Reviewer With Self-Diagnosed “Clown Fatigue” Still Praises Joker Comics

 

The Indiana Gazette ran a pretentious column by Andrew Smith where he actually claims he’s exhausted of the barrage of Joker stories that’s practically taken up the whole year, but later falls back on speaking favorably of at least a few more, despite the overrated writers behind them, which makes it even worse. At the beginning:

 

It’s been a Joker kind of month.

Not because of the pandemic, or the Election Week Death March or the myriad other problems and tragedies that beset us. It’s because DC Comics has put so many Joker products on the shelves, I’m suffering from Clown Fatigue.

It actually started as a Joker kind of year, with the “Harleen” graphic novel in February. It was another in a series of Harley Quinn origins — collect ’em all! — but as I said at the time, writer/artist Stjepan Šejic’s beautiful art and pacing really sells this story. “Harleen” isn’t the definitive Harley Quinn origin to my mind — that would be Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s “Mad Love” (1994) — but “Harleen” is still a worthy addition to anyone’s bookshelf, thanks to flawless execution.

 

I’ve wondered before why Harley Quinn continues to get such a noticeable emphasis, based on her own villainy, and this isn’t going to improve the situation. Nor will Smith be particularly convincing if he believes fawning over this recent HQ book is the best way to go about things. And, why does that line about a “death march” sound so fishy, like a stealth assault on the Million MAGA March where leftist hoodlums attacked Trump supporters?

 

When he goes on to cite the flood of Joker stories over the past decade, it includes the following:

 

— “Endgame” (2014), a six-issue story in which Batman and The Joker literally kill each other. (Spoiler: They get better.)

 

But then he says:

 

So I found it difficult to approach “Joker War” with any objectivity. My Joker Tolerance Reservoir is empty, and DC hasn’t given me time to re-fill it. And how could “Joker War” top “Endgame,” where the major characters actually died?

 

There’s just one little thing: they didn’t. Certainly not any more so than Wolverine and the Punisher going to the afterlife and back. Though the real problem is that the Joker survived, because of a PC mentality dictating that villains must preserved in the land of the living because it’s hard to create good villains to replace them. Except that without good writing, there are no “good” villains, so that whole defense – one Joe Quesada might’ve once resorted to in the early 2000s – falls flat as a pancake. As does the whole column after the following, decidedly contradictory items come up:

 

Meanwhile, DC published two other Joker projects while “Joker War” was taking place.

In “Batman: Three Jokers,” DC’s TV guru Geoff Johns followed up on a tease back in “Dark Nights,” when an omniscient chair told Batman that there were three Jokers (just roll with it). Despite my Clown Fatigue, I found the three-issue “Three Jokers” plausible and entertaining.

“Three Jokers” gives us exactly what the name says. Each of the Jokers Batman and his confederates meet in this tale represent a different aspect of the Mirthful Mountebank: The Criminal, the Comedian and the Clown. The idea is that Joker, being insane, has turned two other people into lunatics like himself, who think they are the original Joker. And none of them remembers who actually is.

Like I said, fun.

The other project is “Joker: Killer Smile,” a three-issue miniseries by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, followed by a one-shot coda.

It’s not a very original story, in which The Joker drives his Arkham Asylum psychiatrist insane. We’ve seen that before; it’s essentially Harley Quinn’s origin, which has been reiterated as recently as “Harleen” in February. We’ve seen it elsewhere, too, where Rorschach destroys his psychiatrist’s life in “Watchmen,” and a prison psychiatrist in “The Walking Dead” tells the story of his criminal patient killing his family, driving him, in turn, to murder. So it’s a relatively commonplace plot.

But as they say, it’s not the journey but the destination. Writer Lemire is very deft in keeping the audience in suspense as to what is real and what isn’t. And Sorrentino’s artwork is a revelation, sometimes so photo-realistic that one wonders if she took an actual photograph and ran it through a Photoshop filter. (She didn’t. She’s just that good.)

 

My my, why do I get the feeling this was very deliberate as it mocks whatever point he was trying to make? If he’s so fed up with the Clown Prince of Crime tidal waving the market, why bother to recommend the above books, written by at least 2 overrated scribes whose work I will not touch these days with a 10-foot pole? I wouldn’t buy that bunk about Lemire being talented in making it tricky for the audience to figure out what’s “real” or not. What certainly isn’t is the notion these are good writers, let alone respectable ones, and Johns recently gave hints of his politics again in Three Jokers, while Lemire attacked Comicsgate. I think I can understand why Mr. Smith saw fit to recommend their work.

 

And so here, we have another example of absurdly conflicting positions on whether there’s too much Batman-related material on the market, to say nothing of too much villainy on the market. It’s time for DC to scale back all that attention lavished upon Batman material, which comes at the expense of characters with more optimistic visions like Superman, but tragically, as DC reaches what could be the end of their business, they won’t.

 

 

Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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