After burning down Gotham City, leading Batman to financial ruin, and killing many people inside Arkham Asylum Joker is getting rewarded with his own ongoing series as part of Infinite Frontier. Normally I am not interested in a comic book that has a villain in the lead role. I’ve found myself less interested whenever we have gotten villains given their own comic book series as what kind of light they will be portrayed in is a tough thing to juggle. But the reason I am giving the new Joker series a shot is because it is being written by James Tynion. Thus far Tynion has not let me down with his work on both the Detective Comics and Batman series. Through his Batman run Tynion has set up a lot of story angles that can be explored in other comic books. Which is why I’m willing to give The Joker a shot as I am fully invested in what Tynion has planned for the Batman Family. Let’s find out what those plans are with The Joker #1.
Writers: James Tynion IV (The Joker and Punchline stories); Sam Johns (Punchline back-up story)
Artists: Guillem March (The Joker main story); Mirka Andolfo (Punchline back-up story)
Colorists: Arif Prianto (The Joker main story); Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Punchline back-up story)
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At Abernalhy’s Bar in Chicago, Jim Gordon sits alone drinking while thinking of how things didn’t end on the best note at the Chicago Police Department now that he is leaving for a promotion that others are calling the transfer to hell in Gotham City.
Danny Ryan, another cop whose dad was a golden boy in the Chicago PD during Al Capone’s days, asks Jim if he has found his own Boogeyman. Jim asks Danny what he talking about. Danny recalls a case where he found the criminal eating his victims and was never able to catch him. He goes on to say that the visual he saw continues to haunt him as he knows he saw pure evil that night. Jim leaves the bar and heads to the train station to go to Gotham City.
In the present Jim has another nightmare of Joker.
Later he thinks of how the events of A-Day are being reported and reacted to by the public as that was the day every calls for the death of Arkham Asylum. Jim recalls how the altered version of the classic Joker Toxin was released in Arkham Asylum, with the only surviving guard saving the nurses lives at severe damage to himself. He mentions Jeremiah Arkham, Jonathan Crane, Bane, and countless others have been declared dead.
Jim finds a vigil created at a mural for Bane as some citizens have come to see him as a symbol of strength.
Jim then goes to meet Mayor Nakano, who is now running the GCPD in a new direction after Harvey Bullock resignation. Mayor Nakano shows Jim images that prove that Joker was at Arkham before A-Day, when they believe he planted bombs that would go off months later. Nakano offers Jim a role in the Joker case but Jim declines it. Jim suggests instead working with Batman but Nakano says that is a no go.
Back home Jim reflects on his own life and still feels haunted by Joker (the version from Killing Joke).
As he goes on Jim comes across some criminals who have taken on clown fashion after being inspired by Punchline. When he tries to have dinner with Barbara Gordon he can’t forget what Joker did to his daughter.
Later that night, Jim goes to his son’s (James Gordon, Jr.) grave, and can’t stop but thinking of Joker laughing at him. As he leaves the cemetery a woman approaches him to talk about Joker. Her guard appears behind him so Jim enters the mysterious woman’s car to hear out her offer.
Jim is then taken to a mansion that belonged to a friend of the woman’s family, where she reveals he name is Cressida. Jim asks Cressida why she wants to talk about Joker. Cressida shows Jim images of Joker in Belize that were taken a few weeks after A-Day that show he was at a private airfield owned by her family friend. Jim wonders why Cressida isn’t taken this to the GCPD. Cressida says the people she represents believe Joker has terrorized Gotham for far too long for them to be of use.
Cressida then reveals that those she works for believe Jim to be different as his experience with Joker make him suited to be the one to track down Joker. Jim says he can do that. Cressida then says that they want Jim working alone on this case, that includes leaving Batman out of it. She goes on to say that her group will provide Jim with all their private intelligence and bank card with no limit for the duration of the case and once it is over they’ll pay him $25 million.
This offer stuns Jim as it sounds like a lot to just capture Joker and bring him back to Gotham. Cressida corrects Jim as they are giving him all this to kill the Joker. Jim reminds Cressida he is not a hitman. Cressida says they believe with his personal experience with the Joker he is better than any hitman.
Cressida then asks Jim if he believes in evil. Jim says he does. She says that while some say wealth is evil they both know Joker is the real evil in this world and this job allow him to end his career with doing one last great thing that would benefit him and his daughter. Jim still says he can’t do it. Cressida says the offer will stay on the table and he has the end of the week for his final response.
Remembering back to when he was first Commissioner of the GCPD, Jim thinks of how he heard that at that point Danny Ryan committed suicide after the years of not being able to capture his bogeyman caught up to him. He reflects on how he knew that even when Joker was caught and put behind bars it was never permanent. Jim thinks what Danny said about when seeing evil that he needs to aim for the head.
Over in Belize, Joker reads about the events of A-Day in a newspaper while in a house where he slaughtered the entire family and guards inside. After reading the A-Day story Joker says things are about to get interesting. End of main story.
The Good: It’s always tricky to write a villain comic book without turning the title villain becoming sympathetic or relatable in some way. But when it comes to the Joker the words sympathetic and relatable should never be a words that come up with the character. That is why taking the approach of keeping the Joker as an antagonist while having former Commissioner of the GCPD Jim Gordon as the true protagonist for this series was a smart call by James Tynion IV.
Starting right out of the gate with a young Jim Gordon from his transfer from Chicago to Gotham City was a smart way to frame the narrative for The Joker #1. While experienced we are given a look at what Jim Gordon’s attitude was before everything he has gone through since moving to Gotham City. We see that there is still a naïve aspect to the character that we know will be broken from the character after his move.
Which made the conversation with fellow Chicago PD officer Danny Ryan even more insightful for Jim Gordon’s character. Through this conversation we get an even better idea of how the Joker is a villain that is as personal, if not more so, to Jim Gordon as it has been to Batman. Joker has done so many horrible things to people close to Jim, including Barbara Gordon, that he has become the bogeyman for him. Adding in how each time the Joker has escapes from prison makes the evil that Joker represents even greater and more personal for Jim that the villain haunts hm more than it does Batman.
Framing things in that way better position how The Joker series is really going to be about Jim Gordon setting out with the mentality that getting the Joker is his final case. No matter what happens this is it for Jim. He wants to make sure he doesn’t go out like Danny Ryan with this bogeyman haunting him to his grave.
Adding in how the current state of Gotham City is feeding into Jim’s current mindset becoming capturing Joker once and for all was well done. We see that after his experience under Joker Who Laughs experience that Jim does try to get back to some sense of normal. But because of the things that have happened since he was last Commissioner there is no just trying to work with Batman and the GCPD now that Mayor Nanako, with his anti-vigilante stance that got him elected, is running the show. Having Jim have this eye opening experience work within the current Batman Family comics continuity.
This also provided a good opening to have Jim Gordon transition into an independent investigator status and be hired to take on the Joker case alone. Bringing in someone who has been directly impacted by Joker’s horrific actions in the form of Cressida was a smart play. Tynion immediately establishes why Cressida would seek out Jim for the job of killing the Joker without giving away the entire backstory for her and whoever she is working for. All we need to know is why they tapped Jim for this job rather than someone like Deathstroke. It adds another layer of mystery to this series beyond Jim’s final case being the end of Joker.
Joker’s brief appearance in The Joker #1 also worked well into the greater mystery of what is going on in Gotham City and the events of A-Day. The reaction that Joker has to reading about A-Day further hints at how he may not be responsible for the events of A-Day. Which is something that was has been hinted at, with Jim mentioning earlier in The Joker #1 that the Joker Toxin used to cause A-Day was an altered form of the first version of Joker’s formula.
This all feeds into the greater narrative that Tynion is building around Scarecrow and the Magistrate that much more is going on than has been revealed to the public and us as readers. What makes this all work even better is that Tynion is making this new status quo for Gotham City not simply based on the aftermath of Joker War. Tynion works in events such as DC Comics Year of Villain direction and Tom King’s City of Bane and to explain why Gotham City is on such a horrible state. That has led to people adopting Bane and Joker as these things that they admire because of what they represent. As dark and misguided as that admiration are to follow having your city be taken over and destroyed repeatedly will cause any place that is full of chaos.
The Punchline back-up story co-written by Sam Johns and Tynion furthers all of the work from the main story as we get even more perspective of what is going on in Gotham City. Following up the Punchline #1 one-shot we see how Punchline’s influence has been furthered after her trial. Even though Punchline is currently locked up and looks to be placed in a conflict with other criminals in her prison her reach is still being felt. Seeing that Punchline is carrying on her evil self when others get in her way is a good way to keep her in position to still be a villain when this current arc wraps up.
Adding in Harper Row to be the co-star of the Punchline back-up story was a good move. Just like Jim Gordon in the main story, Harper is able to act as the normal protagonist we follow from a Batman comic while Punchline is allowed to maintain her status as a main antagonist for the entire line. The connection Harper has to this story with how her brother, Cullen Row, has fallen in with people influenced by Punchline makes things more personal.
The artwork throughout The Joker #1 was well done by Guillem March. March excels whenever he draws Joker as this ominous figure that haunts Jim Gordon as his personal bogeyman. As a character focused story March also gets over how Jim is diving more into the mindset of this Joker case being his final one. The emotional rollercoaster he goes through gets you behind Jim’s journey that is just beginning.
The Bad: Nothing.
Overall: The Joker #1 is a strong start to this new series that takes advantage of the current state of Gotham City post-City of Bane and -Joker War. Positioning former GCPD Commissioner Jim Gordon as the protagonist of this series worked extremely well. This allowed Joker to maintain his status as an endgame boss while not overexposing the villain. Instead, we are set to follow Jim Gordon as he sets out on his final case that is set to be stopping Joker once and for all. Fans of the current Batman Family direction need to add The Joker to their pull list
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