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November 5, 2008

I’m pretty sick today. I get a cold annually, sometimes its in the start and sometimes the end, generally, it all blends together. Usually I get sick in March actually.

Because of my new found condition I’m going to try to keep this post succinct because I don’t know if I have the stamina for a lengthy diatribe.

Today is the newly released Joker by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. 

Background: If you’ll recall, I mentioned Azzarello during my review of Batman: Gotham Knight. His piece was one of my favorites from that movie. 

Azzarello is best known for his series 100 Bullets which he started in 1999 with Vertigo. He has written stories about Batman, Superman, and many one shots with DC and Marvel. And of course, he wrote one of the pieces for the animated Batman movie. Azzarello is from Ohio and is married to comic artist and writer Jill Thompson of Sandman and Fables fame. 

Lee Bermejo is an artist with talent both in painting and pencils. He is mostly known for his work with Azzarello including 100 Bullets and Hellblazer. He got his start at Wildstorm comics working on the WildCats series. 

The Comic: This might be the easiest comic I have ever summarized because the story is so obvious that to tell it someone else wouldn’t ruin it. 

Joker follows around a street thug, Jonny Frost, who picks up the Joker from Asylum after he is inexplicably released under his own power. The Joker takes a liking to Jonny and makes him his number two as he runs around Gotham causing mayhem in the underworld and murdering crime bosses left and right. 

The Joker for this comic definitely harkens to Heath Ledger’s Joker and not just in act, he also is very much stylized around Ledger’s look. 

Several Batman villians make cameos including a very seductive Harley Quinn, a black Croc, a gangsta Riddler, and a mafia don Harvey Dent. The way each of the characters are stylized in this novel is definitely different from any that I’ve ever seen before. 

Eventually Joker does fight Batman as they are wont to do but for a good 98% of the novel  you are really only following around the Joker and the wanton destruction that he creates all while being narrator by this Jonny Frost character. 

I admit that I just read this 20 minutes ago so it’s fresh enough in my head to drop names and scenes but at the same time I haven’t had that reflective period yet. First impressions, I don’t if I like it or not. The art by Bermejo is awesome. He a style all his own that feels raw and polished simultaneously. It has great presentation and to be honest if Bermejo wasn’t drawing this I don’t know if the story would move as well. 

He brings a certain insanity to the story. 

I’d like to say that I loved the story but in my mind the Jonny Frost character feels weak and unnecessary, he was a vehicle that they unsuccessfully used to move the story along. 

The other thing is that the Joker is acting in a way that feels, to me, out of place. The way he takes on Frost, in a friendly manner and his reliance on Frost and Croc for various dirty deeds, it all seems very anti-Joker. 

I’m just going to jump into the recommendation portion because I’m not sure how to express my feelings for this novel. 

My Recommendation: It’s worth checking out for yourself and if you want something different it is working from a different angle than many Batman stories. I don’t know. Take a look for yourself because I’m somewhat lost on where to put this one.

♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣


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