A Three Jokers #1 Review – Too Many Smiles?

TITLE: Three Jokers #1
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
ARTISTS:
Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
PUBLISHER: DC Black Label
PRICE:
$6.99
RELEASED:
August 25, 2020

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Alright, DC. You can have your “Joker War,” and you can have Three Jokers. But after these are both said and done, we put the ol’ Clown Prince back on the shelf for a little while. There is such a thing as too many smiles…

At last, more than four years after it was first teased in Johns and Fabok’s Justice League run, Three Jokers has arrived. Why’d it take so long? No clue. But I’ve gotta say, the end product was almost worth the wait. While he’s obviously used Batman in his larger DC stories, Geoff Johns hasn’t spent a lot of time on a proper Bat-book. But in terms of the overall “feel” of things, i.e. characterization, tone, the sense of sacrifice, and that lingering dread that comes with a great Joker story, Johns and the Three Jokers team absolutely nail it.

Three Jokers presents us with the notion that there are…well, three Jokers. When the Harlequin of Hate seemingly strikes three points in Gotham at the exact same time, Batman, Batgirl, and the Red Hood must figure out where the genuine article is. But certain evidence points them toward something more elusive: That three different men have played the role of the Joker over the years. And unbeknownst to our heroes, a fourth Joker may be on his way…

In a broad sense, I don’t really like the idea of there having been three Jokers. Rather, I like the notion that he evolved over time just as Batman did. But I’ve been around long enough to know these kinds of things often aren’t as they initially seem. So I’ll reserve judgment on the premise and simply judge the content on its own merits.

One thing I give this issue a lot of credit for is quickly and effectively establishing the Joker’s relationship to Batman, and also providing the character with dramatic weight he deserves. It’s all done within the first few pages, using very little dialogue. We see Batman’s scarred and mangled flesh juxtaposed with single images of his enemies corresponding to specific wounds. Characters like Bane, the Riddler, Scarecrow, etc. Then we get one for the Joker. Then the Joker again. Then the Joker again. Then the Joker yet again. Thus the reader, whether a Batman buff or someone picking up a comic for the first time, understands the Joker isn’t simply another villain. He’s the one who’s given Batman more scars, both physically and emotionally, than anyone else.

Also adding dramatic weight is the presence of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon and the Red Hood/Jason Todd. Ask a casual comic book reader to name three Joker stories, and chances are two of them will be (for better or worse) The Killing Joke – Where the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara, and A Death in the Family – The infamous story where the Joker kills Jason. So having them around is a nice reminder of what the stakes are when dealing with the Joker. You’d think, with both breathing and walking, the opposite would be true. But both carry a heavy existential burden.

Jason Fabok gets to put his own little tweaks on all the iconic costumes for Three Jokers. The only changes of real significance are to Red Hood’s costume (shown above). Most of what we see is an improvement. The Bat emblem on his chest is thankfully gone. He’s now in a leather jacket with a red tunic that has, you guessed it, a hood. The tunic is supposed to look like the Robin costume. It even has an R on the belt buckle. Initially I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. But it’s grown on me. In fact, it’s probably my favorite take on the costume since Under the Hood in the mid 2000s.

I credit Three Jokers #1 with having one of the best, most cinematic chase scenes I’ve read in quite awhile. There’s not even that much to it. Just Batman and Batgirl trying to stop an ambulance, with Batman coming aboard and fighting inside. But Johns and Fabok made a more exciting sequence out of this than some creators can with four times as much.

This book is also beautifully colored. The palette Brad Anderson is working with feels like it can explode into a bright, beautiful blaze at any moment. But instead we get colors that are very full and that pop, but also feel like they’ve been dipped in darkness. The way Fabok and Anderson capture Gotham City feels definitive. Like this is what it’s supposed to look like.

Jason Todd is really the star of this first issue. That’s mostly because of the climax and a deliciously emotional, character-defining moment between a killer and his victim…

Three Jokers #1 straddles an interesting line. I totally disagree with its premise, yet I can’t deny this is a great comic book. Normally I can’t stand it when even oversized comics are priced above $5. But I can say with full confidence that this one is worth the price of admission.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Red Hood: The Lost Days Review – Aw, It’s a Rerun…

Red Hood: The Lost DaysTITLE: Red Hood: The Lost Days
AUTHOR: Judd Winick
PENCILLER: Pablo Raimondi, Jeremy Haun. Cover by Billy Tucci.
COLLECTS: Red Hood: The Lost Days #1-6
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I feel like a good title for this book would have been I Know Who Killed Me. But instead they gave that title to a Lindsay Lohan movie. Cheeky bastards…

The Lost Days is a prequel to Judd Winick’s Under The Hood story, in which he brought Jason Todd back to life as an anti-hero, determined to rid Gotham City of crime the “right” way with guns, killing, and capital punishment in general. This book serves as the bridge between Jason’s resurrection and his return to Gotham in the Hush storyline. He gets some fresh combat training and becomes skilled with explosives before he’s finally ready to take on the man who killed him…The Joker. But can he bring himself to do it?

It doesn’t matter, since both characters have to make it to Under The Hood. But it’s the thought that counts!

Red Hood: The Lost Days, Jason ToddThis book isn’t perfect by any means, but it has its moments. What really sucks is that Winick has to devote an entire issue to exposition for people who didn’t read Under The Hood. I put down the first issue thinking: “I read all of that already!”

I’ve talked before about how great Winick is with raw emotion. There’s a scene in the second issue where Jason learns Batman hasn’t killed The Joker that’s very well done. To a degree, the reader understands Jason’s outrage, frustration and pain. His surrogate father didn’t love him enough (at least that’s how Jason sees it) to break his rule about killing. We can’t relate to Jason’s situation, but we can understand that rage.

Oddly enough, one thing we don’t learn in this book is why Jason chose the Red Hood moniker. From a creator’s perspective, it’s obviously meant to connect him to The Joker (before he became a killer clown, Joker called him self The Red Hood), but from a character standpoint, we don’t know why Jason did it. You’d think that would have been one of the first things Winick would want in the story.

Red Hood: The Lost Days, Jason Todd ,Talia al GhulAlso, don’t be fooled by Billy Tucci’s wonderful issue covers. While they do display Jason in that awesome red helmet (at least I think it’s awesome) and combat gear, he doesn’t put that stuff on until the last page of the last issue. With some of these issues, the covers were more exciting than the story could hope to be.

Jason spends two issues foiling Russian mobsters, which is okay I guess. It works to establish the fact that he’s not just a heartless killer, and he still believes in justice.We see a lot of Talia al Ghul in this story, as she helps Jason obtain the resources he needs. There’s a bizarre sexual element to their partnership that doesn’t make much sense. In the first issue, Ra’s al Ghul flat out tells Talia that helping Jason won’t make Bruce Wayne love her. So then she not only helps him, but goes that way with him? Yeah, THAT made a lot of sense.

All in all, The Lost Days really doesn’t give us any information that wasn’t implied before, save for the Talia/Jason awkwardness that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. It’s not necessarily a bad story, but I get the impression the only reason this was all brought up again was to coincide with the DVD release of Batman: Under The Red Hood, which conveniently, Winick worked on. This book was never going to be a 10, but it certainly could have been better.

RATING: 4.5/10

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from cornflakepizza.tumblr.com.

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