Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Lee Bermejo
Publisher: DC Comics
Content: Joker is a mature audiences book for scenes of intense violence, adult situations, and acts of insanity.
Introduction:Somehow, the Joker has been cured. Released from Arkham Asylum he returns to Gotham only to find his kingdom fractured and picked up by any two bit hood brave enough to take a share. He isn't crazy, he's mad.
Joker rounds up a crew with that includes a naive Johnny Frost as his right hand man, Killer Croc as his muscle, The Penguin as the brains, and Harley as his unstable woman. Joker seeks to take back what is his and make those around him pay.
Story:With the success of The Dark Knight, where Joker stole the show, there was sure to be a comic or two like this one on the fast track. Like the second movie, this Joker is less funny in the realm of gadgets and city wide jokes like the comic tales before, but more sadistic in his make believe world where no one truly gets the punch line of his work. None that survive it anyways.
The story is told through the eyes of young and hungry Johnny Frost, a low rent thug looking to make a name for himself, even by working for a dangerous madman. Johnny sees firsthand what Joker is willing to do to get his realm back, his respect from those that thought he was lost in the asylum forever. The resulting story is filled with blood, violence, and bodies in a path that only the Joker knows where it is truly leading, if he even knows at all.
Review:This tale seems to cross the lines between the latest movie version of Joker and the comic version of the Joker. It is done more in the crime noir style that Azzarello is known from 100 Bullets and works well for this seedy tale from Gotham City. The similarities between this Joker and The Dark Knight Joker are there, but according to Randy Gentile, the Font You! columnist, Azzarello and Bermejo didn't know about the direction the movie was going. It is stunning that this came together like this because it felt like they knew firsthand what they were doing. If so, I'm impressed.
There's no getting around it, this is a dark and dismal tale of one man's ride of revenge and another's rush to seeking fame that doesn't hold back. It reminds me of a Tarantino flick with just how much goes wrong for everyone that gets in Jokers way. The sad part is that you know it isn't going to end well for the narrator, Johnny Frost, you know that he's to have a miserable fate allying himself with the crown prince of crime, you know its coming...it is just a matter of when. The story unfolds well and in a tale that you thought might be full of the Batman as well, he's refreshingly absent. This is Jokers tale, let him keep the limelight for as long as he can.
Conclusion:I knew going into this tale that it was going to be dark and twisted. Just looking at the cover will clue you in to that fact. I left getting just what I thought it was. Overall it was well crafted both in story and art. It is also a good deal with the hardcover being only $19.99 with 128 pages. You're looking at five to six stories worth of material here and that it is in hardcover just adds extra value.
The obvious fans of this one will be the people who loved The Dark Knight. Whether it was meant to or not, the two are a great pair and really play off of each other. It is a solid tale, and one that may rival Moore's The Killing Joke in time.