DC Universe Infinite subscribers have a chance to solve Joker’s latest crime ahead of its print release this August as the first chapter of The Joker Presents: A Puzzlebox released this week digitally. Readers can wait for the first issue to drop on August 3rd, but the first 18 pages are now available and come with a director’s cut of bonus material. There certainly are more Joker comics than ever — including his main ongoing, which launched its fourth issue today — but that doesn’t mean Matthew Rosenberg, Jesús Merino, and Ulises Arreola can’t dazzle us with another take on the character.
This first chapter opens with Joker already in an interrogation room with Commissioner Gordon. Since the premise of this book is to figure out (puzzle out?) what Joker’s big mystery is, you’ll find yourself analyzing every word as if it’s a clue. Soon Joker is talking up a storm and the story flashes back to the moment that started things off. Since Joker is the quintessential unreliable narrator, we’re soon taking part in a series of events, reflections, and even dialogue that are likely untrue. This makes for a tricky nut to crack and makes the bigger mystery in play — revealed by the end of the chapter — all the more interesting to solve.
And that’s where the comic really comes alive. Rosenberg does a great job capturing Joker’s sense of humor and lunacy through the dialogue of characters like Batman. Knowing the action taking place could be entirely fake adds another layer to the mystery since it’s possible nearly everything happening doesn’t actually happen. It could also be a version of the truth that’ll be explored later.
Included in the 18 pages is what DC Comics is calling a “Director’s Cut Bonus Box” with additional clues and information. In this first chapter, we get to see what Commissioner Gordon was up to before entering the interrogation room with Joker. The creative team has done a good job not showing their hand as there are a variety of things that could be clues or misdirections. They may have done this too well, in fact, as the actual mystery that is revealed doesn’t seem to have much to do with what we’ve seen so far. Or at least, we haven’t been given enough yet. Fans of mystery stories may enjoy this series since it’s not hand-holding when it comes to the larger mystery at hand, though.
Art by Merino with colors by Arreola renders the book with good detail and heavier inks. The book has a darker tone and Joker carries that long chin he’s known for in the ’70s. Joker ends up being one of the most tantalizing things on the page thanks to its focus on him. There’s a fun 16-panel page that features a lot of familiar faces, capturing many different personalities in a single page. The dialogue all seems to give nods to different versions of the characters, too.
The Joker Presents: A Puzzlebox is an entertaining first issue in a planned seven-issue print series set for August. Fans of Joker may want to get on this book now not only to get ahead of Joker and crack the case, but because it’s an entertaining unreliable narrator tale. Puzzlebox offers a less serious but always intriguing take on the Joker.
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