Review: Joker #1 and 2 (2021 ongoing series)

The suggested age range for the new JOKER series is 13+, which is a relief because I know there are so many teenagers out there breaking down the doors to read a Joker comic that focuses NOT on the Joker but rather 60+ years old James Gordon.

No, I’m serious (see what I just did there?)—the majority of the 1st two issues of JOKER features Gordon and not really the Joker. Which is…fine…I guess

I mean, if you’re a fan of the current Batman universe as set up by writer James Tynion IV, JOKER Is great. It fits in with that whole continuity pretty nicely, with some familiar feathered faces making their appearance at the end of issue 2. Quality stuff (except for the Joker rendering…OK, I’ll touch upon that in a hot minute).

Basically, Gordon is given the opportunity by an attractive mysterious benefactor to get revenge on Joker & get PAID for it. Meanwhile after (theoretically? or is that a conspiracy too?) setting off that nerve-agent attack in Arkham Asylum, the Clown Prince of Crime himself is hiding out in a “Club Med” for bad guys who want to lay low.

Here’s a representative illustration of Joker in this series, as drawn by Guillem March:

Now, not only does Joker look like he’s got a serious case of Forest Whitaker Eye, but he’s just…yuck. No, not even yuck, just…blah. He’s blah. And this is The Joker…the star of the entire book (in theory)! Very hard on the eyes.

This is all not a criticism of March’s art in general—obviously, he’s really talented. But his Joker is very unappealing. And you could say: “well HELLO, he’s supposed to be unappealing, he’s a Bad Guy.” But...

Love him or hate him, Joker is the one of the DCU’s most popular & lucrative intellectual properties. It’s one (rightly or wrongly) that is constantly used in licensed product for kids. And no kid is gonna read this comic and enjoy it; it’s for adult fans of the Batmanverse, which is fine, but…

My personal theory is that based on the overall industry sales demographics, the Big Two comic publishers are kinda “giving up” on getting new readers for their monthlies. So in that sense, continuing to make comics for the aging (which includes my curmudgeonly butt) fans makes a lot of sense.

Now, based not only on JOKER’s main storyline but its “Punchline” backup, I think the point being made with this series (and maybe THREE JOKERS too?) is that the “Joker” is not a character per se but rather a type of urban legend…an anti-hero purposely manipulated by the media and TPTB to tempt various peeps on the edge into cracking up. In fact, yours truly had written an entire comic on this very topic of Joker as Possibly Dangerous Archetype.

So perhaps this new JOKER series is, in a way, a mea culpa on DC’s part for continuing to promote the character so heavily right after the Aurora “Dark Knight Rises” tragedy. I mean, which would you rather read: a comic about some psycho jerk mass-murderer or a good honest (if slightly flawed) man like James Gordon?