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Sunday, December 1, 2013






Artist: Lee Bermejo

Brian Azzarello


superhero needs a nemesis and The Joker has served Batman well over the years.
His white face, green hair, psychotic grin and manic laugh have remained
something of a constant, making his visage almost as iconic as Batman’s cape
and cowl. But he’s also prone to reinvention, with each generation making a
darker, more disturbing Joker. Alan Moore’s crippling rapist in 1988′s The
Killing Joke became a low water mark in his evil career though. And while
Azzerello and Bermejo provide him with a nasty looking carved-in grin, and
paint him as a murderous, psychotic bully, he doesn’t quite stoop so low in
this violent reworking.

is, however, a ruthless gangster. Finding himself freed from Arkham Asylum on
the grounds that he’s cured (and thus falling into one of superhero comics’
eternal problems – why aren’t these guys just sent straight to the chair?), The
Joker returns to Gotham to retake his position as king of crime. In his
absence, characters like The Penguin and Two-Face have muscled in on his territory
– foolish mistakes they’ll live to regret, as The Joker re-takes his slice of
the action, along with a bit more for his trouble. In other words, The Joker
isn’t cured – he’s as bad as ever. Now there’s a surprise. Someone at Arkham’s
going to lose their job.

this is seen through the perspective of one of The Joker’s henchmen, Jonny
Frost, who quickly rises into position as his right-hand man, second only to
silent and undoubtedly deeply disturbed lap-dancing girlfriend Harley Quinn.
It’s Jonny’s voice we hear throughout the book, as he learns the ropes of
dealing with The Joker and boasts that, through his close bond with the master
criminal, he has finally become someone of note.

take on The Joker deals far more with the politics of crime than we’re used to
seeing. We see how he deals with his rivals and why there could never really be
a collective union of super-villains, with so little honor amongst these
thieves. Bermejo’s darker, grittier take on this pantheon of villains is a stunning
job, taking the characteristics that make them who they are and grounding them
with contemporary fashions and henchmen. His Gotham is dark, brooding and

story is flawed only by its eventual and begrudgingly necessary adherence to
the cycle of the superhero story which, while tempered with a different
perspective, is necessarily still locked into this three act piece. If you can
cope with this, however, we’re sure you’ll agree that the voice Azzerello gives
The Joker is a definitive fit we’re likely to hear again. At least until the
next time the character goes through a reinvention.

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