November 26, 2020

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Batman: Three Jokers (DC Comics)

BATMAN: THREE JOKERS (2020-) #3 review

Neil reviews the final issue of DC COMICS latest Black Label release, BATMAN: THREE JOKERS. Written by Geoff Johns, the book is available in stores now.

Synopsis

The final chapter of the most terrifying and personal Batman mystery is here!
Still reeling from their last encounter with the three Jokers, Batman, Batgirl, and Red Hood discover the terrible truth about the Three Jokers’ plot. Will the caped crusaders have the strength needed to put an end to the maniacal menaces’ master plan once and for all, or will it be lights out for good? You won’t want to miss the stunning conclusion of Batman: Three Jokers as it completes its trajectory as the ultimate examination of The Joker and his never-ending conflict with Batman.

Review

How do you close out one of the most intriguing DC Comics mini-series of 2020? According to Geoff Johns and artist Jason Fabok you do it by seismically shifting one of the single most important relationships in pop culture history. Also, is it The Joker? Or Joker? I use either depending on my mood…

In the run-up to Three Jokers anticipation was easily around the potential to learn more about HOW there are multiple Joker’s in existence. How were these Jokers created? Who is the original? How will this revelation impact the DC Universe moving forwards?

Cleverly, Johns doesn’t necessarily answer all of the questions posted ahead of the series launch. Instead Three Jokers #3 continues to do what we were told all along: focus on Bruce, Barbara and Jason.

Three Jokers has always been about how his existence and his actions have impacted these three characters. This final issues ostensibly wraps up a lot of those feelings. By the final page each character has reached a new turning point in their relationship with Joker as well as with each other.

For Jason, Three Jokers has been a story of accepting the darkness within himself and created by Joker by the events of Death in the Family. The paternal relationship between Jason and Bruce is really only glanced at here. But to see Jason still struggling to reconcile those events and Bruce’s guilt is incredibly raw. Johns is capably able to handle the deep-seeded cracks in their relationship whilst weaving in a satisfying conclusion.

Barbara’s complex history with Joker has been changed a number of times as DC as worked to reconcile its own history. The events of The Killing Joke were famously re-written to reinstate Barbara’s version of Batgirl during the New 52 era. With Oracle now on the fringes of a return in the main continuity, Three Jokers shows some heavy reverence for Killing Joke in its final chapter.

The biggest (and easily most complex) outcome of Three Jokers is for Bruce. The issue reveals that The Comedian is the last man standing of the three versions of the character introduced in issue #1. It transpires that his plan is to off Joe Chill, murderer of The Waynes, in order to help Bruce heal his greatest wound.

Only with Chill out of the way does Joker think he can become the greatest problem that Bruce/Batman has to deal with. Essentially placing himself as what he see’s as the most important person in Bruce’s life. The Comedian uses his status as the “final” Joker to cement himself as THE Joker. But what the issue takes time not to explain is whether he is the first of the Joker’s to be created, or whether one of the others made him.

One of the through-lines in the mini-series has been whether the Jokers would create another to continue their lineage. It seems that idea isn’t in The Comedian’s wheelhouse as he’s much more fixated on his relationship with Bruce.

But Johns still has one huge trick up his sleeve. Pulling the rug out from underneath the reader we discover that Bruce has known the true identity of Joker from the beginning. The, in an outstanding callback to The Killing Joke we learn that actually we’re not going to learn at all who Joker is.

Johns does a wonderful job of tying up the book with plenty of teasers for the future. The final scenes, which I do not want to spoil here, are a huge shift in the dynamic between the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime. After reading this any story featuring Joker, past or present, will feel different knowing that Bruce knows more than we ever expected.

But beyond the superficial, Johns has a lot more to say about the status of The Joker. Given our expectations of this huge mystery, Three Jokers told an entirely different story. One which actually played in to the classic representation of the character. Joker’s story remains open-ended, the facts remain a mystery and his history continues to be multiple-choice.

Whilst very little has changed around how The Joker(s) is portrayed his character will never be the same again.

Once again I have to praise Jason Fabok for making this the most Bat-like book he possibly can. I’ve said it from the start but this is how a Bat-book should look. It’s dark, it’s gloomy and it’s overtly atmospheric in all the best ways possible.

There are plentiful Joker facets in this book and he is able to distinguish them all in ways which call back to historical versions of the character. Not once did I find myself wondering which Joker I was looking at on the page. Kudos to Fabok for really making this a AAA book visually.

Verdict

Batman: Three Jokers #3 is a near multiverse shattering conclusion to the groundbreaking series. Stunning visuals and an impactful story steer the ship to a hugely satisfying and tantalising conclusion.

Batman: Three Jokers (DC Comics)

Batman: Three Jokers #3 is written by Geoff Johns with art by Jason Fabok and colours by Brad Anderson. Fabok and Anderson also provide the above cover artwork.


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