Review – The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super-Spectacular #1

Comic Books DC This Week
Joker 80th Anniversary Super-Spectacular Cover, via DC Comics.

The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 – Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Gary Whitta & Greg Miller, Denny O’Neil, Peter J. Tomasi, Paul Dini, Tom Taylor, Eduardo Medeiros & Rafael Albuquerque, Tony S. Daniel, Brian Azzarello, Writers; Jock, Mikel Janin, Dan Mora, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez & Joe Prado, Simone Bianchi, Riley Rossmo, Eduardo Risso, Rafael Albuquerque, Tony S. Daniel, Lee Bermejo, Artists; David Baron, Jordie Bellaire, Ivan Plascencia, Marcelo Maiolo, Tomeu Morey, Colorists

Ray – 9/10

Ray: Had enough Joker yet? The Clown Prince of Crime is definitely having a moment, being all over the place with a massive new crossover event about to begin – and that’s not even getting into his Bat-eared spinoff with a huge fanbase of his own. Well, I hope you’re ready for more, because DC has assembled a murderer’s row (pun intended) to celebrate his 80th anniversary in another oversized one-shot. So how does it stack up against the ones for Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Robin, and Catwoman?

Things get off to a terrifying start with “Scars” by the men who brought us the Batman who Laughs, Scott Snyder and Jock. Focusing on a psychologist who treats victims of the Joker’s mutilations, it’s a chilling story packed with nightmarish visuals from the very beginning – not all of them related to Joker. It’s also a story of a man who believes that victims can be given their power back and start to heal, no matter their physical state. You become invested in this man’s mission in only a few pages, which makes the sense of dread as you approach the end of the story all the more terrible. This isn’t just an anthology story, it’s a full-fledged horror movie.

2010s variant cover, via DC Comics.

Next up is the story everyone’s waiting for – the origin of Punchline from Tynion and Janin. “What Comes at the End of a Joke”. Punchline has gotten so much hype that this storyline could have easily been a letdown – but it’s not. At all. Essentially the story of the Joker equivalent of a Manson Family member, Punchline starts the story being upbraided by the Dean of her college for an ill-advised themed outfit, but it quickly turns into a nightmare for the bureaucrat. The polar opposite of Harley, who was always driven by an unhealthy attraction, Punchline only seems to be attracted to killing and suffering, and Joker is the ultimate representation of that. This is the first time I’ve bought the hype about the character, and I can’t wait to see Tynion’s plans for her.

“Kill the Batman”, by Whitta, Miller, and Mora, is an odd one. It takes place in an indistinct future, where Batman has been killed by the Joker and Alfred made the decision to reveal the truth to the world. Now everyone is gathering to celebrate the life of Bruce Wayne – and Joker can’t stand it. There are a lot of odd little details about this world, including an unscarred Harvey Dent and a semi-reformed Mr. Freeze, but they’re not really explored. This is very reminiscent of the classic story “Going Sane”, where Joker supposedly killing Batman leads him to have a mental breakdown. But in this case, it’s all leading up to a very strange but funny last page.

A cheery flower. Via DC Comics.

Next up is a story by legend Denny O’Neil and modern-day classic artist Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and fittingly it’s starring a more retro Joker. Bored with the usual grind, he decides to sign up for a UN Corps called the Dove Corps, focusing on non-lethal military missions. As this Joker loves prank gear like itching powder, he fits right in and helps them innovate their tactics – but ultimately, he’s the Joker and this is going to end very badly. It’s amusing to see Joker among a group of heroes who have no idea who he is, and it’s one of the few stories here that has a funny edge ideal for a comedian supervillain.

Next up is a surreal tale by Peter Tomasi and Simone Bianchi, titled “The War Within”, that seems to be about Batm and Joker doing battle in a surreal funhouse. Most of the story is a dialogue-free battle with an odd poem by Joker over it, but the story takes a weird twist at the end that reveals where it’s really taking place. Few of the stories here address the inner workings of Joker’s mind and what truly drives him, so this is an interesting change of pace even if it’s more of an experiment than a narrative.

Legendary Batman writer Paul Dini teams with Riley Rossmo for “The Last Smile”, a tale that looks at what keeps Joker up at night. As the co-creator of Harley Quinn, it makes sense that this takes place during their relationship, as Harley repeatedly comforts Joker after a bizarre nightmare that involves his execution and Batman showing up at the last second to play executioner. It doesn’t really have all that much to say about Joker – but that’s okay, because this is really a stealth Harley story and it has some great things to say about how and why she eventually broke free.

Tom Taylor and Eduardo Risso’s story is somehow both the most disturbing and the most wholesome of the volume. In “Birthday Bugs”, Joker shows up to the home of a henchman he needs to have “words with”, only to find his lonely son alone on his birthday. The creepy young boy with a love for torturing bugs winds up getting a very memorable birthday party when Joker bonds with him and arranges a full house for a party – as the boy is blissfully unaware of the horror awaiting his father when he arrives home. This may be the best story in the volume in how it depicts the bizarre duality of Joker, and Risso’s art is amazing.

“No Heroes”, a story written and drawn by Rafael Albuquerque and co-written by Eduardo Medeiros, is an interesting look at Joker’s odd sense of morality. Focusing on a young accountant who played hero during a Joker heist of a bank, it’s a tense one-on-one mental game between them as Joker tries to figure out why this guy would risk his life to defend his fellow employees. This Joker seems to have an odd, inscrutable sense of morality, and it ends on a hopeful yet disturbing note. Interesting, if not quite fully fleshed out.

Tony Daniel goes solo on “Penance”, a story focusing on an up-and-coming mafia don who crossed the Joker and found himself in possession of the clown’s most treasured possession. Before trying to make a deal with the villain, he visits his Priest to atone for his sins – both the ones he committed, and the ones he plans to commit. It’s an interesting story about morality, but the punchline can be seen coming a mile away. Tony Daniel’s Bat-run was more characterized by big thrills and flashy art, and that’s recaptured in this short story.

To close it out, the iconic creative team of Azzarello and Bermejo reunite for “Joker: Two Fell Into the Hornet’s Nest”. As the title indicates, it’s a story about disturbing mental hospitals, and it follows Joker as he’s returned to a very different Arkham Asylum. Torture, lobotomy, and mysteries await him in scenes that will be familiar to film fans, and Bermejo’s gritty, surreal art is perfectly suited for the story. There are a lot of mysteries lurking around, including an odd Batman who appears to Joker and a mysterious Superman statue. Don’t look here for too many answers, just go along for the ride.

These stories have a massive variation in tone and style, but almost all of them are excellent. DC gathered an enormous amount of talent for this one-shot, and it pays off. This is one of the best giant anthologies they’ve done yet, with several all-time classics in the mix.

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

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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