The new Joker movie is making waves with its dark and intense narrative which has got everyone’s mind on the clown prince of crime. The notoriety of the character is a big part of his appeal, which is a big reason why I’ve been greatly anticipating his Year of the Villain one-shot. Pair that with writer John Carpenter — yes, that John Carpenter — and you have an opportunity to tell a once-in-a-generation Joker story.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
In the Year of the Villain, what’s a Clown Prince of Crime to do when the world has started to accept doing bad as the only way to live? Out-bad everyone else, of course! The Joker is on a mission to get his mojo back and prove to the world that there is no greater villainy than the kind that leaves you laughing.
This special one-shot is co-written by legendary film auteur John Carpenter (The Thing, Halloween) and Anthony Burch (the Borderlands video games), making for a Joker comic that’s twisted in ways you never imagined!
Why does this matter?
The main theme in the Year of the Villain books has been showcasing a villain who has been powered up by Lex Luthor. In the case of Joker, however, he has been given no such power-up and instead this is a horror style story of a day in the life of The Joker.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The overall theme and psychological exploration of Joker in this issue is quite sound. Anthony Burch co-writes with Carpenter as they explore Joker via a team up with a gang member calling himself the Six of Hearts. Joker dubs him “Of” for short and he just so happens to be standing near Joker when he breaks out of jail. The story follows the two as Joker learns about Of’s previous battered life sending them on an adventure that features a confrontation with Condiment King, Joker and Of wearing Batman and Robin costumes, and an inevitable confrontation with Of’s past. As the story progresses we come to understand Of as a person, who is a bit crazy. He himself is aware of this and in a strong statement made by the end of the issue we learn Of may be crazy, but he is not evil. Joker, on the other hand, is evil and very sane. It’s a good distinction.
Of course, most people will be buying a John Carpenter-penned Joker story for the horror. This is more of a psychological horror story with little gore, but there is violence. In one of the most horrific scenes, Joker attacks a man walking his dog. He’s dressed as Batman and is attempting to fight crime and claims the man (and his dog) had a gun. It’s always emotionally jarring seeing animals hurt in any kind of story, and seeing it here makes the scene deeply disturbing.
The art is by by Philip Tan with inks by Marc Deering, Danny Miki, Jonathan Glapion, and colors by Jay David Ramos. There’s a darker tone to all of their work and it suits the tale. There are some layout designs utilizing “Hahah” as a border that works well early on and Tan does a great job capturing Joker’s madness under the Batman costume he wears. The wrinkles and colored texture of Joker’s face is very well done too. The letters by Gabriela Downie have a slightly chaotic feel to them that suits the captions inside Of’s head.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
There’s an attempt to reveal Of as a bit of a “nice guy” or incel type as he grows angry at Enchantress midway through the book in a way that doesn’t really work. We’re supposed to empathize with Of and we certainly do by the end, but this aside seems clunky. The very real terror that is toxic masculinity is apparent, but it adds little to the story and is sort of just there.
Is it good?
I enjoyed this Joker caper quite a bit. The very scary notion that Joker is not crazy, but evil and sane, is made quite clear. The adventure taken in this issue is quite a fun little ride even if it takes a twisted, clunky turn at one point. Give this a shot to read a solid Joker one-shot that makes some interesting points along the way.