I have read quite a number of "Batman" tales--among my favorites were "The Killing Joke", "The Cult", "The Dark Knight Returns", the "Venom" and "Last Arkham" sagas, and of course, "Arkham Asylum". Brian Azzarello (the award-winning author of "100 Bullets") and Lee Bermejo, two of the best talents in the comic industry have collaborated for the third time to bring comic fans "Joker". This graphic novel is tough, gritty, violent and unrelenting in its portrayal of the Batman's arch-nemesis. This is not the Joker who uses an acid-squirting flower or a an electric handshake; this Joker is mean and very nasty--the thing is crazy people don't know they're crazy. One may say Azzarello's portrayal of the Joker is a tribute to Heath Ledger's "Joker" in the "Dark Knight".
Joker has been declared sane and is being released from Arkham Asylum, and though he does have a smile on his face, he isn't happy. While he was away locked up in Arkham, his fellow rogues have sliced and diced his chunk of Gotham's criminal empire and sold it off for scrap---thinking that Joker was locked away for good. But now, the madman is back on the streets and eager to make chaos and disorder the likes Gotham hasn't seen before. During this long night of the soul, The Joker will cross paths with the Penguin, Two-face, Killer Croc, The Riddler, Harley Quinn and of course, The Dark Knight…and heaven help them all.
"Joker" is a very compelling piece to add to his own myth. Brian Azzarello's script exudes total darkness and looks at the soul of this insane villain. The story is told through the eyes of his loyal and naïve henchman Jonny Frost and this is no simple comic book and feels more like a "noirish" crime novel than a superhero book. The script is sharp-tongued and the proceedings are at times "gory", and artist Lee Bermejo is the right man for the job. The graphics and feel of the book exudes total darkness, mean and gritty, as Joker makes his rounds along Gotham's underworld. This Joker is very nasty and Azzarello doesn't hold back with his writing. I also liked the parts of the story when Joker delivers his own brand of philosophy and the way he communicates his intentions are strokes of pure genius, well, in a way, that crazy people would do.
The backgrounds of the story may be unrevealed, and the reasons behind his release will remain undefined. But I liked the part when Joker taunts someone when he looks up to the sky--I thought maybe he was challenging the Batman. The reasons as to how he was released will remain in the reader's understanding and conclusions. I have my own take, but to avoid spoilers, I will decline to state my opinion. The story also demonstrates the fact that Joker is well-respected in the criminal world, the Penguin is under is thrall and he uses Killer Croc as his main muscle. I loved the way he blurts out one question: "Do you know what's the one thing I hate the most?….apologies…" and adds a lot of depth to his psyche. You might say this is sort of a character study of the Joker but his relationship with the Batman is almost none-existent as the "Bat" never does appear until the story's last segments.
There is not a lot of action illustrated in this book, but there is a lot of brutal violence, gore and the language is very adult-oriented.(exactly the way I prefer) Joker is a man with a gun and a razor; so you can guess just what he does most of the time. Harley Quinn is an enigma here, she never says a word but there is a very moving illustration that displays their relationship as she cradles Joker to her bosom, he looks like a man clinging to his mother. Harley is "twistedly" sexy in "Joker" and there are scenes of strippers and such, with Harley in the spotlight. Two-face is used as Joker's main nemesis in the underworld, they plot, they scheme and Gotham City is in their grasp. What I found really interesting is the fact that Joker may have his own twisted way of honor but at the same time, he is like snake who would bite you when you have your back turned. This Joker wants chaos and to see Gotham burn…in a way to maybe get Batman's attention, in a very twisted way.
The Joker's character has always been compelling and interesting. Some may say that he is a more compelling character than Batman himself--but it all depends on who you ask. I think they are two sides of the same coin, both were born from a tragedy but the two are on opposing sides as they deal with their personal darkness differently. Dark, Gritty and Full of Style, "Joker" is a harrowing tale of one madman's journey into the hell of his own making, bad choices and Gotham‘s blood-soaked underworld ….there is no cure for the Joker, except maybe another madman who dresses up as a Bat.
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Stars]
The wrap-around cover is very nice as illustrated by Eisner award winner Lee Bermejo. The last page contains a brief background of the creators.
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An original hardcover graphic novel that tells the story of one very dark night in Gotham City--from the creative team behind the graphic novel Lex Luthor: Man of Steel.
The Joker has been mysteriously released from Arkham Asylum, and he's none to happy about what's happened to his Gotham City rackets while he's been "away." What follows is a harrowing night of revenge, murder and manic crime as only The Joker can deliver it, as he brutally takes back his stolen assets from The Penguin, The Riddler, Two-Face, Killer Croc and others.
Brian Azzarello brings to The Joker all the visceral intensity and criminal insight that has made his Vertigo graphic novel series 100 Bullets one of the most critically-acclaimed and award-winning series in all of comics.