28th Oct2020

‘Batman: Three Jokers #3’ Review (DC Black Label)

by Dean Fuller

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

This book has been outstanding on pretty much every level. Great covers, sensational art and a script that not only delivered what we hoped for, but also supplied the cherry and cream to go on top of that particular pie. Something else not to sneeze at, it all came out on time. No delays. Delays have killed many a good storyline or series, as anticipation can only last so long. None of that here. Thank goodness, as I’ve been literally counting the days until this final issue comes out. Much has been delivered, but there is still a lot to tie up and resolve. I also think Johns and Fabok need to see if they can also gross us out just that little bit more. Do your worst diabolical duo.

Last issue had a big old helping of legacy. We saw Joe Chill, and there was quite a focus on Jason Todd, seeing how the Jason we have today was a result of both The Joker’s physical abuse and The Batman’s borderline mental abuse. It’s not just Jason’s ultra violence Bruce doesn’t like, it’s his emotion. For all Jason’s hatred of Bruce now, he still didn’t let the torture break him, and he didn’t allow the two remaining Joker’s make him into a new Joker. They are, it seems, abducting people from all walks of life to try and create the perfect Joker. We know The Criminal, The Clown, and The Comedian, but would The Actor be better? The Fighter? The Talk Show Host? The Chemist? A lot of people have died getting to this point.

Batman, Batgirl and Red Hood ponder this very point at the start of this issue. What is a perfect Joker, and why are they trying to create one? Before they can sort that out, though, Bruce and Jason have yet another head to head that nearly comes to blows. Happy Bat Family this ain’t. The theme of identity runs through this story like writing in a stick of rock. Bruce wants Jason to be the old Jason and give up Red Hood. He won’t. Bruce is seemingly worried if he takes any action against Jason, his identity and Barbara’s will be compromised. Bruce is also certain that one of the Three Jokers is the original, and created the other two, who in turn are trying to create more. Jason also suspects Bruce knows the original Joker’s identity, and is keeping it from them. See, identity.

Batman gets the call Joe Chill has been kidnapped from Blackgate, and finds out that apparently he has been haunted by his murder of the Wayne’s for many years. He was truly trying to apologise for what he had done. Bruce, Babs, and Jason trace the abduction to the derelict Monarch Theatre, where a young Bruce watched ‘The Mark of Zorro’ on a fateful night. Fabok then draws some fabulous sequences without any dialogue, with the amazing art carrying the story forward as well as any written word could. If anything, it ratchets up the tension even more. I don’t think I can full justice to the sequences that follow, but it’s amazing stuff. Against the backdrop of Joe Chill telling The Joker, on the big screen, of why he killed the Wayne’s and why he regretted it almost instantly, Jason and Barbara take on hordes of Joker lookalikes. There is a clever homage sequence to The Killing Joke in there too.

Batman confronts The Criminal, who is trying to make Joe Chill into a Joker, as the perfect combination of arch nemesis and personal demon. Is he the original? Bruce then does the almost unthinkable, he saves Chill’s life, and accepts his apology. The surviving Joker, I won’t tell you who, takes that as a victory. Avenging the death of his parents has always been Bruce’s driving force, and now stopping The Joker can be. Twisted logic for sure, but probably true. So, by story’s end, we have one Joker, the one who had been driving the and manipulating the others all along. We also return to that theme of identity. The actual identity of The Joker has never been that important after all, as he is just pure chaos. Other strands can occasionally come from that, like The Criminal, but they are derivates only. The real surprise comes at the very end, and is one I won’t spoil. Jason always accused Bruce of being heartless and emotionless. Geoff Johns quite clearly doesn’t agree. I never have either. A perfect ending.

From start to finish just an outstanding piece of work. Every issue, or book, by itself stands up really well, but the whole really earns its place up there in the pantheon of great Batman stories. It manages to honour the past, incorporate it, and make it something new. Some of Johns best writing without question. Jason Fabok’s art throughout is just incredible. You can tell every page has been meticulously designed to show the story at its best. Some pages need that famous Watchmen like 9 panel layout, some need a large main focus panel, some just need what works best. Pacing is perfect, throughout, and the art itself is the way I like it, all clean lines and clear and easy to follow.

‘A Classic’ is a blurb much overused on the backs of various books with storylines that most evidently are nothing of the sort. This three part series most definitely is worthy of that description. A labour of love from top to bottom.

All it takes is one bad day to define a path for a person’s life. Bruce shows us though that one good day can redefine that path for the better. That’s why he’s Batman.

***** 5/5

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