Batman: The Smile Killer #1 – Jeff Lemire, Writer; Andrea Sorrentino, Artist; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Ray: Jeff Lemire writes the scariest book on the stands every month in Gideon Falls, and last year he plunged us into a terrifying new take on Gotham City in Joker: Killer Smile. There we watched the clown prince of crime prey on an ambitious young doctor, causing him to lose his sense of reality and eventually become a monster and Arkham inmate himself. But what happens when that terrifying take on the Joker sets his sights on Bruce Wayne? Equal parts Candle Cove and Shutter Island, Batman: The Smile Killer is an oversized Black Label one-shot that delivers the creeping terror. It starts with a focus on a young Bruce Wayne, pre-Wayne murders, who every day loves to watch a cheerful puppet show titled The Mr. Smile Show. Yes, the same Mr. Smile that Ben Arnell read about in a children’s book. The show may start with charming crafts, but soon it delves into terrifying territory, with Mr. Smile addressing Bruce directly, urging him on to self-harm if he won’t be as happy as the show demands. Anyone with kids or with experience with self-harm thoughts will undoubtedly find this book deeply unsettling.
But that’s just one facet of this book, which packs more story into thirty-five pages than many do into an entire arc. From Batman in the modern day tracking down the Joker, only to find the old sound stage of the Mr. Smile show, to an addled Bruce Wayne in a modern Arkham Asylum discovering that Batman may be entirely a creation of his twisted mind, every time you think you understand where this comic is going it throws you for a loop. Joker is preying on Bruce’s deepest fears here, both as a child and as a many, and as such this works much better than most Joker stories. I’ve rarely seen a story where Batman is this off-balance, this out of his depth, and there’s nothing scarier than that. Andrea Sorrentino, always brilliant at capturing the eerie things lurking just out of sight, delivers some amazing shots full of shadow. It’s a perfect coda to one of the best miniseries in recent years, and more evidence that Jeff Lemire is one of the few writers in comics who can write almost any genre.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.