The final issue of one of the most hyped prestige mini-series in a while, and one that fails miserably. Another derivative take on a Batman classic, ‘The Killing Joke’ that doesn’t add anything much to either Batman or the Joker’s stories in the main DCU. Even as a sequel to ‘The Killing Joke’, it isn’t all that great a payoff either. What a way to take the work of Alan Moore and drag it through the mud not once (Doomsday Clock) but twice. Shame on you Geoff Johns.
Please bear with me on this one, but I feel some context is in order ahead of my review of Batman: Three Jokers #3 having berated the first two issues of a series other critics seem to be loving. I start this final review for Batman: Three Jokers #3 looking back and wondering what could have been. What could have come of this, and for that matter Doomsday Clock, if it hadn’t been for all of the scheduling problems as well as Johns’ rather unceremonious departure from DC Comics. I can’t help feel that this whole project will be eventually put down to nothing more than an Elseworlds’ storyline, if I hasn’t already. After all, it’s being put out under the DC Black Label imprint which, to my recollection, was designed for such stories. Further evidence of this is the presence of the yellow oval Batman emblem on his chest. Something we saw in the aforementioned Doomsday Clock but not yet to appear in the main Batman book. And, the Joker in that book is a far cry from any of the three we’ve seen in this book.
Clearly time has moved on, and there are different people running DC Comics and different talents writing their books. Talents who had their own vision of the future of the DCU causing many a rewrite (e.g. Flash Forward) and rethinking and repositioning (e.g. 5G). Sadly, for this fan boy, Johns’ star has definitely dwindled and sunk, leaving behind a sour taste that has only lingered until now and the final curtain on his time at DC Comics. And, having given us an amazing run on Superman and Action Comics before the New 52 and Rebirth wiped out any legacy he left. But then, I am reminded that these runs were a decade ago. That’s a long time in comics. And, I doubt anyone expect the likes of Scott Snyder and now his protege, James Tynion IV to have had such an impact at the company. Now, as Snyder is set to leave DC Comics too, it is his vision that seems to have taken centre stage. It will be his legacy that rebuilds the DCU yet again. And, for the third time in a decade too.
Now, with that out of the way, how does Batman: Three Jokers #3 stack up as Johns’ last hurrah? After all, I wasn’t a fan of the first two issues and felt they were just too derivative. Especially coming out so soon after the unsatisfactory conclusion of Doomsday Clock. Lazy storytelling by a writer who should know better. In a nutshell: more weak sauce from a one time hot writer. But, I’ll elaborate on this and explain why others are simply wrong to praise this book so readily.
Well, first off, the mystery of the three Jokers is quickly cleared up on the opening pages. Not much of a mystery really when it’s explained and another nail in Johns’ coffin for me. I can barely recognise the writing talent who was such a guiding force at DC Comics for so long. Again, I am reminded of how dangerous James Tynion IV’s Joker was during the ‘Joker War’. By comparison, this guy is far too tame, far too unambitious. Especially as both storylines include a trip to the Monarch Theatre to really hammer home the vast differences between the two versions by inviting readers to compare the two takes.
But then, every writer has his or her take on the Joker. Everyone who writes Batman wants their say, their meta-take on the Clown Prince of Crime with each writer psychoanalysing him in their own different way. Unfortunately, Johns’s take has already been out done. First by Snyder (even BEFORE this title was originally announced) on his groundbreaking New 52 run and now by Tynion IV too. Everyone wants an attempt at a home run, but sometimes you strike out instead. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams gave a whole generation or readers and creators a definitive and darker Joker, while Frank Miller gave us his own twisted take in The Dark Knight Returns, with Alan Moore and Brian Bolland offering up The Killing Joke which, as we can see in this series, is heavily borrowed from, narratively and stylistically. I doubt this one will go down in the annals of history, do you?
There is simply nothing shocking, nor memorable about how this all plays out. Other than the fabulous artwork by Jason Fabok, who really saves this book, I was left empty after this drawn out story was concluded. It added nothing to the mythos of the Joker whatsoever. When it is revealed that the Joker knows Batman’s true identity, even that loses any impact as it’s something Tynion IV’s Joker played upon in the ‘Joker War’. Talk about bad timing.
The final twist only works if you position this as nothing more than a direct sequel to The Killing Joke. It’s the only way to read this and even more proof that this was just another ‘what if’ story that has no relationship to the DCU Batman. An imaginary story with, therefore, no baring on the mainstream Batman. Having pissed all over Alan Moore’s legacy on Doomsday Clock, I can’t believe he follows this up by taking a dump on The Killing Joke too. A shameful money grab by DC Comics and a sad farewell for Johns. Ultimately, this reads more like fan fiction (but, I suppose all comics are these days, right?) but with a lot of money behind it.
But, amongst it all, there was a joke, even if it was of my own making. The joke that for all those villains Batman beat down and locked up – and usually in a mental institution – never once has he or Gotham succeeded in rehabilitating any of them. Yet the one villain who is rehabilitated is Joe Chill. A man who found his own redemption and peace while serving time for killing the Waynes all those years ago and for nothing Batman did. All those years and his one true success was someone he had nothing to do with whatsoever. Now, that really is worth laughing about, isn’t it?
Batman: Three Jokers #3 is out now from DC Comics/DC Black Label