There is some irony that this book should come out this week, when the world itself seems increasingly insane and yet the world of comic books seems to be returning to some semblance of organized chaos as the printing and shipping of new comics resumes. And who better to serve as a symbol of that beautiful madness than the Caliph of Clowns and Mogul of Mountebanks, the one and only Joker?
As with the Robin and Catwoman Super Spectaculars that came out earlier this year, the idea behind this comic is simple enough. 100 Pages of new stories and pin-ups centered around The Joker, crafted by some of the finest Batman writers and artists of all time.. Typical anthology/buffet rules – if you don’t like something, move on to the next offering. There’s bound to be something here you’ll enjoy.
The biggest takeaway here is “What Comes After A Joke?” – a story by current Batman writer James Tynion IV with art by Mikel Janin, which sets up the upcoming Joker War storyline that will take place across the Batman family of books over the next few months. The story also gives us an origin story of sorts for Joker’s new henchwench/girlfriend Punchline. If you’re already reading the main Batman comic, this story adds a little more context to this week’s Batman #92 where Harley Quinn confronts Punchline for the first time.
Another solid story contained in this volume is “Introducing The Dove Corps.” Written by legendary Batman author/editor Denny O’Neil with art by the equally legendary Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, this story is based around a ludicrously unthinkable idea – The Joker joining a new UN-backed group of pacifist soldiers who arm themselves with non-lethal weaponry. Why? He was bored and wanted a challenge and nobody else was interested in his ideas for an itching powder cannon.
Perhaps the most surprising story is “Birthday Bugs,” which was written by DCeased author Tom Taylor with art by Eduardo Risso. This story sees Joker trying to track down one of his henchmen, who he suspects of ratting him out to the police, only to find the henchman’s son – a weird kid who likes torturing bugs – is all alone on his birthday. This leads The Joker to start organizing an impromptu party for the young sadist at gun point and taking on the role of a party clown. I won’t spoil the ending, but you’ll probably laugh at this story even as you feel slightly guilty for doing so.
I think my favorite piece in this book is “The Last Smile,” which was written by Paul Dini (of Batman: The Animated Series fame and co-creator of Harley Quinn, in case you didn’t know) with art by Riley Rossmo. Told in flashback, the story depicts a reoccurring nightmare that The Joker had every night and the one thing that truly terrified the Harlequin of Hate. It’s an insightful story but, in typical fashion for Dini, it is also darkly hilarious and sweetly sad – something I was not expecting from this book. But then again, what is The Joker if not unpredictable?
The Joker 80th Anniversary 100 Page Super Spectacular #1 releases on June 9th, 2020!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.