Ricky Church reviews Batman: Three Jokers #2…
After the first issue of Geoff Johns’ Batman: Three Jokers met its very high expectations, Three Jokers #2 builds off that anticipation with a story that raises the intrigue, character development and horror as Batman, Batgirl and Red Hood continue their investigation into the mysterious three Jokers.
Much of the strength of the second chapter comes from how character driven Johns makes the story as it focuses on the trauma Red Hood has suffered through and Batman and Batgirl’s reactions to his consequential choice in the previous issue. Red Hood gets the majority of the spotlight here as he breaks off on his own once again, but quickly finds himself in over his head with history repeating itself. Johns also utilized an opportunity to delve into Red Hood and Batgirl’s relationship, something that has been rarely mined from before since they both have unique experiences with The Joker. There is a moment between them that comes off a little abrupt and might shock some fans, but overall it works to highlight just how much this situation (not to mention Jason’s first run in with The Joker) has unsettled him.
Batman himself doesn’t get to do too much as he follows a couple threads The Jokers have left him, though one of which ties into a figure very personal to him. There is a great moment where Batman, as he’s introducing himself to this figure, momentarily chokes up and starts over in a more threatening manner. It’s a momentary lapse, but shows how Batman’s image slips when it comes to this person due to his own trauma. Batman’s role was still mostly to deliver exposition and muse on Red Hood’s state of mind. Hopefully Batman will feature more heavily into the concluding issue since he has the most experience with The Jokers, but the trade-off of placing the focus on Red Hood and Batgirl was really beneficial too.
As for the main villain(s), Johns writes a very intriguing and often creepy take on The Joker. This issue focuses more on the Joker designated ‘The Criminal’, the one seen on the issue’s cover, that would appear to be the original. Unlike last issue’s Clown Joker and Comedian Joker, Criminal Joker has a very different personality where he is much more calm, collected and soft-spoken. In only two instances does his image crack: the first where he gets angry at the death of The Clown and the second where he cannot stop himself from laughing and has a drastically different reaction to laughter than any Joker we’ve seen. The Criminal Joker has an incredibly unsettling presence and makes it even clearer that he is the boss of the three Jokers. The Comedian Joker has a distinct personality compared to The Criminal and is very much built off The Killing Joke‘s interpretation of Joker in his behaviour and image.
Image is a very important aspect as it leads to the real star of the show, artist Jason Fabok. The art is so well done and detailed with Fabok’s talent shining through in each and every panel. From his expressive faces, settings and clear movements in the action, there is a lot to examine throughout the book. A lot of the success in making the two remaining Jokers feel distinct from one another is how Fabok depicts them. Much of the creepiness from Criminal Joker is thanks to Fabok’s rendering of his stance or the coldness of his eyes. Fabok even leans into a lot of horror elements as he displays ravage Jokerized dogs, a pool full of bloated bodies or zombielike people attacking Batman and Batgirl. One of the most striking sequences though comes from the pair discovering Red Hood’s beaten and naked body full of scars and bruises. Fabok’s detail is quite good and is complete with Brad Anderson’s colours. Anderson really makes the environments give off that horror vibe with his dark shadows or making the bodies look very disgusting or how he uses colours to help differentiate The Jokers. It’s a real treat to see how Fabok and Anderson’s work compliment each other to create a simultaneously gorgeous and hideous (in a good way) book.
Batman: Three Jokers #2 is a successful middle chapter to this miniseries. Johns writes a captivating story that, while light on answers, has some fantastic character insight that plays with a couple different genres. Fabok’s art steals the show with his attention to detail while Anderson utilizes vivid colours to make each and every panel shine. The cliffhanger at the issue’s end leads to a lot of questions around how this will turn out and where Johns is going, something every good series should do to raise the stakes and keep the intrigue fresh.
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