Author: Brian Azzarello
Publisher: DC Comics
The Joker?! Released from Arkham?! Talk about Insanity! - 4 stars - a book review
The premise of Joker is nearly unbelievable; however, given that premise, the story is believable beyond a shadow of doubt. Joker, in Joker, is in prime form, after being released from Arkham Asylum (for reasons never told, much like the vague and contradicting answers given in The Dark Knight about Joker's scars) and is starting from scratch, with nothing; no money, no help, and he considers "his city" in the toilet due to the negligence and greedy of his former associates. Anyone who thought they had the last laugh when Joker went away is in for the surprise of his life.
Joker's story is top notch; the reader is escorted through a journey with Joker as he tries to reinsert himself into the bowels of Gotham City through the vantage point of a henchman named Jonny Frost, Joker's newest loyal member, and the only guy who picks Joker up from Arkham. Joker starts calling in his old boys to deliver a message: the Joker that they all feared (and readers love) is back. The cast of characters include The Penguin, Killer Croc (in a more human rendition), Two-Face, Harley Quinn, the Riddler, and Batman.
The portrayal of Joker in this graphic novel is the side of Joker that I have always loved more than the others. As you can see, the imagery is strikingly similar to the Heath Ledger portrayal in The Dark Knight, with the ratty faded purple suit and makeup/scars. This is not the bright purple outfit, smiling, wise cracking jester (although Joker does have some great funny moments, although they are most likely only funny to Joker and the reader, as it should be). This Joker is out for blood and no joke will satisfy. The story is gruesome in parts but completely within the realm of plausibility, considering the subject matter.
For the most part, the illustrations are absolutely stunning, and do an excellent job of making the Joker, his associates, and Gotham come to life. This is a back alley story with only a couple of scenes in "higher society," and Lee Bermejo makes the setting a place you don't want to be, night or day. The only (minor) problem I have with the art is that the style switches from panel to panel during some of the story. At times, it is 100% illustration (and well done) and then the next panel will appear almost like a real picture or computer generated image (smudged for grits sake). While I appreciate both styles, I am a person that prefers consistency from panel to panel, from beginning to end.
The only other drawback of Joker is the fact that it is so short. Joker definitely should have been serialized since there is enough material here for several books of the same size. Many times, Joker does something where the plot would have benefited from a little more background (or visualization during the moment, since many times Joker just does stuff with no explanation). Although an excellent story, it almost left me unsatisfied since I felt it could have been a lot deeper, less rushed, and more impactful than it was; however, given the length, it does pack quite a punch.
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