Its just Jim and Mike this week talking comics, the give you their thoughts on the first Aquaman book in the New 52 ‘The Trench’, then Jim shares his thoughts on the Brian Michael Bendis run on Superman and Action Comics, Mike talks about the Greg Rucka Wonder Woman run and we find out whats next on our read list!!
Writer – Jeff Lemire
Artist – Andrea Sorrentino, Jordie Bellaire
DC Black Label
I recently submitted my first review for Earth-9, which was the DC Black label series of Joker – Killer Smile, a series which I found myself really enjoying, so it seems only fitting that I follow that up with the one shot epilogue to that series.
First, it’s worth stating that although this is a one shot issue, this issue does not stand well on it’s own, if you haven’t read the Joker Killer Smile miniseries, it’s safe to say this book may not make a whole lot of sense.
I’d also like to say this will be a quite short review, as I don’t want to give away too much around the details from the story.
What Killer Smile did well was focus on the question of what is real and what isn’t. It focused on Ben Arnell and his descent into madness while questioning what is real and what is not.
In this book, the same question is asked of Bruce Wayne. We alternate between Bruce as a child and Bruce as an adult, while he is locked in a cell in Arkham, seemingly with Ben Arnell.
It starts us off with Bruce watching kids TV, and he’s watching Mr Smiles, which we saw in the previous series in the children’s book interludes. This is followed by Batman chasing down and fighting the Joker, before cutting to Bruce in Arkham, and at one pint even questioning what happened to Bruce’s parents.
We see scenes of Bruce with “doctor” James Gordon as both a child and adult, and we also see scenes of Batman and Joker, although these are mostly drawn to reflect clouds of gas.
The book does a good job of never really confirming what is or isn’t real leaving the reader to decide on what they are seeing. Are the gas cloud Batman / Joker scenes some kind of Joker toxin, or are they dream sequences? It is all left open for people to decide for themselves.
Overall this is a very enjoyable read and fits with the Killer Smile series very well, however, as stated at the beginning, it will only make any sense if you have read the Killer Smile series. The book follows perfectly with the themes presented in Killer Smile, and uses them in a very slightly different way. It allows the reader to decided exactly what they are seeing by making everything ambiguous and questionable, right down to it’s ending which is even presented at the end of the book as THE END ?
Definitely worth a read, and a worthy follow to the Killer Smile series.
Writer – Jeff Lemire,
Artist – Andrea Sorrentino, Jordie Bellaire
DC Black Label
I may be a little late to the party with a book that was first published in October 2019, but hey, we’re in lockdown, so I’m catching up on some reading, and buying too many back issues on eBay.
This is the most recent complete run I’ve picked, and with it being only 3 issues it seemed like it would be a reasonably quick read.
First off, let’s just address that this is not your average Joker story with him being hunted by Batman with Harley to tow. This is very much presented a psychological horror / thriller in a similar vein to The Silence of the Lambs.
The series follows Dr Ben Arnell, who believes he can be successful in curing Joker, all the while severely underestimating how easily the Joker can get into his head and under his skin.
After interviewing Joker, Ben starts to notice bizarre things that he feels can link to Joker, including a children’s book interlude about Mr Smiles and the Happy Village, which is a bedtime story he reads to his son, until it turns bloody and violent. Ben relates this directly to Joker and begins to question his own mind, while assuring his wife all is well, while at the same time becoming jumpy and having to investigate sounds he hears at night.
In issue 2, Ben’s descent into his own madness continues as he visits a dream world that inhabited by special people, people who are insane. The dream takes him to a diner named Arkham’s where Two-Face is the manager and Harley is the waitress, and all the other Batman rogues a dotted around the place. Once Ben awakes, he is not sure if his reality of waking up in bed with his wife is real or not.
He continues his interview sessions with Joker, despite the feeling he is losing his grip on reality, when Joker throws another curveball by suggesting he knows all about Ben’s family.
It’s difficult not give too many spoilers, especially from this point onwards, so I’m going to try and wrap this up with an overall summary, although I’ve barely touched issues 2 and 3.
As I stated above, this is very much a psychological thriller, and it wasn’t what I expected going into it. While the concept of the Joker corrupting his doctors is not a new one, because the book focuses on Dr Ben Arnell, the Joker almost becomes a secondary character which makes the story feel fresh, even though a lot of the book is simply set as a doctor interviewing a patient.
The artwork is very different from what you might normally expect from a “Batman Universe” book, and if I’m honest, I wasn’t sure it was for me when I first started to read, but actually as the story moves on, with it’s twists and turns, the artwork fits really well. I’m still not sure on children’s story book interludes, but they are something different and do fit with the story well.
Killer Smile is a gritty and disturbing look into how the Joker can manipulate people and, although this is a comic book, there are definitely elements that you can believe would happen in some families in the real world, which makes then impact even harder.