JOKER: KILLER SMILE #2 by John Funderburg

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SYNOPSIS: Ben Arnell promised his wife and child one thing: even though he spends his days attempting to reach the bottom of The Joker’s insanity, he would never bring that madness home. No matter how dark the work gets, he would never allow The Joker’s craziness to tear their family apart. And in that, he failed.

There are two worlds.  The “real world,” and MADNESS.  But what happens when you no longer know which one you are in?  What I mean is… when you go mad, will you even realize it?

Doctor Ben Arnell continues to be plagued by disturbing dreams.  His wife is concerned, his son is on edge, and his boss thinks he’s been treating the Joker for far too long.

But a seemingly innocuous comment from the Joker sets Ben into an all-out tailspin: one from which he may not recover; one from which he begins to see what is really going on.  It turns out that there is more to Doctor Ben than meets the eye, and there’s a reason why he doesn’t want his wife and son going down into his office in the basement…

I love this book.

If you are a fan of the Bat, a fan of the Joker, or a fan of twisty, mind-bending, psychological horror, I implore you – invest in this book.  It might be my favorite comic of the year.

Much like this year’s JOKER movie, the inherent ambiguity of this story is what makes it so effective.  The story can imply that prolonged exposure to the Joker could drive you mad, but Lemire has constructed the story so we’re joining Ben’s journey in medias res – for all we know, Ben could have been crazy the whole time we’ve known him (or perhaps even longer).  Ben’s understanding of time has been warped, and we feel this change, too.  He doesn’t even remember how long he’s been treating the Joker, so we as the reader don’t know how (or even if) the sessions with Mister J. have been the catalyst for his madness.

There’s plenty to chew on here –  the hallmark of any great story – and the final page of this book leaves us with even more to consider – how long has Ben been unwell?  Perhaps Book Three will provide more insight, but even if it doesn’t, I’ll still be happy.  That’s the beauty of stories like this – sometimes not knowing is even more fun.

Artist Andrea Sorrentino and colorist Jordie Bellaire are absolutely killing it on this title.  Each page has a haunted feel, like you’re caught up in a bad dream.  The opening pages at “Arkham’s Diner” are an absolute knockout.  Vibrant greens and sickly yellows seem to plague the world of madness; I’m curious to see if this carries over to the final book, because there is a possibility that the whole thing might be filled with these colors.  Visually, this book is top tier.

I said this after Book One, but I mean it even more now. I cannot wait for Book Three! – John Funderburg

Grade: A+