Review: Batman #23.1
The Joker will forever be Batman’s greatest villain. He’s been portrayed many different ways throughout the years, and Batman #23.1 by Andy Kubert and Andy Clarke just doesn’t know HOW to portray him.
Kubert spends the issue juxtaposing Joker’s family life against his family now, which consists of a baby chimp he raises himself. That’s a great way to start the issue, and it promises good set up. It’s a nice fold for the Joker to show us how he became who he is. While I did not enjoy the issue overall, there are some good things to take away. Seeing the Joker’s messed up way of raising a chimp was funny to read. It’s the zany kind of thing that the Joker from the Silver Age would do. And this would have worked if the characterization for him was in that frame too. But Kubert tries to blend the styles, and they clash. Joker seems to flip back and forth between complete psycho and somewhat human in a manner of panels. When it works though, it works. Kurbert weaves childhood woes with Joker being a parent to the chimp, Jackanapes. But by the end, that characterization is long gone, and this seems like a different Joker completely.
Some of the Villain Month books are dealing with the ramifications of Forever Evil #1 and Justice League #23. This would have been a better route to take as it would have Joker debating his nature as a villain. He loves chaos and causing mayhem, but part of the fun to him is being caught by Batman. Part of that is shown here, as Jackanapes seems sad that the Joker will always love Batman more than him. It was a nice moment that is quickly swept aside in favor of other, less interesting, things. Joker is brought up in passing in Forever Evil #1, which makes Batman #23.1 the perfect place to showcase what he is doing. It worked well for Flash #23.1 (Grodd).
One of the redeeming qualities of Batman #23.1 is Andy Clarke’s artwork. His Joker is insane, but he adds a slight hint of humanity to everything he does. The reader can see it in his eyes. When he is looking at Jackanapes, it’s clear that the normal part of his brain is trying to squeeze it’s way through the crazy. The final page, when it’s hard to tell if the Joker is going to cry or crack up laughing (you see what he actually does the next panel) is brilliant. It toes the line of laughing or crying perfectly, and really had me wondering for a second if the Joker could be human. The childhood memory panels add a lovely darkness to the origin of the Joker. Blond’s colors are a nice mix of flashy colors and muted darkness.
Batman #23.1 gets 2.5/5.
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