REVIEW: ‘The Joker,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Joker #1

The Joker #1 is published by DC Comics, written by James Tynion IV and Sam John’s, with art by Guillem March and Mirka Andolfo, colors by Arif Prianto and Romulo Fajardo Jr., with letters by Ariana Maher and Tom Napolitano.  In the wake of the brutal gas attack on Arkham Asylum the public has named A-Day, The Joker is once more on the run. A few wealthy individuals have decided that waiting for The Joker to attack again is simply unacceptable. So they’re planning a manhunt for the Clown Prince of Crime. And they want Jim Gordon to take point.  But there is a catch. This is no extrajudicial arrest. They want The Joker dead. Meanwhile, the trial of Punchline is about to begin.

Our story opens with Jim Gordon reminiscing about the night he transferred to Gotham. While having drinks in a shady little bar an older officer came over to talk with him about the nature of evil. At the time Gordon shrugged it off as the ramblings of an old drunken cop. But now, as he enters his retirement with a career of chasing after Gotham’s most ruthlessly brutal killers he thinks back to the cop and understands what he was trying to tell him. Because now he knows evil. It is there whenever he closes his eyes. Right there, laughing at him.

The bulk of The Joker #1’s main story follows Gordon as he struggles to process the ever-changing identity of Gotham.  With the A-Day attack seeming to be a fleeting moment in Gotham’s collective mind, and half the city cheering for Punchline to be released, Gordon is understandably disturbed. With so much trauma connected to The Joker, it would be more worrisome if he wasn’t taking everything hard. Between the killing of his wife, the paralyzation of his daughter, and The Joker’s involvement in his son’s recent death everyone close to Gordon has been touched in a cruel way by the man. This is exactly why certain parties have sought Gordon out. They think with his knowledge of The Joker, decades of investigative experience, and overwhelming motivation to stop The Joker once and for all, he would be the perfect man to take him down.

The big moral conundrum The Joker #1 places before Gordon is simple. Can he kill The Joker? Can he claim the right to become judge, jury, and executioner for a man that has committed a truly monstrous laundry list of murderous crimes? I’ve made my feelings about how Batman and others approach The Joker clear in the past, and personally see no problem with this. But perhaps Gordon is a better man than I. Either way, he has a week to think it over.

The Art in The Joker #1’s primary story delivers on all the dark and brooding energy you would expect to infest the streets of Gotham. March’s lines capture the weight that Gordon carries with him excellently. The colorwork also captures the energy of Gotham, further enhancing the art’s delivery. It is only when Gordon is taken to meet his would-be rich benefactor that the world brightens.

Lastly, the lettering does a great job of walking the reader through Gordon’s many musings. This is a dialogue-heavy story and Napolitano does a great job of keeping it all straight.

The back portion of The Joker #1 sees Punchline’s trial begin. Immediately, the defense finds itself in a pickle as all of their star witnesses start going missing, or are getting fished out of a river. With public opinion swinging wildly in Punchline’s favor Dr. Thompkins is concerned she will walk. To this end, she decides some drastic steps must be taken if Punchline is to be kept off Gotham’s streets.

The madness that is brewing in Gotham concerning Punchline continues to be a special kind of terrifying. The willingness of people to completely forgive her with just a few tears is disturbing, and not nearly as easy to dismiss as something that could never happen in the real world as I would like. But they’ve always said that the best horror is the type that feels real. Johns and Tynion certainly bring that home here.

The art in this portion of the book does a good job delivering its story. Andolfo’s art captures the unhinged nature of the situation well. This is particularly true for the star of the story herself. Fajardo’s brighter than expected colors add a sense of surreal frivolity to the situation that complements the story’s stone perfectly.

Wrapping up the presentation here is Maher’s letters. The letter work here is clear and easy to follow as it guides the reader from panel to panel.

Bringing it all together The Joker #1 delivers a pair of stories that look at the effects of the recent past of Gotham in strikingly different ways. These differences build on their shared concepts in a way that makes both stand apart from each other narratively, even as they support each other thematically.

The Joker #1 is available now wherever comics are sold.

The Joker #1
4.5

TL;DR

Bringing it all together The Joker #1 delivers a pair of stories that look at the effects of the recent past of Gotham in strikingly different ways. These differences build on their shared concepts in a way that makes both stand apart from each other narratively, even as they support each other thematically.