Comic Corner: Three Jokers #2

Previously- Three Jokers #1|Coming soon- Three Jokers #3

Three Jokers was written by Geoff Johns, with art by Jason Fabok. The colours are by Brad Anderson and letters by Rob Leigh.

What do you need to have read?
As it is part of DC’s Black Label imprint you do not need to have read anything to read Three Jokers. However, I do think that your reading experience will be enhanced if you’ve read The Killing Joke, Under the Red Hood, and A Death in the Family. If will be impossible to talk about Three Jokers without spoiling these books so please be aware of spoilers.

What do you need to know?
In the previous issue, we learnt that there are three separate Jokers: The Criminal, The Comedian, and The Clown. They’re working together on a master plan, which Batman, Batgirl, and Red Hood are trying to get to the bottom of. After incapacitating The Clown Jason murders him in cold blood, leaving two Jokers left.

The cover of Three Jokers Book 2 shows a very pensive Joker, referred to as The Criminal. He has the traditional green hair, white skin, red lips, and wears a purple coat and gloves.

The issue begins with a four-page sequence taking place at a family dinner with a husband, wife, and son. The son is reluctant to join in out of fear of his father, who we recognise as a Joker. While the wife is smiling, it’s very evident that it’s a forced grin and then she feels the same as her son. This heavily references The Killing Joke, from the setting down the colour of the food.

This is revealed to be a product of the Joker’s imagination, whom due to the referenced to The Killing Joke we assume to be The Comedian. In reality, he’s sitting in their hideout and eating a tin of cat food, as opposed to the homecooked octopus. While he seems to be enjoying his little make-believe the Criminal interrupts. It’s clear that he does not regard The Comedian very highly at all and is eager to get on with their plan.

I’m not sure that I’ve properly mentioned Jason Fabok’s art yet but it’s gorgeous. There are so many panels, and pages, which I believe will become iconic images in the future. One such example is the page of different panels showing the dead Joker from the previous issue. It hammers home the fact that Jason Todd, Red Hood, Robin- whatever you want to call him- shot a Joker in the head. When was the last time you saw a dead Joker? The panels get closer and closer to his corpse until we see flies buzzing around a close upon his face. It is gruesome. It is creepy. It’s just plain awesome.

Batman arrives at the scene of the murder of Walls, a retired judge to find Joe Chill’s fingerprints on the murder weapon. If you recall, Joe Chill is the murderer of Bruce’s parents and is currently serving out his sentence in Blackgate Prison. The development takes Batman to Chill’s cell. The number on the cell is 0331939, which is a reference to 30th of March 1939, the day that Batman #1 was published. It’s a quick little easter egg but that’s also the day of Joker’s debut to the world, where he was actually introduced as a bit of a throwaway villain and brought back due to popularity. The cell is empty, but Batman and Batgirl find Chill in the hospital infirmary dying of cancer. It is evident that he is in no fit state to murder anybody else.

While this is going on Jason is hot on the trail of the missing chemicals which leads him to an abandoned indoor pool. Interestingly, he had a crowbar in his hand as a weapon because that is, of course, the weapon used to murder him in Batman: A Death in the Family. Similar to how he adopted the Red Hood disguise from the Joker, he has also adopted the weapon from the same source.

The scenes within the pool building are all sorts of disgusting as Jason finds lots of people who are almost part Joker. Someone has tried to transform them and failed. One of these Joker-Rejects reveals themselves to be alive mirrors the theme of unfinished business between which is prevalent in this book. You see it between Jason and the Joker, with Batman and Joe Chill, and with Barbara and her Joker. After having defended himself against one Jason is captured by another Joker. This is a keen reminder than just because one Joker is dead that doesn’t mean you can let your guard down.

Close up of Jason Todd in his Red Hood helmet. The helmet has been cracked in places by a crowbar, revealing is eyes. A sinister smile has also been drawn onto the helmet. 

Text bubble reads: 
Yuh- You better make sure I stuh- stay dead this time
Jason stays sassy till the very end.

When Jason wakes up, he’s naked and tied to a chair, very Casino Royale (2006) style and his kidnapper is revealed to be The Criminal. The two have a conversation where The Criminal reveals something very interesting. He tells Jason that it hurts him to laugh. I absolutely love this concept because it connects this Joker to pain, rather than to pleasure. Even when we think that he’s deriving pleasure from something, exemplified by his laughter, it is causing him great pain. It draws upon traditional concepts of clowns with painted smiles so that they are never not-smiling. Also, it connects to the way that Joker has vandalised the Red Hood helmet by painting a smile on it, so that Jason looks as though he is smiling, though the sight is uncomfortable and unnerving.

The conversation also draws a comparison between Joker and Jason through their rebirths and rebranding. It’s just a fascinating conversation as The Criminal places Jason’s Red Hood helmet back on him but he’s drawn a Joker smile on the front.

He reveals his theory that Jason would make a brilliant joker and proceeds to beat him to death once more to bring on another birth. Notably, this would be his third (Natural birth, Lazarus pit, this) birth. I love the way everything keeps coming back to groups of threes to reinforce the whole concept of having three Jokers. Even looking at the traditional Batman characters he holds three identities (Public Bruce, Private Bruce, Batman) or Jason Todd (Jason, Robin, Red Hood). He then proceeds to bludgeon Jason to death with a crowbar. I’d be interested to know if this was the crowbar that Jason brought with him, and it is now being used against him, or if Joker always had a crowbar on hand for this process. I also love that this sequence ends with a plain red panel. The colour represents both deaths, with the association to blood, but also Jason as Red Hood. It’s alarming and almost violently bright in comparison to the rest of the panels across these two pages that it really catches your eye.

Batman and Batgirl finally arrive and after taking on hordes of these gross failed-Jokers, with assistance from the Batmobile they track down Jason. Although we don’t see Bruce’s face upon discover Jason beaten on the floor, I think that his emotion is conveyed brilliantly through his speech bubble. It is one single bubble, in the corner of the scene, but it is bigger than the normal speech bubbles in this book and filled with ‘Jason!?’ in bold. This may seem like a small detail, but I do think that it conveys a lot of emotion, because the sight of Jason’s body must take him back to carrying Jason’s corpse in Batman: Death in the Family. This also mirrors Jason’s emotional response a couple of panels later. This is interesting because while Jason always wants to distance himself from Bruce, this is a reminder than they are still family.

Batman and Batgirl face off against a naked army of laughing Joker prototypes.
Night of the Living Jokers

Barbara takes Jason back to her place, where we are reminded that her journey from The Killing Joke to here has not been easy. This also draws parallels not only between Jason and her recovery from their physical injuries but Bruce’s reaction to both characters. Instead on sticking around to make sure that Jason is okay, Bruce leaves to run down some leads. While Barbara yells at this, it reminds me of Jason asking Bruce to kill Joker in Under the Red Hood. As a result, it makes me wonder whether this reaction is for Jason’s benefit, in addition to his own need to emotionally distance from Jason.

The issue Jason and Barbara sharing a kiss. I don’t hate this, and I see those parallels between them, but I can’t get behind them as a couple. This is probably my least favourite part of this story. Alternatively, we also see Bruce looking at past crimes of the three different Jokers, and then The Comedian filming Joe Chill.

Three Jokers #2 is available from Comixology, Forbidden Planet, or your local comic book store.

Alternatively, you can also now pick up the Three Jokers hardcover from Forbidden Planet, or your local comic book store.

Coming Soon… Three Jokers #3

In the meantime, why not check out… Three Jokers #1, Under the Red Hood or Batman: White Knight.

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