The Joker is getting a new series this week from Matthew Rosenberg and Carmine Di Giandomenico that seems to be telling a joke. Or maybe it’s a horror story. It’s a first issue with a heavy dose of captioning from a mysterious character that adds to the drama while we witness Joker take a new direction entirely. No longer preoccupied with Batman, Rosenberg, and Giandomenico, take him to new places that will surprise you.
The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #1 opens inside a restaurant where three gangsters eat alone. The large text reads “Gotham City, Four Days Ago,” and the framing of days is essential. Right out of the gate, this issue feels cinematic in its approach, playing with our expectations and feeling larger than an average comic. Soon Joker is caught feeding humans to these gangsters, and the story is well underway. Joker is back.
Rosenberg captures the voice of Joker well here as he’s having a grand old time. I was reading his dialogue as if Mark Hamill was voicing him, as it has that kind of Batman: The Animated Series feel to it. He’s always confident, seems to know how to play every moment, and is up to something big.
Giandomenico, coming hot off the heels of the nearly finished Batman: The Knight, does some fantastic work with environments and scene settings. Something he’s pretty good at is facial expressions and character acting, but here he’s stretching his legs a bit, penciling scenes that add a lot of ambiance due to the surroundings. From the darkly lit restaurant that opens the issue to the warehouse scene, there’s something to look at around these characters that adds something. For instance, the steel girders and windows create a prison feel in the warehouse.
I will admit, this issue does suffer from the usual Joker problem that he’s just a guy who plays a chaotic hand in life. How he’s capable of staying alive, hiring dedicated goons, and getting around is a bit of a mystery. Like a phantom, he exits and enters scenes as if he was already there to begin with. The glue that holds these scenes together is the captions from the mysterious character, but Joker himself is unbelievable.
The entire issue is framed against the idea that a joke and a horror story are similar. This idea is introduced early on and may play a part in the big cliffhanger reveal. In a sense, the entire issue is one big joke, or more plainly, a story with a twist. The fact that Rosenberg self-reflects on that very idea in the issue makes the twist feel earned or at least self-aware. You get the sense Rosenberg knows what he’s doing and isn’t just throwing a wacky twist our way to sell funny books.
If you’re looking for a maniacal Joker who is having the best time being himself, check out The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #1. This is a story that isn’t turning him ultra-evil, sadistic, or even planning to mix things up. He’s just having a grand old time, and if you like that kind of Joker, you will too.
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