Joker #1 an Amazing Character Study -- of Jim Gordon

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Joker #1 2021

The Joker. Since his inception, there's been a charisma to the character that keeps readers coming back. He began as a killer. He evolved into an obsessive criminal who plotted crimes and capers with a theme, and he'd leave a body or two behind. He was a criminal genius with a psychotic focus.

In the years since The Dark Knight Returns, he's become something more -- and something less. He's a mass murderer with an obsession over Batman. Which is supposed to make him more of a monster, but has made him far, far less interesting as a character.

Persistent recurring appearances haven't helped. He's a villain who's overstayed his welcome.

Which is an awful lead-up to telling you just how great The Joker #1 is. The Guillem March art and James Tynion IV story are steps above the Joker story that was The Joker War. We're not sure just how soon after the war this tale takes place -- or if it's even canon, for that matter. It is an Infinite Frontier book after all -- this could be on one of a number of parallel Earths. It would be too bad if it were out of the main continuity timeline, because it's such a compelling character study of the main character -- James Gordon, retired.

Yes, Gordon is actually the protagonist of this book, with only cameo appearances by the Caped Crusader. We learn of Gordon's history on the Chicago force, how he came to Gotham, and some haunting advice he received along the way. And we learn his deep-seated hatred of the Clown Prince of Crime. After all, the maniac crippled his daughter and pushed his son over the brink of sanity toward death.

But even in his retirement days, he's still a by-the-book cop. He still believes in the rule of law, even if his pension isn't going to last him very long even on his modest budget.

So when the Joker breaks out of Arkham Asylum once again, leaving a massive body count in his wake, including the man who "broke the bat," Bane, Gordon braces himself for another onslaught on Gotham. What he gets instead is an unexpected call from a mysterious wealthy family who have a job they'd like him to perform: track the Joker down and kill him.

The backup story is also by Tynion, with Sam Johns and art by Mirka Andolfo, and centers around The Joker's latest gal-pal, Punchline. Punchline is currently in prison, but it appears she's going to be released because any of the witnesses who were set to testify against her are coming down with a bad case of death. In order to find something that Punchline may have failed to cover up, Dr. Leslie Thompkins sends Harper Row -- aka Bluebird -- to infiltrate Punchline's old college dorm room to rummage about for evidence. (I don't know how many days it's supposed to have been since Punchline checked out of her dorm until now, but the college must have left the room obligingly unoccupied.)

The art is a little uneven on this one, but only in that it ranges from serviceable to brilliant, the latter moreso when focused on close-ups of Punchline. We get some good character development of the villain when we see how she responds to a threat of extortion from fellow inmate, The Queen of Spades. Hopefully, we'll get just as much character development of the Bluebird character, because we don't really ever see that much of her.

This book is a solid buy, through and through.

5.0 / 5.0