Sunday, January 8, 2012

Back Issues - Brian Azzarello's "JOKER"

I just read Brian Azzarello's and Lee Bermejo's "Joker" graphic novel from 2008. I was recently reading a lot of Batman books (mostly older ones) and thought I'd pick it up even though the Bat villains I'm most interested in aren't the frequently overused ones. God knows that when this came out I was sick to my stomach of all the idiots putting "why so serious?" as their status on social media and suddenly being obsessed with the Joker. But the reviews of "Joker" were mostly positive so I read it. And I can't say this is a very good comicbook. In case you haven't read this book (congratulations!), this post is full of SPOILERS.
Don't read this or my review will be all for nothing.

The story is narrated by a low-level mob thug called Johnny Frost, who first meets the Joker when he volunteers to pick him up from Arkham Asylum. We find out that Joker was released because he was apparently cured from his insanity. All of the major players of Gotham's criminal underworld (we have the Penguin here being a complete joke, Two-Face and a thugged out Killer Croc) wonder how exactly Joker managed that (as we soon find out he's far from sane) but don't hold your breath waiting for an answer because it's never explained. The narrator, Frost, is far from an interesting character. He never made it big in the criminal world, been to jail several times and his wife filed a divorce suit. He now sees his chance in being Joker's driver/sidekick. He's an admirer at first but later finds out working for the Joker is actually pretty terrible.
This is from the back cover. I don't know the why either. That's why I read this stupid thing: to find out.

As for the Joker himself, Azzarello obviously tried to base him on Heath Ledger's portrayal. The physical similarities are there but that's it, because the Joker in this book isn't nearly as interesting as the one in "The Dark Knight". Like a lot of writers that go for the gore and shock elements of Batman's archvillain, Azzarello completely neglects that fact that Joker should also be funny and although there are some attempts at dark humour here, well... they're not very humorous. One page is dedicated to showing the Joker is apparently also a rapist which isn't funny, good or fitting. And definitely isn't classy. It's a vaguely Ledger-inspired Joker that isn't as good as the movie version and is piss-poor compared to the character's portrayals in better comicbooks. This Joker isn't brilliant, he doesn't "wow" the reader with his actions in regaining power in Gotham's underworld. His plans are straight forward and unimpressive and the only thing that's actually sorta intriguing (and that's the part where Joker whispers something in Two-Face's ear about a way he could easily destroy him) is another plot thread that goes unexplained. And it's a major plot thread at that because it makes Two-Face so afraid he has to call Batman so Azzarello could wrap this whole mess up.

"No". Rapey Joker, our narrator, and his freshly-raped wife. For all you 14 year old adults out there.

This is the sort of comicbook DC markets as a graphic novel for "adult readers" so all the 15 year old's go buy it and eat up the cheap shock tactics while actual adults shake their heads. It's not good storytelling, because there's not much of a story at all. The art is alright, but who gives a shit. There are major plot elements that are never explained and the pseudo dark narrative of the uninteresting Frost character fails to cover it all up. The cover of this thing looked good but don't buy this trash.

Also, if I wanted to go for all the nerd points in this post and be a prick, I'd note that Killer Croc's skin is too thick for piercing.

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