THREE JOKERS #1/ Script by GEOFF JOHNS/ Art by JASON FABOK/ Colors by BRAD ANDERSON/ Letters by ROB LEIGH/ Published by DC COMICS
Buckle up, kids! There’s a fair bit of backstory I need to go through before I start discussing Three Jokers. Partly because it’s been four years since this storyline was first teased and Unca Starman isn’t sure even HE remembers it all at this point.
Back in 2015, in Justice League #42 (the New 52 series, not the current one) Batman briefly usurped the power of the New God of Knowledge and used his phenomenal cosmic power to try and figure out who murdered his parents and the true identity of The Joker. The answer he was given left him shaking his head, saying that was impossible. Eight issues later in Justice League #50, it was revealed that Batman had found out that there were, in fact, Three Jokers.
How? Good question. The answers were to come in a mini-series titled Three Jokers which, owing to Geoff Johns being insanely busy with wearing a lot of hats at DC Entertainment, is just now seeing the light of day. And owing to the assumption that everyone would be coming into this fresh from his run on Justice League, the script for Three Jokers #1 doesn’t do a lot to explain how we got to this point. This is the only flaw in an otherwise entertaining comic, which does nothing to hold your hand yet offers everything we could hope for in a Joker story.
I can and will say a bit more than that, but that’s all I can say without a bit of theorizing that could potentially spoil you all. So abandon this review now if you wish to remain unspoiled and know that I was pleased by this book and recommend it to everyone.
SPOILERS AWAIT YE BEYOND THIS GRAPHIC!
At its core, Three Jokers is an examination of what The Joker means as a character to different people. Is he a comedian who gave himself over to dark comedy? A criminal mastermind who only uses sick humor as a distraction? Or is he a chaotic clown with no method to his madness?
Three Jokers examines the different conflicted takes on The Joker as it exposes what we already guessed; there really are three different Jokers running wild in Gotham City and now they’ve begun coordinating their efforts. Or rather, they’ve stopped hiding that they are coordinating their efforts.
Johns brilliantly decided to examine The Joker through the three heroes most closely tied to him; Batman, the Barbara Gordon Batgirl and the Red Hood, Jason Todd. Each of them have their own reasons for hating The Joker. Each of them have their own methods for trying to track him down and their own ideas of what justice entails.
Beyond that, I’ll say nothing, save that Johns nails the interactions between these characters and builds the drama beautifully. At the same time, Johns lays some groundwork to canonize the various backgrounds that have been assigned to The Joker over the years including, quite possibly, making the 1989 Batman movie origin canon.
The artwork is equally well sculpted. Johns and Jason Fabok have worked together before on other projects and it is clear Johns’ has a good idea on how to script his stories to push Fabok’s artistic strengths. The artwork is vividly detailed, yet depicted with smooth line-work that avoids becoming over-cluttered. Paired with the colors of Brad Anderson and the letters of Rob Leigh, this is one fantastic looking book.
As I said earlier, the only real flaw to Three Jokers #1 is that it doesn’t recount the build-up to this story that well and throws new readers into the deep end of the pool with little chance to acclimate themselves before things start to get strange. While this is a fairly big problem, fans of these creators and those who know what they need to know going in will find this to be a ripping yarn. This is The Joker story we’ve literally been waiting to see for years and it thankfully proved worth the wait.