Jim Gordon takes his pursuit of the Joker to Paris while Oracle and the rest of the Bat-Family learn more about the Joker’s other, mysterious pursuers.
This is The Joker #6 by writer James Tynion IV and artist Guillem March. Let’s get into it!
SPOILERS AHEAD for The Joker #6!
If I had to pinpoint one breakout star from the early issues of this better-than-expected Joker series, it would be the Sampson family. An obvious riff on the Sawyer family of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, the Sampsons joined the hunt for the Joker several decades after finding oil on their property and becoming wealthy enough to cover up their misdeeds.
In a different comic, they would seem almost too cartoonishly evil. But March imbues them with a devilish glee that evokes something out of Tales from the Crypt or other horror comics from the pre-Comics Code era. The opening scene, which finally explores their backstory, is one of the more frightening set pieces in the entire comic and the perfect appetizer for a more introspective issue.
Throughout this series, Tynion has never wavered much from Gordon’s point of view. His narration — set off by yellow captions that match the style of Batman: Year One — guides the story and his reflections on family and sacrifice give the comic its emotional heft.
This issue finds Gordon in Paris, hot on the Joker’s trail, while his daughter Barbara and old partner Harvey provide support. After coming face-to-face with the Joker in issue #3, Gordon’s quest has sputtered in place for a few issues. That should stunt the comic’s momentum, but Tynion is so successful at channeling Gordon’s voice — and March’s visuals are so striking — that you barely notice how little of the Joker is in this issue. Arif Prianto’s colors are the unsung hero, keeping the book’s tone consistent even as it veers from horror movie to spy thriller and back again.
That Sampsons-centric prologue is easily the issue’s visual centerpiece and it epitomizes the best instincts of its creative team. March amps up the horror in a frenetic chase sequence, which is enhanced by Tom Napolitano’s wobbly lettering, which suits the insanity of the Sampsons well. A fun touch: curse words get crossed out by what looks like a messy, permanent marker. The whole thing has a delightful, B-movie vibe.
Less successful is the ending, which depends on a character reveal that does not quite work. It is not clear who the character is or if we are supposed to know them; not helping matters is that they are left unnamed. It’s a forgivable misstep for a comic that has so often been surprising, cheeky, and more than a bit insightful about the toll that crimefighting has left on the Gordon family.
Some other, scattered thoughts:
- This week, Tynion announced on his newsletter that he is wrapping up his run on Batman with #117 in November and The Joker with #14 in April. That means we only have eight issues of this series left.
- Le Bossu, a French criminal whose henchmen attack Gordon in Paris, is another example of the deep continuity threads Tynion has mined for this story. He and the Club of Villains first appeared in Grant Morrison’s legendary Batman run.
- This installment of the “Punchline” backup story — written by Tynion and Sam Johns, illustrated by Sweeney Boo — was one of the strongest chapters yet. Finally, Harper Row’s story intersects directly with the Punchline prison plot. All it took was Harper going undercover as an incarcerated person. Boo’s manga-inspired artwork is a terrific touch, lending a youthful energy to a story about adolescence and the pull of mass media.
- March’s cover, which shows the Joker in full tourist gear while traversing the globe, may not reflect the material of the issue, but it is one of the best-looking covers of the week. The tone — funny, threatening, just a bit odd — perfectly captures this comic.
- It sure looks like we’re due to see Bane’s daughter again. Perhaps a trip to Santa Prisca is in the cards?
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