To absolutely no one’s surprise, DC is cashing in big on the success of the new movie Joker with an unconscionably over-saturated slew of Joker-centric comics — as well as plenty of Bat-crap that doesn’t feature the so-called “Clown Prince Of Crime” — so let’s take a look at the attendees at this week’s cash-grab party, as well as one more item of interest —
Okay, so I was lying when I said Joker/Harley : Criminal Sanity #1, the newest offering in the veritable onslaught of books coming out by way of DC’s “Black Label” imprint, was an “item of interest.” In point of fact, popular YA author Kami Garcia’s script, which re-imagines Harley as a criminal profiler and Joker as a standard-issue serial killer, is so clumsily written and embarrassingly verbose as to be well-nigh unreadable, while “flashback” sequence illustrator Mike Mayhew’s art is so heavily photo-referenced as to appear more like tracings with the faces swapped out. Considerably more successful is Mico Suayan’s black-and-white illustration in the scenes set in the present day, but that alone can’t come anywhere close to justifying the book’s exorbitant $5.99 cover price. Nine issues of this? Nah, I don’t think so.
Very nearly as impossible to make it through is Year Of The Villain : The Joker #1, a one-shot special that apparently ties in with some ongoing “event” or other and features a story by horror legend John Carpenter and a guy I’ve never heard of named Anthony Burch, with art by Philip Tan and an honest-to-God army of inkers. For all that, though, the book looks fairly consistent throughout, but it’s the consistency of the script that’s the problem — as in, it’s consistently lousy. We’ve seen this “Joker through the eyes of his most recently-conscripted henchman” thing done before in Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s Joker graphic novel, and believe it or not it’s an even less effective trope here, and makes our titular anti-hero look neither fresh nor foreign nor exciting — just kinda clueless and random. The late, great George Romero tried his hand at comics near the end of his life with mixed results, and while with Carpenter the sample size is smaller, a conclusive “guilty of crimes against art” verdict is much more quickly arrived at. Stick with your work behind the camera, John — you’re a lot better at it. And as for you readers, your five bucks could be put to much better use elsewhere — and by that, I mean just about anywhere.
Lastly on the Bat-front we come to The Batman’s Grave #1, which I take to be the opening salvo of a 12-part series written by Warren Ellis, penciled by Bryan Hitch, and inked by the great Kevin Nowlan. The story here is more “street-level Batman” than we’ve seen in his other publications of late, and that’s most welcome — as is Ellis’ take on the Batman/Alfred dynamic, which is far (and immediately) superior to Tom King’s version — but the CSI-type high tech crime scene recreation of the murder at the series’ core gets pretty old pretty fast, as does Hitch’s overly-stylized art. Nowlan does his part by giving things his always-welcome sheen of fluidity and moodiness, and that might be enough to keep me around for another issue or two at $3.99, but the other creators need to up their game to match his efforts in a hurry.
Switching gears — and publishers — over to Marvel, “Hollywood guy” Christopher Cantwell and veteran artist Salvador Larocca give us Doctor Doom #1, the first issue in the first series starring the MCU’s chief baddie. Cantwell does a superb job imbuing Latverian society and culture with some real uniqueness, his characterization of Victor Von Doom is spot-on, and the plot “hook” of framing the tiny Baltic nation and its dictator for a terrorist attack on the moon is pretty far-out and fun. Larocca’s art is a bit too photo-referenced for my liking (that this is a pet peeve of mine should be fairly obvious by now), but largely works in context here, and even at $4.99 this comic left me feeling like I got decent value for my money. Along with Hickman’s X-Men and Ewing and Bennett’s The Immortal Hulk, this provides solid evidence that there’s room for some genuine creativity at the so-called “House Of Ideas” for the first time in a long time, and it’s already joined those titles on my pull list.
And that’s our week rounded up, with the last item of business being to remind you that this column is, always, “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Please take a moment to give it a look at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse