- Posted by Johanna on October 15, 2008 at 6:10 pm
- Category: Superhero Reviews
- CREDITS: written by Brian Azzarello; art by Lee Bermejo
- PUBLISHER: DC Comics; $19.99 US
As soon as I opened the package from DC, I knew this original graphic novel wasn’t for me. I’ve only ever liked one book by writer Brian Azzarello; most of his work is too violent and too aggressively “street” for me.
As if to confirm my fears, the press release plugs “an even darker and more disturbing side to … The Joker.” And the cover, emphasizing a bloody grin, is off-putting as well.
The story postulates the Joker getting out of Arkham Asylum and clawing his way back to the top of the criminal Gotham heap. This allows for lots of reader-friendly guest-shots: Penguin, Two-Face, Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, and the Riddler are plugged.
I was mildly curious about why anyone would let the Joker out of the madhouse. That’s covered with the caption “He was a disease that somehow … had convinced his doctors he wasn’t diseased anymore.” OK, assuming that’s the case, shouldn’t he immediately go into the regular prison system? At least to await trial for something? (See, I am a closet geek.) That caption demonstrates Azzarello’s love of the metaphor tortured beyond its weight to bear.
I did try to read some of the book, because Lee Bermejo’s art is some of the best of the superhero-realist school. (By which I mean, trying to look photo-realistic when drawing over-muscled freaks and killer clowns and similar fantasy characters.) However, on page five, the new character introduced to narrate the book is talking/thinking about how scared he is to see this legendary villain as follows:
Seein’ him in person for the first time, I felt that instinctual “clench”… you know, “down there.”
I started laughing. That’s the problem with these prestigious superhero projects. This one wants to be all tough and “brutal”, and then they play coy about words like “asshole” because they’re trying to keep a PG-13 rating. That same page features the Joker “saluting” the city by raising his middle finger, which isn’t actually visible because of a panel border. How adolescent, to sell a work by promising an “ugly… violent” look inside the mind of a crazed killer and then backing away from things urban dwellers see or hear every day because they’re afraid of actually offending some teenager’s parents. That’s the point at which I gave up. It wasn’t for me anyway.
The writer was interviewed at Publishers Weekly. I found it interesting that he points out how rare it is these days for DC to release original, non-continuity graphic novels — he’s right, they’ve backed away from the format after a number of earlier experiments. In this case, the driving force was the blockbuster movie.
The book is due out October 28. You can view a five-page preview online. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)