Review – The Joker #1 (And Punchline Chapter 1)
Publisher: DC Comics
Writers: James Tynion IV (Joker & Punchline) & Sam Johns (Punchline)
Artists: Guillem March (Joker) & Mirka Andolfo (Punchline)
Colourists: Arif Prianto (Joker) & Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Punchline)
Letterers: Tom Napolitano (Joker) & Ariana Maher (Punchline)
Release Date: March 2021
I have been looking forward to getting to read Joker #1 for review since it was first announced. The prospect of a new series starring one of the greatest characters in all of fiction, following on from the events from Infinite Frontier #1, is an exciting one.
The question upon reviewing Joker #1 is whether it lives up to that exciting prospect and whether this will be a series worth following in the future and I’m pretty confident in saying that it will be, – at least for me. I really enjoyed my time with this issue and really appreciated what was being attempted with the character of Joker. It’s just a shame that there is also a sub-par Punchline chapter tacked onto the end of the issue.
In the Joker issue, I really enjoyed James Tynion IV’s writing. I particularly appreciated how he took the approach of looking at the Joker’s ubiquitous presence across Gotham due to his notorious reputation, rather than his physical presence.
This is probably the most controversial aspect of this issue; that even though the series is called Joker, the character’s appearance in the first issue is very minimal. Instead, this issue is more of a Jim Gordon story showing us how Jim is coping with the trauma inflicted on him by the Joker over the years.
I really like this approach as I have always been a fan of the character of Jim Gordon and I am an even bigger fan of noir detective stories; which is a motif that this issue employs to a certain extent and to great effect.
It is sometimes easy to forget just how badly Joker has affected Jim Gordon’s life in so many messed up ways. This book really highlights that and shines a light on the PTSD that the Joker’s antics has had on certain residents of Gotham in the years since his reign of terror began.
I really relished how unbearably detailed some of Tynion’s character descriptions are in this issue. As soon as a character is introduced, the description given of them in Gordon’s internal monologue tells the reader everything they need to know about that character in a few sentences and it works really well as a way to flesh out the less significant players in the story.
The book also delves into the strong sense of responsibility that Gordon feels; for the city of Gotham, for its citizens but primarily for his family who have been ripped apart in the collateral damage of the Joker’s various rampages through the years. I also really liked how Gordon’s relationship with Batman was shown, with Gordon being given information by officials on a case that he already knew prior due to his partnership with Batman.
Guillem March’s artwork in the issue is stunning and dynamic to look at. March puts a great level of detail into his pencil-work that really helps give the issue a unique look. Some of the illustrations are brilliantly gruesome to the point that you can almost smell the room being depicted.
I also really liked the way that Batman was drawn in the issue, looking very angular and imposing. Some of the standout drawings in the issue for me, were the large Bane mural painted on the side of an apartment block and the phenomenally striking splash page illustration of the Joker perched on James Gordon Jr’s gravestone while Jim mourns his son.
There are also a bunch of neat references in the artwork that pay homage to other iconic Joker stories, such as The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns. These are a cool inclusion for any fan of the character. The colouring work by Arif Prianto also worked to accentuate March’s artwork in a big way.
Unfortunately, the Punchline chapter attached at the end of the issue isn’t anywhere near as interesting or entertaining as the Joker story that precedes it. The artwork by Mirka Andolfo in the Punchline is significantly worse, to the point that is jarring to see at after looking at the brilliant artwork in the Joker portion of the issue.
The quirky writing by Tynion and Sam Jones doesn’t work here either. The whole chapter felt very contrived, clichéd and run-of-the-mill in terms of its plot. Some really bad dialogue made the character of Punchline hard to like and get on board with.
Overall, I enjoyed getting to read Joker #1 for review for the most part. The actual Joker story in the issue was intriguing and well-written and I am looking forward to seeing where certain aspects of the plot will go in future issues. The artwork in this portion of the issue was also stellar. However, the Punchline segment somewhat lets the issue down and is uninteresting and somewhat of a slog to read through.
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