DKN Spotlight Review: The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Spectacular

"The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Spectacular"

Writers: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Gary Whitta, Greg Miller, Denny O'Neil, Peter J. Tomasi, Paul Dini, Tom Taylor, Eduardo Medeiros, Rafael Albuquerque, Tony S. Daniel, Brian Azzarello

Artists: Jock, Mikel Janín, Dan Mora, José Luis García-López, Joe Prado, Simone Bianchi, Riley Rossmo, Eduardo Risso, Rafael Albuquerque, Tony S. Daniel, Lee Bermejo

Color Artists: David Baron, Jordie Bellaire, Ivan Plascencia, Marcelo Maiolo, Simone Bianchi, Eduardo Risso, Tomeu Morey; Lee Bermejo

Letterers: Tom Napolitano, Clayton Cowles, Troy Peteri, Clem Robins, Rob Leigh, Deron Bennett, Steve Wands, Carlos M. Mangual, Jared K. Fletcher
Review by Adam Ray

Scars

It's amazing to me that fifteen pages of intensely dark comic-book content has scared me more than any Hollywood blockbuster horror. On the face of it, "Scars" is a simple story - a man seeing his psychiatrist. Tales like this one, however, are the kind of thing I live for. By catching up with the Joker's survivors, we get a slice of an all-new world. The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Spectacular has started strong.

We see that the actions of DC's most dangerous villain have real consequences. We see that people have truly suffered, and been damaged, often beyond repair. By seeing what the Joker's left behind, we get a chance to truly hate him for the loss and destruction of innocence the world over. We get to see him described as a figure of fear, leaving ruin behind him, and this is the version of the character I think we need to see more. The version they've started this stellar collection with.

What Comes at the End of a Joke

When you compare this story; one of a loving fan of the Joker's, to the first; one about the destruction the Joker wreaks, it leaves a reader blown away by the influence of the character. The Joker's fan club is a scary collection. To think that there are people in the DC Universe, who idolise the terrorist and murderer like a rock star is much too frightening. Fanatics like those are things that could bring that world down. We see how a character like that thinks, and the worst is yet to come...

Kill the Batman

This story calls to mind the lines of Heath Ledger's iconic portrayal of the Joker. "I had a vision of a world without Batman... and it was so boring." It's been touched on by many in passing, but never in practice. The two characters really need each other. They have a deeply twisted symbiosis. The bringer of chaos and bringer of justice.

It's easy for Batman to imagine a world without Joker, but Joker imagining a world without Batman leaves him despondent and angry. It's interesting to see how he would handle it. I personally would have hoped that the references to other media were fewer, but quotes from the Dark Knight Trilogy are rife, and need to be left alone. In all, the idea is interesting, but falls a tad short of the rest of the collection so far.

Introducing the Dove Corps

It's good to try and test a character, to see how they'd react in a situation. The idea of a 'heroic' Joker is it's own novel idea. This is the closest we get from him, and you can imagine the mixed results. Joker takes the situation, one entirely out of his comfort zone, and handles it in ways many would find surprising. The Joker is at his best when he's making the unexpected happen... with dangerous results. The glimmer of hope, and realistic expressions of the Joker's thoughtfulness, added to this peace corps' reaction to not using deadly force, makes this a down to earth story of what happens when the Joker tries to do a good thing all the more fresh.

The War Within

With the intensity of the other stories we've seen so far, this one matches up, but is still the flavour break we needed. The clash between Batman and the Joker has been filling Comics for 80 years. We hear the Joker's perspective throughout the whole thing. It's rewarding for readers to hear that he does love the chase, and conflict he and Batman always get up to. When you pair this pulp action with the dreamlike colours and haze of the beautiful artwork, we really get a sense of the loss of sanity these characters experience.

The Last Smile

What does a nightmare have nightmares about? This story's deceptively simple, cartoonish artwork really explores the Joker from the inside. We see how he handles himself in moments of vulnerability. If there's something one of the most twisted characters in comics is scared of, we really get to experience it here. To be perfectly honest, seeing what he dreamt of... I'm a little scared too.

Birthday Bugs

Re-framing a character so familiar is so hard to do, and somehow this heartfelt and disturbing story has done so amazingly well. I was never one of those children that hurt insects, but everyone knows one. For a kid like that, the Joker is the best and worst fairy godmother imaginable.

Joker lifts this little boy's spirits like a master, and it's a heartwarming thing to see. The manner in which he does so, however, is absolutely terrifying. It's scary to think of the Joker finding a kindred spirit anywhere, it's scarier when that person is so young, and someone who teaches the Joker something. When you pair that with the run down color scheme and the realism in the character design, it adds up to this story being a personal favorite.

No Heroes

Here we see the measured chaotic energy of the Joker summed up better than anywhere I've seen before. Kind of an odd thing to say: measured chaotic. The ability to switch on a dime and do something entirely unexpected, but measured enough to know all those details about the bank, and the thought of taking the young man's ID card. This is what draws us back to the Joker. We can never get a full read on the character. He will always, always do the unexpected... but for a reason. It's this allure that draws us back to the character with morbid fascination.

Penance

Hearing the way the mobster in this story talks is such an indication of the way the world with the Joker would be. The traditional organised criminals, of a small enough scale, would all evaporate eventually. The traditional mafia are all very religious, and the confession makes for a great way to retell the story. It adds a great deal of uncertainty. Suspense builds through the piece, without us truly feeling it.

Two Fell into the Hornet's Nest

The final story in The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Spectacular is an homage to the Jack Nicholson classic asylum movie (and his portrayal of the Joker in Batman '89), and we get a real window into insanity here. The uncertainty of the Joker back in the asylum; invasive procedures, outbursts, wild attacks. We wonder about everything that's going on in these pages. It's unclear nature makes us wonder about our own sanity at the same time the Joker does, and much like the classic "flashlight" gag from The Killing Joke, we wonder who the sane one is between Batman and Joker, and who really crosses over that thin line.

Conclusion

The stories in The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Spectacular are connected only by the Clown Prince himself. We feel his presence and his influence. We see his classic methods and all the interesting ways he'd handle an unlikely scenario. All these stories are wild and varied and valid. When you pair them with iconic cover artwork and posters of the clown at his best, you get a real portrait of a personal favorite character of mine, handled masterfully by this pantheon of comics talent.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment

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