Title: Joker: Killer Smile.
Writer(s): Jeff Lemire.
Artist(s): Andrea Sorrentino.
Colourist(s): Jordie Bellaire.
Letterer(s): Steve Wands.
Publisher: DC Comics – DC Black Label.
Release Date: September 15th, 2020.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.
It is only human to believe that the criminally-insane can be cured of their affliction. Deep inside, it is this belief that there’s always hope, always a way to turn a bad apple into a good one, that keeps us going, whether it’s out of a genuine desire to rid the world of evil behaviours or one less righteous anchored in personal gain. Leave it to the Eisner Award-winning creative team of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino (Green Arrow, Gideon Falls, Wolverine: Old Man Logan) to explore this idea through the uncanny relationship between a patient and a doctor within Gotham City. Collecting the three issues of Joker: Killer Smile as well as the one-shot coda, Batman: The Smile Killer, this latest DC Black Label graphic novel offers fans the chance to revisit the madness of the most complex villain of all time through a devastating tale of obsession and insanity.
What is Joker: Killer Smile about? In the psychiatric hospital known as Arkham Asylum lies the deadliest foes apprehended by Batman. Among them is one that extends his reach beyond its walls and continues to be a thorn in the Dark Knight’s side, captive or not: the Joker. Throughout the years he’s known the inside of Arkham Asylum, there is not one psychologist or psychotherapist who was able to crack open his mind and uncover the secret to his insanity. Dr. Ben Arnell, however, believes that he might be the one who can find a model through the Clown Prince of Crime, one that will answer many questions among patients with Joker’s level of psychosis. As confident as ever that his mind is impenetrable, he gets to work through interviews with the Joker. But he’s not ready for what’s to come.
The idea behind this graphic novel will be quite familiar to well-versed DC Comics readers. And anyone in their right mind should know by now that you simply don’t “cure” the Joker of anything he doesn’t want to in the first place. But dear old Dr. Ben Arnell is convinced that he has what it takes to show the psychopath who has terrorized Gotham for years the way towards the light. Writer Jeff Lemire clearly knows this and assumes it from the beginning, dipping both feet deep into these waters and exploring the toxic and complex mind of the Joker through Dr. Arnell by exposing the thin layer that separates sanity from insanity within all of us. It is in the concept of reality that most of the narrative evolves, forcing the protagonist and the reader to both ask the same question: what is real?
As short as this graphic novel was, it did feel like writer Jeff Lemire wanted a good chunk of his story’s originality to come from the work achieved by artist Andrea Sorrentino. And with good reason. He achieves some truly stunning work, amplified by the space provided from the prestige label’s format. At times harrowing and others peaceful, there’s a stylistic approach utilized to capture both worlds explored in this story, that of the sane and insane. The interspersed addition of a perverted children’s tale invites more goosebumps among readers but their idea shone best within the included one-shot issue featuring Batman as it offered a darker twist to his own perception of reality.
Joker: Killer Smile is a derivative yet refreshing cautionary tale about the madness of reality manipulated by the Clown Prince of Crime.