Mr. Smiles Goes To Happyville In Joker: Killer Smile #1

by Josh Davison

[*Mild Spoilers Ahead!]

Dr. Ben Arnell is a psychologist who has tasked himself with doing the impossible: curing the Joker. Arnell wants to know what makes the Clown Prince of Crime tick, but he knows that the Joker isn’t to be trusted. After this session, Dr. Hutchins tells Arnell that he only has two weeks left to get this done; Hutchins won’t allow it to go on any longer. That night, Arnell goes home to his family, and he reads a strange and perverse children’s story to his son. The next day, the Joker recites the story to Arnell word-for-word, and Arnell must grapple with the fact that the Joker may already be in his head.

Joker: Killer Smile #1 cover by Andrea Sorrentino
Joker: Killer Smile #1 cover by Andrea Sorrentino

Joker: Killer Smile #1 brings us a man who believes the unthinkable: that the Joker can be cured. We already know that cannot be done and that the Joker will inevitably play with Arnell as long as it amuses him.

The question then becomes how this will backfire on Arnell and how dire it will be. Will the Joker openly go after Arnell, or will he amuse himself by tormenting Arnell behind the glass?

The proceedings of the first issue, at the risk of wandering into spoiler territory, resembles the relationship between Rorschach/Walter Kovacs and psychiatrist Dr. Malcom Long in Watchmen. What the Joker has may very well be contagious, and Arnell may be catching it.

Arnell is already proving to be an interesting character too. He’s optimistic and ambitious. He’s not deluded, but he sees the opportunity that the Joker offers to the psychology world.

Andrea Sorrentino doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. His distinct and eerie style suits the Joker and Arkham Asylum excellently. There’s an air of desolation and misery in the pages of this comic, and that’s just the kind of atmosphere Arkham needs. Jordie Bellaire contributes a similarly cold and off-putting color palette that conveys the doom that awaits Joker, Arnell, and anyone close to them.

Joker: Killer Smile #1 isn’t a shocking or mind-blowing comic, but it’s well-paced, unnerving, and captivating. Arnell is a doomed figure, but you want to know how he’ll fall. It’s unlikely that any grand revelations about the Joker will come out, but you hang on his every word nonetheless. This comic definitely earns a recommendation. Feel free to give it a read.

Joker: Killer Smile #1 comes to us from writer Jeff Lemire, artist and cover artist Andrea Sorrentino, color artist Jordie Bellaire, letterer Steve Wands, and variant cover artist Kaare Andrews.

Final Score: 8.5/10

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