As the old saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. Usually that means that you should give something a chance before you dismiss it, but in this case, you literally shouldn’t judge the quality of a comic book by it’s really cool cover.
This month, DC Comics is presenting the first company wide crossover since the start of New 52 reboot called ‘Forever Evil’. To tie into the event, the villains are taking over their respective nemesis’ books. For instance, ‘Aquaman’ #23.1 has turned into ‘Black Manta’ #1, ‘Detective Comics’ #23.1 is ‘Poison Ivy’ #1, and ‘Justice League of America’ #7.1 has become ‘Deadshot’ #1. As for the Dark Knight’s main title, ‘Batman’, that has been taken over by the Clown Prince of Crime himself and has been rechristened ‘Joker’ #1.
However, if you read ‘Forever Evil’ #1, you’ll notice that the Joker is missing from the festivities. Some of the rogues even make a note of it. However, considering that he’s probably the most popular and well-known villain that DC has, the company couldn’t keep him out of ‘Villains Month’. But when we last saw him in ‘Batman’ #17, we were left wondering if he’d survived his last encounter with the Caped Crusader. So would this issue pick up with criminal mastermind after the critically acclaimed ‘Death of the Family’? Or would it explain why he didn’t join the likes of the Riddler, the Penguin, Bane, and Two-Face in the Secret Society in the crossover? Well, not exactly.
In this one-shot featuring arguably Batman’s most dangerous bad guy he’s ever faced, we go back in time to a pre-New 52 Mister J as he literally tries to make a man out of a monkey. While exploring his abusive childhood, we learn about Joker’s beloved Jackanapes, a baby gorilla that he takes from the zoo.
Earlier, I alluded to the book’s cool cover. Something that DC has unveiled as a part of this anniversary of the New 52 is the special 3D covers for all their books. That’s actually a huge reason why I bought this book in the first place. It was just too cool not to pick up. Jason Fabok and Nathan Fairbairn did an amazing job putting it together. However, that’s about the extent of the good things that I could say about this issue.
Maybe I just went into this with higher expectations than I should have since I loved what Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo did with the character earlier this year, but I just didn’t like where this story went. Basically, it’s the Joker teaching a gorilla how to be as evil and twisted as him. It sounds like a throwaway episode of ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ or ‘Justice League: Unlimited’ rather than an issue of this amazing Batman series that we’ve been getting since the New 52 started. I mean, we don’t even get the crazy, creepy, cool New 52 version of the character who had his face ripped off.
I don’t know about you, but I really wanted more out of this comic. It was clichéd and predictable and it took some of the mystique away from one of the greatest villains ever created. The origin created by Andy Kubert in this book was just so unoriginal and unworthy of a character like The Joker. For an awesome origin tale, look to Alan Moore’s ‘The Killing Joke’. While some may dismiss it as a lie told by the villain himself, it’s still one of the most intriguing accounts of how he came to be who he is.
If I were to judge a book by it’s cover in this case, I’d say that this comic was stellar and out of this world. However, the story behind it just didn’t live up to the caliber of villain that they were looking to showcase here. I hope that the rest of the ‘Villains Month’ titles stepping in for ‘Batman’ aren’t as upsetting as this one.
Written by Andy Kubert
Art by Andy Clarke & Blond
Cover by Jason Fabok & Nathan Fairbairn