(MINOR) SPOILER FREE REVIEW
Warning: Minor spoilers follow
In late 2015, DC Comics creatives Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok released Justice League #50, the concluding issue to “the Darkseid War“, which is one of the final DC comic stories before the new DC Rebirth era of stories. In this story, Batman gains a new power and loses it just as quickly: the Mobius Chair. For those who do not know, the Mobius chair is the chair of one of the New Gods and allows the person that sits upon it to have all-powerful knowledge. The Mobius Chair allowed Batman to discover BIG facts that shook the greater DC universe. One of the big reveals was that there are THREE JOKERS. Yes. THREE JOKERS.
It has been FIVE years since this reveal. DC’s Rebirth reboot and Watchman Sequel (Doomsday Clock) have come and gone, and the Three Jokers reveal has not been address until the latter half of this year. The story was going to be released in early 2017 but was pushed back because of Doomsday Clock, before that story itself was pushed back. Conveniently, both stories, Doomsday Clock and Three Jokers, were written by Johns.
The conclusion to Three Jokers just came out last week, allowing me to review the entire story, and boy, I don’t really know what to think.
The story of the Three Jokers is one of pain. It focuses on the pain that Batman, Batgirl, and Red Hood have suffered because of the Joker.
The main plot of the “Three Jokers” revolves around the Three Jokers trying to make a new Joker. In Issue 2, it is revealed that they kidnapped Joe Chill, as he is the person that killed Bruce Wayne’s parents (Thomas and Martha Wayne), hoping to make him into the Ultimate Joker.
The reason for this is that the Jokers want to make Batman have more of a connection to the Joker, as the three of them have no real significance to him as people. Through this, Batman would have a bigger reason to hate the Joker.
The story reveals that there are literally three Jokers: the Criminal, the Comedian, and the Clown. The Criminal represents the Joker from the Golden Age of comics, although that does not mean that he is the original Joker. The Comedian is the Joker found in the “Killing Joke”, and most modern comics, such as “Death of the Family” and “Batman: Endgame” by Scott Snyder, and Joker War by James Tynion IV. This leaves the Clown as the Joker found in the Silver age of comics, along with “Death in the Family”.
This allows for the three main members of the Bat-Family to have a hatred for one version of the Joker. Batman’s is the Criminal. Batgirl’s is the Comedian, as he is the Joker that shot her. Red Hood’s is the Clown, as he is the Joker that killed him.
Since the story revolves around the Three Jokers and the Three Members of the Bat-Family, it gets really dark. In the first issue, the Clown mocks Jason Todd (Red Hood) for begging and pleading for his life when he was about to kill him. The Third Issue features an encounter with Batgirl and the Comedian, in which the Comedian is holding the camera that he used to take pictures of her naked in “The Killing Joke.”
Geoff John and Jason Fabok’s “Batman: Three Jokers” is a wonderful new release that adds to the history of the Joker and Batman. It may not answer that many questions that fans have had in the past, and it does wrap up some loose ends that have been motivating characters for the last decade or two.
The first real thing to point out about “Three Jokers” is Jason Fabok’s amazing art. Each character is beautifully drawn on the page. If anything, the art alone is worth the $21 (US) price tag for all 3 issues. Something interesting about this story is the amount of panel layouts that Fabok uses to reference past Joker stories. Most of them are from flashbacks to “The Killing Joke” and “Death in the Family” with Fabok redrawing the panels beautifully. The series also has many variant covers featuring many versions of the Joker, throughout his history. The amount of details and covers are astonishing. One of the major benefits of postponing a series for 3 years, I guess.
The dialogue and story by Geoff Johns is a bit lacking, but the story that he has written is great. It explores the pain that the Jokers have given these members of the Bat-Family, and very well at that. It also resolves the conflict before Joe Chill and Bruce Wayne, a conflict that has been around since the creation of Batman’s origin. The story doesn’t do many things with the idea of there being Three Jokers. However, since the story focuses on the Jokers trying to make the perfect Joker, there are a ton of “Prototype” Jokers. This is a very interesting topic.
A quality people may not like about this story is that it hints at a romantic relationship between Barbara and Jason, who both are going through a stressful time. I have seen many angry DickBabs (Dick Grayson/Barbara Gordon) shippers who dislike this. However, it works with this story.
I feel as though this story came way too late, as it was announced in 2017. Because of all the delays to the comic, the main point of the story, the Three Jokers, feels like another bit of Joker content in an over-saturated Joker landscape. DC decided to release this story alongside James Tynion IV’s “Joker War” which ran from Batman #95-100. After these two stories, which are good (no doubt about it), I sort of want Joker to be locked in Arkham for at least 3 years or so.
IS IT CANON?
Batman: Three Jokers is published by DC Black Label, which is a division of DC Comics. What makes Black Label so unique is that almost all of the stories told in the imprint are separate from the normal DC Universe. An example of this is Batman: White Knight, a story about the Joker becoming sane and running for Mayor in Gotham. So the main question is: Is Three Jokers canon to the main DC Universe?
One of the many arguments against this story being canon is that in current comics Alfred is dead and Commissioner Gordon is jokerized. For those that do not know, Alfred had his neck snapped by Bane during Tom King’s “City of Bane” story arc, and Gordon was jokerized by the Batman Who Laughs in Scott Snyder’s “The Batman Who Laughs #7.” Both of these stories happened last year. Both Alfred and Gordon appear alive and well during this story.
However, this story could take place before the end of DC’s the New 52 reboot and before the “Rebirth” Reboot. This is because this is when the Three Jokers idea was first introduced, and it has not been brought up in current comics since then. This placement would explain Jim Gordon and Alfred being in the story, as well as why they do not bring up the idea of the three jokers after the New 52.
The costumes that the characters wear during this series do not line up with their New 52 or Rebirth era suits. But, this could be because of the artist and not because of the story.
How does it compare to “The Killing Joke”
The Killing Joke is one of the most famous Joker stories. Three Jokers is meant to be a spiritual successor to The Killing Joke. The final issue makes that very clear. However, The writing and story of Three Jokers does not hold up to the majesty of “The Killing Joke.” Since this is a Black Label story, not much happens that changes the whole of Batman and the Joker’s story. If anything, this is a story about Batman and Joe Chill, who the Jokers are using to make a new Joker. That does not compare to the main story of the Killing Joke, which makes Barbara Gordon paralyzed. While this was implemented into the comics later, it still had an effect. The change that Three Jokers has is big, but does not have that big of an effect as Batgirl going out of commission.
That does not mean that this story is not as good as the Killing Joke. Having Three Jokers makes the story more chaotic, but the story is still very grounded in emotion. That is something that I can compare to the Killing Joke, as both stories have emotional moments. The ending of Three Jokers is very emotional, as it deals with Bruce Wayne and Joe Chill’s relationship, where as Killing Joke focused more on Joker’s origin.
Issue One Rating: 8.5/10
Issue One features an interesting beginning and a great cliffhanger ending. The beginning of the story is intriguing with great interactions between the Three Jokers. The ending of the issue is also amazing, but leads into a mediocre second issue.
Issue Two Rating: 7.5/10
Issue Two is the black sheep of the series. I had to re-read this issue more than once as I did not remember what happened in this issue. I did not have this problem with Issues One and Three. However, the Ending of this Issue is worth it.
Issue Three Rating: 9/10
Issue Three is my favorite of the series. It features great interactions between Batman, the Jokers and Joe Chill. The ending features an amazing continuation of “The Killing Joke” even if it was a retcon. However, it does feature a plot point that may have some Batman fans sending Geoff Johns angry hate mail.
Overall Series Rating: 8.5/10
Batman: Three Jokers is a great add-on to the history of Batman and the Joker’s relationship. Since it’s a DC Black Label book, readers can take it or leave it for DC’s main universe canon. The amount of detail and love that Johns and Fabok have in this series shows, and it makes this to be a very enjoyable read. If you are a Batman or Joker fan this is a must-read!