Batman: Three Jokers by Geoff Johns

details
Title: Batman.
Story Arc
: Three Jokers.
Writer(s): Geoff Johns.
Artist(s): Jason Fabok.
Colourist(s): Brad Anderson.
Letterer(s): Rob Leigh.
PublisherDC Black Label.

Format
: Hardcover.
Release Date: November 17th, 2020.
Pages: 160.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
ISBN13: 9781779500236.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

thoughts

We all come from somewhere. With no one having the same starting point as everyone else, it’s what comes next that shapes us into the being we are today. For some, their origin is a mystery far bigger than life and there’s nothing more terrifying than a psychopath, with unknown origins, whose becoming fundamentally questions human nature. Alas, the Joker is one of them and his story has always been a secret until today. Following The Darkseid War Saga during the New 52 Justice League comic book run, Batman discovered a terrifying truth regarding the Joker: there are three of them. Despite being teased for years, lastly during DC Comics’ latest relaunch with DC Universe: Rebirth #1, writer Geoff Johns finally teams up with legendary artist Jason Fabok and colourist Brad Anderson to complete this highly-anticipated, mysterious, and strange story in a three-issue limited series published under the DC Black Label imprint.

What is Batman: Three Jokers about? Three simultaneous Joker sightings have been reported in Gotham City, occurring at distinct locations with different victims, thus indicating specific motives that confirms the Clown Prince of Gotham’s hand in the matter. While the thought baffles the minds of many, one hypothesis remains on the table: the Joker was never one man. Accompanied by Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) and Jason Todd (Red Hood), two former victims of the Joker’s brutal crimes, this Bat Family embark on a journey to unravel this terrifying mystery while revisiting their past tragedies, the very life-changing events that have shaped them into the heroes they are today. Unfortunately for them, this mystery will send them down a highly-emotional trip down memory lane and none of them will come out of it unscarred once again.

“Time heals all wound… If they don’t kill you first…”

— Geoff Johns

Shattering sales records, this highly-anticipated story drove every Gothamite to follow the publishing of this limited mini-series during the pandemic as it delivers another controversial chapter in the DC Universe lore, alongside the recently completed story of Doomsday Clock, this time exploring the Joker’s identity. What fans will finally be able to discover with this unconfirmed canonical tale published under an imprint usually reserved to stand-alone and unconnected stories, will, however, leave them divided as this creative team looks to retcon some of Batman’s past adventures, notably Batman: The Killing Joke, to establish a story revolving around the existence of three distinct Jokers.

With countless pages of silent story-telling (little to no dialogue), the story mostly revisits Bruce Wayne, Barbara Gordon, and Jason Todd’s traumas while exploring the coping mechanisms they’ve established as superheroes today, on top of their bond with one another. While one would imagine that this graphic novel would answer many questions that have been floating around the Joker’s origin, it mostly introduces a myriad of more questions for fans to reflect upon, many that will continue to be unanswered, and some that are due to inconsistencies and plot holes that will leave readers baffled by the ludicrous plot developed before them.

“I’ll cut you. I’ll hurt you. I’ll keep twisting that knife until the day we both die together.”

Geoff Johns

Despite telling an unnecessary story that struggles to effortlessly retcon well-established lore, writer Geoff Johns doesn’t fail to build excellent characterization. The suffering of each of these three heroes is portrayed with masterful authenticity, from Batgirl’s fierce determination and enviable sense of justice to Red Hood’s broken self and brutal modus operandi. Even the Joker’s personality is perfected, exploring every delusional and maniacal traits that composes his character, from his love for theatrics to his cynical and anarchic manipulation of othersnothing is left unexplored. Unfortunately, it is the narrative that does not raise to the challenge set by expectations and necessities.

The artwork is also a flawless component to this graphic novel. Artist Jason Fabok, having showcased countless times his ability to draw over at DC Comics with his iconic character designs, displays once again his talent with stunning artwork, especially with his mind-boggling splash pages. Add in colourist Brad Anderson who brings life to these characters in an astonishing fashion, you are continuously scanning these pages in absolute wonderment. It’s not surprising to see that they went with silent story-telling as the artwork speaks for itself, sometimes without much action at all, but the little details, whether it’s in the transition between panels or the subtle nod to old school character designs, make all the difference.

Batman: Three Jokers is an unnecessary retcon serving as a potential origin story for the Joker while exploring trauma, pain, and closure in three of the Clown Prince of Gotham’s victims.


EXHIBITA

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for this copy for review!
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24 comments

  • Hmm, this is one that I would solely buy for the art that looks absolutely incredible! Three Jokers though?🤔 I thought one would be enough!😂
    Too bad this falls short on the story telling aspects. I’m not a fan of retconning stuff in the first place, especially not when it falls short in the end. That said, the character’s journey that you are describing here is quite fascinating. I don’t know…maybe at some point I will dive into this one myself. For now though still too many of the classic tales that call my attention 😊😊 Great post as always!😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahah nothing is impossible anymore! Here we are with 3 distinct Jokers for Batman and his family to take down. It’s an interesting idea, an homage to different era Jokers, while serving as a spiritual successor to The Killing Joke, but I found that certain elements of it just made it harder to chew. As long as fans read it with an openmind and without any expectations or any assumptions on where it’s set in terms of continuity, it can definitely be enjoyed for what it is, especially with the whole trauma elements! Thanks for reading, my friend! Keep up your awesome journey through DC’s classics! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • Ouch! Man, I honestly thought you’d like this…I definitely enjoyed it more than you but it surely needs a re-read in it’s collected form for a full assessment (I’ve got the hardcover on order).

    To be honest I never felt there was any element of retcon going on, that seemed to pass me by! I think the problem with the concept is that Three Jokers started out as an in-canon main DCU story and the jump to Black Label made it something vaguely outside of that. I think it’s probably best taken as it’s own standalone story… perhaps it’s nods and winks to other stories limits that, I don’t know.

    Alas, I did enjoy this quite a bit even if I’m a bit fuzzy on some of the details but took it as it’s own thing (in a similar vein I totally enjoy Jack Nicholson’s version of the Joker and how Batman/Joker’s origins are entwined in Batman ’89) with some interesting ‘what if ‘ ideas. Oh and Jason Fabok’s art was worth the wait, we seriously need more from him beyond just the odd cover or occasional one-off title.

    Great review Lahsaan, I totally respect your opinion and the points regarding the Killing Joke (which I also LOVE) on this even if we diverge. Hm, I wonder how you’ll receive “Joker War”, I’ll await with much anticipation and interest!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I mostly saw an attempt to retcon when looking at the final twist regarding the Killing Joke and how they made him seem like an abusive father, which then forced his wife to fake her death. I also had an overall feeling that the story tried to retcon this multiple Joker narrative because of how I kept on considering this story as part of the New 52 continuity. As I read this story, I tried to see if it made any sense amidst all the stories that kept with Rebirth and whatnot. Having never seen Batman question the “triple Joker” hypothesis much, seeing the whole Joe Chill redemption arc (when other Joe Chill stories were already told before too), and finally establishing that Gordon knew of Batgirl identity, these all made me a bit cold towards this story.

      I definitely think it’s much better to check out this story and consider it like some sort of spiritual sequel to The Killing Joke/Death in the Family/Under the Red Hood… My expectations regarding what it could’ve been just made me nitpick my whole way through the story and just gave me a hard time appreciating the story (everything else is near perfect though).

      Thanks for your open-mindedness, my friend! I still very much look forward to sharing my thoughts on Joker War soon enough though. If it maintains the quality like Their Dark Designs, I’m sure it can only be better! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

        • By the way, a while back a made a “Digital Mini Reviews” post about a couple of X-Men reads I got around to in the past months and wanted to tell you that I got around to diving into the whole House of X/Power of X saga and have been enjoying most of the spin-off series since (Fallen Angels being the weakest one that I recently finished). How have you been enjoying those yourself? Thank you so much for steering me towards that colossal and pivotal Hickman volume though. It really was quite the volume and sets up such a fantastic new premise for the X-Men characters!

          Like

    • And that’s probably the moral of this story too. 😉 Just see it as writer Geoff Johns attempt to try and create some kind of “logic” to how the Joker evolved in the past 80 years. The 3 Jokers here each represent a variant of him that we knew and loved, not only distinguished by how he acts but also his style (character concept and clothing!). It’s like… an homage that tries to explain how everything came to be…

      Liked by 1 person

  • “Unnecessary” is the appropriate word here. The art is glorious, as you said. What a shame the story doesn’t live up to the quality of Fabok’s rendering of it. That hardcover edition looks beautiful, though:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s definitely a nice collector’s item! Unfortunately, I could never put it up there alongside The Killing Joke, for example, despite it being almost a spiritual sequel to it… Worth checking out out of pure curiosity though. Thanks for reading, my man! I appreciate it. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • We need questions, not answers! Geez, these guys still haven’t learned. 🤠

    All jokes aside. Thanks for another great review, Lashaan. These posts are like the equivalent of Saturday morning cartoons, it’s just sad that this one got the channel changed on it.

    Can we buy some speech bubble stickers and put our story, then?

    Liked by 1 person

  • I didn’t set high expectations for this one because it felt over hyped to me, and honestly, it was.
    You are right about the art and the splash pages (although some pages weren’t that appealing and the drawings felt a bit repetitive especially with the front face shots, as an artist, it felt like lazy drawing).
    And about the story, it’s not the best for sure, I didn’t like the first book and it took me three days to go through it and I usually finish a whole volume in one sitting. It got better though with book two and three but everything happened felt so stereotypical and unoriginal.
    I was hoping for a better ending honestly, but again, they stuck with all the mystery that surrounds the Joker…
    And I do have a theory, this whole story is a nightmare inside Batman’s head. I mean it’s the perfect nightmare, especially with what the Joker said at the end!

    Liked by 1 person

    • First of all, I’m so glad to hear from someone who read this one too! I’ll have to drop by your blog for sure now! 😀

      As for the expectations I set for this one, I knew I shouldn’t have but I was so blinded by the creative team on this project and the promise of delivery since the New 52 Justice League run that I just couldn’t allow myself not to have expectations.

      While I’m glad that it’s now done, despite rumours of potential sequels to this, it definitely felt unnecessary in the end, especially when the final twist simply brings it back to the status quo?

      Your idea of a nightmare is definitely cool though but maybe a bit complicated to explain how the Mobius Chair revealed the existence of three Jokers hahah

      Thank you so much for dropping by! I appreciate that you shared your thoughts with me! 😀

      Like

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