Batman: Three Jokers was one of the most anticipated releases that DC Comics had. Now that DC Comics finally released the first issue of Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s Batman: Three Jokers the comic book did not hit the way I thought it would. Rather than be excited for the where the story will go I can’t help but feel tired after reading the first issue. It wasn’t an exhausting with Batman, Batgirl, or Red Hood. It was an exhaustion with Joker. That exhaustion comes down to the fact that it is time for DC Comics to retire the Joker character.
Batman: Three Jokers is a story that should be engaging for someone like myself who is a massive Batman fan. Johns and Fabok are answering the questions behind how Joker has evolved over the years. But the unfortunate fact is DC Comics did not do this series any favors by having Batman: Three Jokers being one of three major Joker stories going on. Due to scheduling Batman Three Jokers is being released in a time where we have Batman Who Laughs, an amalgamation of Batman and Joker, as a lead in Dark Nights: Death Metal and “Joker War” by James Tynion over in the main Batman series.
A strong argument can be made we have way too many Batman-related stories going right but all these stories highlight why Joker should be given a long break by DC Comics. With so many appearances at the same time right now you just become numb to the villain’s appearance. There is just nothing special to a character that should be Batman’s #1 villain. Joker has just that DC decided to push in every major comic book they are publishing in the second half of 2020.
From a story perspective Joker is a character who supersedes every character not named Batman when he appears. Just in Gotham City alone there is no villain that is able to match Joker whenever he appears. Which is saying something when many argue Batman has the best Rogues Gallery. The fact is whenever Joker appears that incredible Batman Rogues Gallery just disappears. “Joker War” is an example of that as all the villains have gone into hiding instead of taking advantage of the new Gotham City.
But the bigger thing that both Batman: Three Jokers and Tynion’s “Joker War” have highlighted is the fact that Joker is holding the Batman Family back from developing. Barbara Gordon and Jason Todd, who star in Three Jokers, are examples of that fact. While both characters have been involved in a lot of major storylines the fact remains that they are still most tied to The Killing Joker and Death In The Family storylines. DC Comics and creative teams have not allowed Barbara Gordon and Jason Todd to be defined by other big storylines like they have for Batman.
Beyond Three Jokers, we saw an example of that in Batgirl #47, a tie-in to “Joker War,” where once again we saw a new version of The Killing Joke play out between Barbara Gordon and Joker. Rather than creating a new story for Barbara Gordon to fight Joker in we are treated to what was just a replay of The Killing Joke in the current continuity. The only new element was the fact that Barbara and Joker were both left in a state of unconsciousness. Which is a shame because given what’s gone on in “Joker War” we could’ve seen Batgirl rise up to defend Gotham City as Batman has been out of it, Catwoman is MIA, and all the Robins are away dealing with their own drama.
Similarly, even though Jason Todd has been working as an anti-hero under the Red Hood moniker all major storylines involving the character has gone back to the Joker. DC Comics just has not given Jason a chance to be known as more than the Robin that was killed by Joker. When Jason pulled that trigger in Batman: Three Jokers #1 all that came to mind was that his appearance in Three Jokers is the most notable thing he has done since his return.
All of that falls on the shoulders of DC Comics who just cannot let these character move on beyond Death In The Family and Killing Joker. It is one thing for Bruce, Barbara, Jason, and the Batman Family to have lasting scars from confrontations with the Joker. It is another to not try to do anything new when you have any member of the Batman Family take on Joker. They are all stuck in the same cycle from the events of stories like Killing Joker and Death In The Family. No matter the creative staff revisiting 30+ year old stories is always the go to for Joker stories.
Luckily not all is lost. DC Comics is in a good spot to give the Joker character an extended retirement that can actually make the Batman franchise as a whole stronger. Through the Batman: Three Jokers and “Joker War” stories we have ways for the character to exit and give others a chance to shine. At the same time, DC’s Batman staff can work in the idea of Joker still being present through Punchline, whose popular just continues to grow since she first appeared. She can move forward in leading the Joker Gang so the group could be like the version we saw in Batman Beyond cartoon except with an actual leader in the form of Punchline.
All of this comes down to DC Comics actually going through with that decision. It would be the best for the longevity of the Batman Family as there would no longer be prisoners to the baggage that comes with every Joker appearance.
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