SYNOPSIS: The Joker’s right-hand man, Straightman, isn’t quite feeling himself lately. He keeps experiencing moments…flashbacks…of a life he doesn’t remember. After a recent run-in with the Clown Prince and his stoic enforcer, Batman starts to unravel the man’s past, but it lands him smack dab in the crosshairs of Amanda Waller and Task Force X!
Almost three years after his debut, Burnett and Dini are cluing readers in on Straightman’s backstory!
Opening with a flashback to five years ago in Afghanistan, we see Captain Carl Finley bravely save his commanding officer in a firefight. It was slightly jarring, given that while we’ve seen lots of action in this book, having this type of combat was atypical for this title.
That flashback turns out to be a “crazy dream” that Straightman has been having a lot of lately. Dreams that feel so real that he wakes up and finds himself living them out in reality. It’s a fun way to work in his backstory as you get the realization of what Straightman is doing at the end. The technique is paced out very well, moving both time periods of the story along and driving the narrative forward.
Another break from tradition is having two narrators, Batman and a mysterious new character who has ties to Straightman. Okay, maybe the mystery doesn’t last long, but it’s worth noting that we get two perspectives on the events, with Batman dominating the narrative. I felt it worked well, aided by thought boxes being color coordinated.
Ty Templeton is in top form, aided as always by Monica Kubina on colors. His Joker looks flat-out malevolent, possessing the clean lines and aesthetic of his appearances in Justice League and the flashbacks in Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker. With dialogue by Dini and Burnett, it’s very easy to hear Hamill and Conroy (sniff) in your head as you read.
One thing I am loving about this series is the sense of continuity. Season 3 is built on the shoulders of the past “years”, with characters and plot lines coming together in an organic fashion. Amanda Waller’s appearance, amongst others, is reminiscent of one of the arcs in Justice League Unlimited and she has a great dynamic with Batman.
“Crack-Up!: Part One” is a great example of why I look forward to this book each month. Despite looking like a “kids’ show”, the storytelling has a lot of payoffs for longtime fans and offers classic versions of the characters we love. Kubina makes Templeton’s art spring to vivid life and all the dialogue rings true, particularly Joker’s. Grab a bowl of your favorite Saturday morning cereal and give this issue a read! You’ll have fun! – Javier E. Trujillo