Joker: Killer Smile #3 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. Previously, Joker’s new doctor, Dr. Ben Arnell struggled to see reality from his hazy hallucinations. In the climax of the issue, it was revealed that despite seeing his family, Arnell had been estranged from them for quite some time. Now, returning to Arkham, Arnell sets his sights on the Joker. But with the Joker already in his head, having manipulated and gaslit him for a while now, Arnell is likely to fall right into his trap.
Joker’s ability to emotionally manipulate Arnell is terrifying. As Arnell finally remembers his wife leaving him and taking their son, he initially blames the Crown Prince of Crime. However, the Joker is quick to point out she left because Arnell is different, different like the Joker is different. As a woman, the reason this is so scary is because so many women leave abusive, toxic, or unhealthy relationships only to be blamed for their own deaths because they didn’t stick around. The Joker hones in on Arnell’s insecurity and while this might be a fictional superhero comic, the idea of a man turning violent against others and his wife and not respecting her rights and wishes to leave isn’t far off from reality.
The issue continues to weave in a lot of elements first introduced in previous issues, including the bizarre children’s book. Wands’ lettering mimics that original book at many points throughout the issue and while the thought and callback are great, the lettering itself feels out of place. That being said, the rest of the book is nearly perfect, including Wands’ lettering. This issue is the most action-packed of the series and Sorrentino’s art and fantastic panel design allows that action to flow in a dynamic way. The panel layouts also create a lot of disorientation. While traditionally that might not be a good thing, here it is a necessary component considering so much of Arnell’s thoughts are also disoriented, broken, and disturbed.
Additionally, Bellaire’s colors elevate a lot of the horror elements within the comics. Many panels are painted almost entirely in red, highlighting the grotesque violence occurring. And like previous issues, the Joker’s features and the Joker mask Arnell wears stand out against the often bland backgrounds. Once again, while this might usually be a critique, here it is a strength of the comic. The bland or monochrome backgrounds, especially of Arkham Asylum, are eerie.
Joker: Killer Smile #3 continues to explore the broken psyche of Dr. Ben Arnell while also offering a thrilling conclusion to the series, that is, until it returns in May with the Batman: The Smile Killer one-shot. Overall, Lemire has crafted a haunting Joker story that has kept me engaged from the first issue. I look forward to the upcoming one-shot featuring the Dark Knight who, outside of a few panels in this issue, has not played any role in the series.
Joker: Killer Smile #3
Joker: Killer Smile #3 continues to explore the broken psyche of Dr. Ben Arnell while also offering a thrilling conclusion to the series, that is, until it returns in May with the Batman: The Smile Killer one-shot. Overall, Lemire has crafted a haunting Joker story that has kept me engaged from the first issue.