REVIEW: ‘Joker: Killer Smile,’ Issue #2

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Joker: Killer Smile #2

Joker: Killer Smile #2 is published by DC Comics under their DC Black Label, written by Jeff Lemire, with art by Andrea Sorrentino, colors by Jordie Bellaire, and letters by Steve Wands. The horror series follows Dr. Ben Arnell who has been tasked with diagnosing and providing proper psychological treatment to one of Gotham’s most terrifying criminal masterminds, The Joker. However, despite promising his wife and child in the previous issue that he wouldn’t let his work affect him at home, strange occurrences force Arnell to question his sanity and ask just how secure is Arkham. Is the Joker in is home or is he in his head?

In Joker: Killer Smile #2 Arnell’s slip into madness continues as he visits another world that inhabited by special people, people who are insane. This dream, unlike the rest of the book, is colored in a sickly green. Bellaire’s is able to create an unsettling environment by coating Sorrentino’s gorgeous double-page spread in this neon green reminiscent of something that would be radioactive. The opening pages are jarring and showcase just how quickly Arnell’s psyche deteriorated. But even after Arnell wakes, he unsure what around him is real.

During his sessions with Joker, Arnell attempts to break the deranged clown by asking about his various origin stories and then his relationship with the Bat. Joker’s ongoing love-hate feelings toward Batman make him such an interesting antagonist when he is written well. Lemire clearly understands that and the conversation, while brief is one of my favorite moments from the issue. As much Arnell wants to keep control of the session, he can’t as once again, the Joker seems to know more about Arnell and his family than he should as he continues to gaslight the doctor.

Arnell’s sessions with Joker versus the rest of the comic are visually different. Sorrentino primarily focuses on Arnell and Joker’s faces, using close-ups to that beautifully illustrate Joker’s nonchalant body language versus Arnell’s nervous energy.  It is another way to show just who is in control of the session. Meanwhile, Arkham is colored stark white. The lighting is almost disturbing and as I mentioned in my previous review, according to color theory, white can represent new beginnings and an open mind. However, too much of it can be seen as cold or sterile. These sessions are a way for Joker to further infiltrate Arnell’s mind, this color choice might be as simple as coloring a sterile hospital environment but it also might be deeper than that. Either way, Bellaire does a fantastic job.

Additionally, Arnell’s monologuing is almost non-existant during his sessions with Joker. It instead returns to the page once he away from the clown. However, the monologue boxes change slightly in color toward the end of the issue. The moment is brief but incredibly important because it shows he might not be the only one speaking inside of his head. There are multiple clever lettering tricks from Wands that further allude to unknown parties speaking within Arnell’s mind or at least to the reader.

Joker: Killer Smile #2 has near-perfect pacing with the final act of the comic pulling readers along through a series of twists and turns. Lemire is able to craft a psychological horror with a well-known character that feels fresh because of the introduction of Dr. Ben Arnell. By focusing on Arnell and making Joker a supporting character, Joker: Killer Smile is able to explore the devastating effect Joker’s evil genius has, even when he is behind bars.

Joker: Killer Smile #2 is available now at comic book stores and online.

Joker: Killer Smile #2
5

TL;DR

Joker: Killer Smile #2 has near-perfect pacing with the final act of the comic pulling readers along through a series of twists and turns. Lemire is able to craft a psychological horror with a well-known character that feels fresh because of the introduction of Dr. Ben Arnell.