I didn’t think it could ever happen, but a book headlined by the Clown Prince of Crime and prominently featuring former Commissioner James Gordon has become the book I look forward to the most!
The Joker 2
Written by James Tynion IV and Sam Johns
Pencils and Inks by Guillem March and Mirka Andolfo
Colors by Arif Prianto and Romulo Fajardo Jr.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think the Joker has been way overexposed over the last few years. He’s been at the forefront of almost every aspect of Batman since (at least) the New 52 era with very little breaks between appearances. Between the main line of comics and the Black Label books like BATMAN: THREE JOKERS, almost all of Batman’s world has been about his arch nemesis for way too long.
Even the start of the new INFINITE FRONTIER era has featured the Joker prominently, as his attack on Arkham Asylum has been featured in a number of different comics. Readers haven’t had the chance to miss the character.
While this book is called The Joker, though, he’s not at all the star. In fact, in the first two issues, he’s little more than a supporting character, with the main focus on the man who’s now been tasked with hunting him after he killed hundreds of Arkham inmates. Putting the spotlight on Jim Gordon, the former Gotham City Police Commissioner, turns the story into a thriller where everyone has their own agenda and no one can be trusted. Outside of being turned into Batman during the New 52, Gordon is one of the more underutilized characters of the modern era. He’s finally getting the chance to shine here and it works so well.
Gordon has been offered millions of dollars from Gotham’s hidden elite to hunt down and kill the Joker, who’s hiding out in South America after the events of A-Day. Now retired and apparently hurting for money – not to mention still suffering the psychological scars inflicted on him by the Joker – Gordon was seriously considering the offer when the debut issue closed. But Gordon was a stand-up cop and he’s also one of the most tactically brilliant men in Gotham, so he turns to the man who spent years bailing him out of trouble for help.
I loved the scene in Jim Gordon’s kitchen, as he’s telling Batman only what he needs to know. Neither man came out of the Joker War in good shape and Gordon and Batman are both still licking their wounds. Gordon takes advantage of Batman’s loyalty to get a some Bat-resources to help him on his mission.
Gordon’s brilliant tactical mind comes into play even when he’s negotiating resources from Batman. The Dark Knight had Gordon at a disadvantage for years, coming and going as he pleased and telling Gordon limited facts in order to allow for his freedom of movement. Gordon turns that around on him here, and he knows Batman can see right through it, so he throws a spanner in the works by dropping a bombshell: he knows his daughter, Barbara Gordon is Batgirl/Oracle.
And writer James Tynion IV goes even further, taking the end of Batgirl’s Rebirth-era book and putting it into context to explain it away instead of ignoring it completely. Gordon’s answer still makes him a bit of a dick if he’s always known about Barbara’s secret identities – how could he not recognize his daughter’s voice, after all – but at least it wasn’t wiped away by the end of DARK NIGHTS: DEATH METAL or something equally obnoxious.
Gordon’s reveal also begs the question: If he was able to suss out Batgirl’s secret identity, does he know who Batman is, too? I guess you need to keep a few aces up your sleeve if you get in trouble later on.
As if the Batgirl reveal wasn’t enough to make this issue a winner, we also find out who is behind the $25 million bounty – plus expenses – on the Joker’s head. I didn’t think we’d get that reveal until much later in the series. Letting everyone know, though, that secret elite making the offer are all members of the Court of Owls adds some more interesting wrinkles into the equation.
I know it’s still early in the Infinite Frontier era, but this is definitely in the running for my favorite DC Comics book of the year right now.