Batman: Three Jokers #3 – Geoff Johns, Writer; Jason Fabok, Artist; Brad Anderson, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Ray: It’s hard to do a Joker story right now, with so many iconic ones from James Tynion IV’s Joker War to Jeff Lemire’s Joker: Killer Smile out there. So for his first major foray into the Bat-verse, Geoff Johns smartly dialed it back and created a brilliant psychological thriller that cuts to the core of what Joker means to Batman. The first two issues have been a tense look into the distinct MOs of the three Jokers—one resembling a classic criminal mastermind from the Golden Age, one inspired by the sadistic Joker of The Killing Joke, and one inspired by the giggling maniac of A Death in the Family. Of course, they’re down to two thanks to Jason Todd—but maybe not for long, as the survivors seem to have nefarious plans for Joe Chill.
I’m usually not a big fan of stories that go too much into the man who killed Batman’s parents—Batman’s about justice, not revenge. But this is one of the best takes I’ve seen, painting him as a broken man facing death filled with regret. That’s a big theme through this issue, as it’s one of the most nuanced takes I’ve seen on how Batman views Jason Todd and his more ruthless approach to crimefighting. This Batman isn’t going to abide by someone killing in his city, but he’s also not going to cut Jason out—this is his son, and Bruce clearly views Jason as the product of his mistakes. He’s determined to fix him, and Jason doesn’t believe his choice to kill is the problem. That’s a compelling conflict.
But while that father-son battle is the emotional core of this issue, in many ways this feels more like a sequel to The Killing Joke than anything else. “The Comedian,” the Joker who shot Barbara, is the one who makes the biggest impression here, and that can make this a rather uncomfortable comic at times. Johns perfectly captures his leering sadism, and Jason Fabok’s art is a perfect recreation of that chilling Brian Bolland smile. It also means there’s an incident of rather jarring ableist language coming out of Joker’s mouth at one point—clearly not endorsed by the writer but meant to illustrate what a monster the villain is. Still, readers should be warned in advance.
The main thing I’m always hesitant about with Joker stories is that I don’t want too many answers, and this series treads a little close to that line before peeling away. It never quite answers the question of which Joker is the real one and who created who. It leaves enough wiggle room that any version of Joker could be the true one, while working in a rather fascinating retcon in the last act that calls back to one of the most famous (but not infamous) scenes from The Killing Joke in a way that gives Batman more agency. It does justice to its three main heroic players, giving Jason and Barbara some great moments that they’ve been missing in their solo titles at the moment. This may be Geoff Johns’ swan song at DC Comics given how busy he is as a producer, but damn—between this and Doomsday Clock, he’s going out on a high.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.