Monday, November 3, 2008

The Joker

The Joker - Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo: I don't automatically like everything with the Joker in it. I loved the Killing Joke when it first came out, but now I wonder about it's greatness.  I didn't like Tim Burton's Batman for a number of reasons, but one of the big ones was that it focused too much on the Joker, and on a version of the Joker that I thought was kind of awful. I thought the Dark Knight was good, and I thought the Joker in it was pretty brilliantly written and acted. I can't say that this version of the Joker existed before the Dark Knight, This is the ugly, dirty, chaotic Joker. He's like a wild tiger in any room he's in. There is no telling what he will do, and there isn't a person there that's going to lose track of where he is.

The story begins with five time loser Jonny Frost picking up the Joker outside of Arkham. He doesn't know why the guy is out, but he is. Jonny becomes the everycrook, riding along with the force of nature. We see things through his perspective. This is the Street-level, real world of Batman villains.  They seem a bit more rooted in reality than we usually see them. I like the facelifts that some of these folks got. I like the feeling that this is almost any mob movie. The old boss, the mad-dog loose cannon is out of the can. He's feeling a little bit forgotten. It seems that his people forgot him. The tributes dried up over time, people moved on. He's back to reclaim what's his. Not just money and territory, but respect and fear. There is no route too grisly for him to take to get those things back.

The Joker in this is the slouching monkey armed wild animal with the carved on smile. He looks like he could jump at any time, always bent at the knees, never locked in place. He's wild eyed and crazy, but not stupid. The art in this is really good. It's ugly, and in places it is grotesque, but it seems very consciously so. It gives everything a very real feel without looking like photoreference paintings. We don't even have a hint that Batman exists until the very end of this thing. For telling a story that we've seen in one form or another before, it seems very fresh with the Joker in it. This treatment makes good sense for that character.  There are a lot of Joker related books out there. I think this is one worth having.

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