Reviews | Written by Joel Harley 17/10/2019

YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: THE JOKER

WRITER: JOHN CARPENTER, ANTHONY BURCH | ARTIST: MARC DEERING, DANNY MIKI, JONATHAN GLAPION | PUBLISHER: DC | FORMAT: SINGLE ISSUE | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Nature abhors a vacuum. With Batman persona non grata in Gotham City thanks to the machinations of Bane, another must don the cape and cowl in his absence. This time, however, it's the most unlikely of candidates; the Clown Prince of Crime himself, the Joker. Assisted by a troubled little weirdo in a Robin costume, this Batman who laughs (no, not that one) will inject a little vaudevillian flair into the usual crime-fighting routines. One suspects the no kill rule is out the window, though.

Like Brian Azzarello's Joker, this one-shot story puts its villain in the spotlight by giving narration and focus to one of his goons. And so we follow the disturbed young Jeremy as he falls under the Joker's thrall, inevitably getting in far too deep with the devil. The technique is a familiar but effective one, and Jeremy gets to be a smattering more interesting than most disposable protagonists of his ilk thanks to the book's visionary writing team.

Horror icon John Carpenter tackles the Joker, and the results are about as disturbing as one might expect. How one enjoys the Joker as a terrifying slasher villain comes down to personal taste, but Carpenter and co-writer Anthony Burch are surprisingly restrained here. There is still room for a few japes and a bit of fun in-between scenes of mass murder and horrifying violence. Case in point: Condiment King.

Artist Philip Tan (with inks from Danny Miki, Jonathan Glapion and Mark Deering, and colours by Jay David Ramos) plays up the contrast between horror villain and supervillain tale, giving their Joker a shaggy, realistic look that only gets creepier once he dons the Bat-costume. The art won't please everyone but then, neither will the story. Large swathes of it have been done before and its big idea – maybe the Joker isn't as mad as he makes out to be – is not an original one.

Nevertheless, its tale is told well, and John Carpenter writing the Joker will never not be a hoot. Like Year of the Villain: The Riddler, this one-shot brings its Big Bad back to basics, reminding fans why we all feared him in the first place.

With his Joker in the bag, one is left wondering what John Carpenter's take on the Batman might look like. Don't be a stranger, Mister Carpenter.

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