His anger at Batman is there, is real, but not the hatred The Jokers wanted. If anything, it’s the perfect example of having to reach the bottom before you can rise again. Jason and Barbara bond over their mutual horrific injuries at the hands of The Joker, and Jason starts to see Barbara’s way of recovering is the better path than his. You also realise that if Bruce wasn’t so cold, Jason may have taken the right path long ago. Great writing. Batman is still trying to put the pieces of all this together, not knowing that things are going to go up a notch. One of The Joker’s has got back to Joe Chill, and he’s about to start in a new film….

Although perhaps slightly below the level of the first book, it’s a very slight dip, and still an amazingly written and drawn book. The links to previous storylines may seem repetitive to some, but to me they put the story firmly in context, and show you what’s at stake for these characters. You can’t look away. Johns continues a fine job of great plotting, great dialogue and plenty of little hints and Easter eggs, and Jason Fabok continues with his glorious art, and I especially love The Watchmen-esque nine panel pages that dominate the book. Fabok also throws in plenty of background teases and hints too, if you are just following the main action in each panel you are only getting half the story. The colouring is also superb.

A team book in all senses. A Bat Family team, a Joker team, and a superb creative team overseeing it all. This is what comics should be.

***** 5/5


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