BATMAN #142 Review

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A few years ago, I heard a beloved artist mention the issue with people/fans reacting to announcements in the form of “Who was asking for this?”. The artist’s point was that if we only gave them what they were asking for, then there’d be no evolution.

So a few months back, when DC announced an upcoming story to be played out in the issues of BATMAN titled “The Joker: Year One”, I refrained from the question above, and instead thought, “hmmm.”

My sensibilities are to not know what’s going on inside the mind of the Joker, and to keep his backstory unknown. As a great director once said, “The Joker just is”.

But, my reviewing of this title for BOF isn’t about what I want/prefer. It’s to review with an open mind and let readers know if the story is worth checking out.

My reaction: “Hmmm.”

Chip Zdarsky has been on BATMAN since issue #125, and this will no doubt gain the most attention yet (some may argue #135, aka #900). Issue #142 kicks off a 3-issue, extra-long, weekly tale focusing on the Clown Prince of Crime. Sure, we go back to post-Ace bath and how this character reacts (instantly) to his new form, but there’s also a more interesting tale mixed in.

Zdarsky hasn’t been bad with this book (to me), he’s just gone down paths that aren’t interesting. This Joker tale is interrupting Batman’s latest battle with Failsafe, a story I’m not invested in at all. That one left us with Joker knowing who Batman is (which I also am not a fan of), and somehow this new story ties into it.

In short, here was my journey reading this issue:

  • What unfolds is not from THE KILLING JOKE, but from ZERO YEAR. I think this is a better move, so I’m optimistic.
  • The Joker’s internal dialogue is present for us to read and follow along. I think this is a BIG no-no, but can see the draw in a writer taking us through the mental state of a normal man turning into a monster. My optimism fades.
  • A different story, with a different artist, in a different timeline, intercuts with the old and provides a typical Joker plot but in a much darker, and scarier way. My optimism spikes.

Speaking of art, a big (buzzer-less) hand for the duo of Giuseppe Camuncoli (ONE BAD DAY: THE PENGUIN) and Andrea Sorrentino (BATMAN: THE IMPOSTER). The two talents combine their efforts into one issue, guiding us through two different stories, and I dig both of their different, yet unique, styles. Yet again, the art shines in a Batman book.

Overall, I’m cautiously in the middle of the road on this issue. I think Zdarsky is doing something different (which I’ll always applaud), interesting, and unpredictable. Some choices I find less desirable than others, however, so I’m not sure (yet) how I feel. The art isn’t anything short of great, and I look forward to more.

Beware the Clown, but I say give it a shot. – Ryan Lower

GRADE: B