Review – Joker: Killer Smile #1: Mind Games

Comic Books DC This Week
Joker: Killer Smile #2 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Joker: Killer Smile #2 – Jeff Lemire, Writer; Andrea Sorrentino, Artist; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 9.5/10

Ray: Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino are creating the most consistently excellent book on the stands in Gideon Falls, so it’s no surprise their return to the DC Universe, With Joker: Killer Smile, is just as horrific in the best way possible.

There has been no shortage of Joker stories lately, naturally, but Joker: Killer Smile may be the best as it takes us deep inside the madness he causes. Based on the first issue I wasn’t sure how this would go – it could have easily been Joker actually striking from behind the bars at the family of poor, unfortunate Dr. Ben Arnell. Joker: Killer Smile #2 makes clear Lemire is going for a much less literal threat, but one no less terrifying. From the first pages of this issue, it’s obvious that the time spent around the Joker is wearing on Arnell’s mind. He rambles about being caught between two worlds, hallucinates a diner filled with Batman villains, and starts acting more and more irrationally towards his family – including extreme paranoia about his office.

Creeping terror. Via DC Comics.

Lemire manages to wring great tension out of ordinary scenes, and Lemire’s wildly inventive panel layouts – spirals! Shards! – keeps you off-balance and on edge throughout. Joker actually plays a relatively small role in this issue, appearing behind a wall for a few scenes and saying exactly the right thing to unnerve Ben. Ben starts seeing things that aren’t there, things that shouldn’t exist, and the issue builds to a genuinely shocking reveal that feels like it comes straight from a Christopher Nolan film.

With only three issues, things feel a tiny bit rushed towards the end, but the last few pages are among the most genuinely chilling in a DC comic in a long time. I’m not sure where the last issue is going, but it seems to guarantee a bad end for Dr. Arnell, and may be evoking the events of a recent movie. Unlike that movie, though, this feels like a character we care about – even if we were all expecting this bad ending from the moment he set foot in that cell. There’s no question Black Label has brought out the best in this creative team.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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