I was honestly surprised with how much I enjoyed the first issue of Joker. I don’t normally get into titles with villains as the protagonist. But what James Tynion IV did well in the first issue of Joker was establish this series being more of a Jim Gordon series with Joker maintaining his status as an antagonist. Adding in that Jim Gordon is making taking down the Joker his final case creates greater intrigue into what the endgame will be for this series. What does James Tynion and Guillem March have in store for us next? Let’s find out with Joker #2.
Writers: James Tynion (main story and Punchline back-up story); Sam Johns (Punchline back-up story)
Artists: Guillem March (main story); Mirka Andolfo (Punchline back-up story)
Colorists: Arif Prianto (main story); Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Punchline back-up story)
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Somewhere in Gotham City Cressida is shown entering a mysterious mansion.
Over at Santa Prisca a woman is being injected with Venom as several people wearing Bane masks watch over the process.
Elsewhere some cannibals are shown butchering people’s bodies.
Back in Gotham City, Jim Gordon uses a mini-Batsignal to call Batman to his apartment. When Batman shows up Jim tells him he wants to talk about Joker.
Inside his apartment Jim shows Batman all the information he has put together on Joker’s recent crimes and possible whereabouts. As he does this Jim reveals that Cressida hired him to take down the Joker. Batman asks if this is what Jim wants to do and if he is asking for his approval. Jim says he does want to do this but he only called Batman to help him, hinting he knows Batman’s lack of resource situation in a joking tone.
Jim then shows Batman a drawing of Cressida and asks if Batman knows here. Jim then asks Batman if he can look into Cressida for him while he goes after Joker. Batman agrees.
Jim then asks Batman to provide him access to the Batcomputer so he can analyze all available information about Joker’s history up until the present as well as a way to contact Batman. Batman agrees but has his own demand that when Jim finds Joker that Jim will call him first. Jim agrees to this.
Batman then calls Oracle and assigns her to act as Jim’s chaperone in his Joker investigation. Jim immediately reveals he knows Oracle is his daughter, Barbara Gordon. This revelation surprises both Batman and Oracle. Oracle tells her dad she wants to meet with him immediately.
Over in a tropical area known as the Ratlines, a man named Desmond finds Joker relaxing in his pool. Desmond calls Joker out for killing one of his rich neighbors and tells Joker to leave his country immediately. Joker says he won’t as he knows “they” are on their way to this country which is why he created a trail several miles away from Desmond’s resort. Joker then gets Desmond agree to use his men to lay a trap for who is coming for them while also giving him a new tailored suit.
Outside of Oracle’s Clocktower in Gotham City, Jim meets up with Barbara. Barbara tells her dad she wants to hear what he really knows about her. Jim says he knows Barbara is Batgirl and Oracle. Barbara then reveals she is taking a break from being Batgirl as she has been overtaxing her implant in her spine. They then go back and forth calling each other out for the secrets they’ve both kept from one another.
Eventually Jim breaks down to openly talk about how Joker has taken so much from them. Barbara understands how her dad feels. Jim then talks about how Cressida hired him to kill Joker. Barbara wonders if he is going through with it. Jim says he is considering it. He goes on to make a deal that he’ll only go through with killing Joker if he can convince Barbara it’s the right thing to do and if not he’ll play it Batman’s way.
In the Clocktower, Barbara gives her dad a satellite phone that is invisible to all cellular networks and is interfaced directly with Batman’s private satellite system. She goes on to say that it gives him a direct line to her and she can patch Batman in calls as needed. Barbara then gives Jim access to the Batcomputer files that he requested. She then tells her dad he will need to check in with her once a day or else she will set emergency protocols in motion that include a self-destruct for the phone.
Barbara then takes a look at some files and warns her dad that Cressida likely has ties to Arkham and that the people after Joker won’t care if Jim gets caught in the crossfires.
Over at a mansion in Hooper County, Texas a family of cannibals plan their revenge on Joker for the death of one of their family members who was locked up in Arkham Asylum and among the dead during A-Day.
Over at Santa Prisca the Venom injection process is complete and the people wearing Bane mask ask the woman who their enemy is. The woman puts on her own Bane mask and responds with “JOKER.”
Elsewhere in Gotham City, Cressida (who we learn has a last name of Clarke) is given her family’s seat on The Court Of Owls and presented with her mask. Cressida puts on her mask and declares that it is time they teach Joker to fear The Court Of Owls. End of main story.
The Good: Keeping the momentum going from the first issue Joker #2. What is making everything about this Joker series work so well early on is that while we have Jim Gordon as the protagonist there are several running plotlines all centered around the Clown Prince of Crime going on at the same time. This is very much keeping in line with how James Tynion has been treating his Batman run as a whole as you get how this is a living and breathing series.
Having as many plotlines running as Joker #2 does could’ve easily felt overwhelming. But to Tynion’s credit he is able to make Jim Gordon, Joker, The Court Of Owls, the new female Bane, and the cannibal Texas family all come across as organic parts of the narrative for this series. It helps that this Joker series really is just an extension of Tynion’s Batman series as we are diving in deeper into the aftermath of A-Day at Arkham Asylum.
Tying all storylines to A-Day further cements what took place at Arkham Asylum as one of the most important events in the Batman franchise’s history. So much of what we are seeing in the Batman books is tied to A-Day. Even characters like the cannibal family in Texas was impacted because of the type of criminals that Arkham Asylum housed. This gives greater reach to A-Day as it is not simply contained to Gotham City like the events the preceded it in Joker War or City of Bane.
Throughout all the storylines that are going on Tynion also continues the narrative of how it has not been fully confirmed who was behind A-Day. Everything is pointing to Joker but as we saw in Batman: The Joker War Zone one-shot, it was clear that Joker had more long-term plans on how he was going to kill Bane. Which is backed up with how Joker himself reacted to learning about A-Day at the end of Joker #1. And as we see with Joker’s meeting with a crime boss in South America its clear he knows he is being set-up and is bringing others along for the greater chaos that is coming.
Making the overall scope in this series stronger is the fact that Tynion is showing great respect for all past creators that worked on the Batman Family books. Its not just the stories that Scott Snyder and Tom King told in Batman but also Gail Simone, Fletcher/Tarr, Hope Larson, and Cecil Castellucci respective Batgirl runs that are coming into play. It gives greater depth to the world of Batman that we are seeing so many different stories being subtly called back to. As a Batman fan it makes the reading experience rewarding when catching the references Tynion is making through the dialogue for each character.
The bits that we get of what Joker is doing made how we saw Jim Gordon continued to be established as the protagonist for the series so interesting. Tynion is going all in on how conflict Jim Gordon is going into what he mentally believes is his final case. The struggle of whether he will go through with killing Joker when presented with the opportunity is something you can see with how Guillem March draws Jim’s face throughout this issue. Even when he promises to both Batman and Barbara Gordon that he will get their advice before pulling that trigger there is a part of you as the reader that doesn’t believe it. Which speaks to the whole idea that Joker really is the bogeyman in Jim’s life that he does not want to die without exercising this demon permanently.
Bringing in Batman and Barbara into all of this was a smart play. Jim revealing that he knows Bruce Wayne and Barbara’s secret identities further gets across how the character is no longer holding back. The shock in both Bruce and Barbara when Jim casually says Barbara’s name when talking with Oracle was well done. It shows that Jim likely has known the truth about Batman and Batgirl/Oracle for a long time and he subconsciously acted like he didn’t know their true identities for their sake and his own. But now that he does need their direct help by gaining access to the Batcomputer that block in his mind is no longer there.
This led to a great discussion between Barbara and Jim as everything was out on the table. Neither one was no longer hiding something which gave the entire way their discussion went be of two equals talking with each other rather than just father-daughter. Going with this tone made the moments when both Barbara and Jim brought up their respective concerns for the other stronger character beats. It added to how Tynion is having Jim treat this entire hunt for the Joker as his final case as Barbara made it clear she and the rest of the Batman Family will get involved if they feel it’s necessary.
Revealing that Cressida Clarke is working for The Court Of Owls was a great way to end the main story in Joker #2 on a high note. This was honestly and unexpected and cool surprise that gives much greater weight to the conversation between Cressida and Jim in the previous issue. Cressida’s membership immediately elevates The Court Of Owls back to prominence as they set their sights on Joker. Which is fitting considering how after The Court Of Owls introduction they sort of receded to the background as Joker took greater prominence in the franchise once again. What The Court Of Owls endgame will be for hiring Jim and taking out Joker will be interesting to see play out.
Equally interesting will be what Tynion plans to do with the new female Bane that was created by scientist in Santa Prisca. We don’t get much detail on this new Bane other than she is setting her sights on taking out the Joker. What her relation is to Bane and how his death at Arkham Asylum is motivating her will hopefully be something we learn about sooner rather than later.
Guillem March’s artwork for the most part is what you expect throughout Joker #2. As mentioned earlier, March’s artwork is at its best when showing how conflicted Jim Gordon is about his hunt for Joker. You see through his expression and how both Batman and Barbara Gordon react that Jim is really treating the final case of his career.
The Bad: The Punchline back-up story in Joker #2 wasn’t as strong as in the first issue. The page count for this chapter was too similar to the first part but I definitely felt shorter. You don’t get the full sense that there was real progression in this second part of Punchline’s ongoing story. And given how much we saw done in the main story for this issue and the first back-up chapter it made this story come across as lackluster in comparison.
As much as Guillem March shined at certain points in Joker #2 where his artwork wasn’t consistent from panel to panel. That is particularly noticeable with Jim Gordon’s appearance throughout this issue. There were times where we would go from seeing how Jim is much older than Batman and Barbara Gordon to his skin being smooth. The first panel we see Jim in Joker #2 also looks like it was not a fully completed panel. Given how much detail March puts into the majority of this issue these inconsistencies are much more noticeable when they happen.
Overall: James Tynion and Guillem March keep the momentum they created from the first issue going with their work in Joker #2. We see the player pool in the hunt for Joker expand as more Batman villains get involved. But what steals the show is Jim Gordon’s conversations with both Batman and Barbara Gordon. The revelations made in these scenes is something Batman fans will want to read for themselves to see how they played out.
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