Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Lee Bermejo with Mick Gray and Patricia Mulvihill
From: DC Comics
There are a few simple truths that I’m about to impart. I call these truths because I just don’t see how anyone will disagree. 1) This book comes out in two weeks, and should be highly anticipated. 2) Azzarello and Bermejo should work together for the rest of time. 3) They should be tapped by Christopher Nolan for character design for the next Batman movie. 4) This book is simply phenomenal.
Fans of this pairing know they can put out an amazing final product. Even if you’ve only read their most recent book, Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, you know that they can turn everything you think of a character on its head, and from then on have you looking at that character in a new way. They even helped to redefine Luthor’s past actions without any major retcons or shakeups.
Here they seek to redefine a character that is perhaps the most well-known character of the year. They made him even more recognizable by going for a look that combines the movie look and his traditional comic look. This book doesn’t technically take place in any strict continuity, but allowing for only a couple tiny changes, this could be smack dab in the film world. Herein you see the perfect way to introduce Killer Croc, Penguin (though with a different first name), and Riddler into the films. There’s also a unique take on Harley Quinn, and a fantastic supporting character (who’s also narrating) that grounds Joker’s insanity in reality.
The story itself follows Joker’s unexplained release from Arkham Asylum, as he bids to reacquire “his city.” As he cuts through the Gotham Underworld, you’re never quite sure if he’s brilliant, psychotic, or some combination thereof. The straddled line of insane/sane is the best take on Joker that I’ve read. This is a version of the character that could easily exist in the comics, in the movies, or even in the real world. Azzarello makes the reader question Joker’s sanity during the entire book, from beginning to end. He even makes the reader question if there’s something fishy going on with two of the characters, or if they are simply who they say they are. It’s a surreal feeling, even a slightly uncomfortable feeling, but it makes for a fantastic story.
Bermejo (with team) just seems to get better every time he puts pencil to paper. The art here is again grounded in reality. There is no feat depicted that couldn’t happen in real life, and that grounding makes it all the more eerie. This is absolutely a street-level story, with a lot of it taking place in the dark, when bad things happen. Nonetheless, there’s a life to Gotham City that many artists miss, and Bermejo here nails it. There were several specific panels that I had to stop and just really look at them and admire the beauty, and several that I had to turn away from, for fear that they’d haunt my dreams forever.
This is a book that should be sold side-by-side with every copy of The Dark Knight. Batman fans, Joker fans, crime story fans, psychological thriller fans, and pretty much anyone who enjoys the comic book as a medium will likely love this. The intensely frightening and disturbing cover won’t make you want to leave this on the coffee table or bedside to often, but this should be on the shelf and read often. Simply phenomenal is the most accurate description. They’ve eclipsed Luthor, already a great book, in every way. I can’t wait to see who they deconstruct next.
Joker is due in stores on October 29th.