Friday, November 8, 2013

Batman #23.1/Joker #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Given its subject, it's no surprise that this issue is deeply disturbing.  Kubert delivers yet another version of Joker's origin, showing him as a scared orphan living with a sociopathic aunt with only a hand puppet as a friend.  If that wasn't enough, Kubert has Joker steal a baby gorilla from the zoo, raising him as his own twisted version of Robin.  As kooky as it sounds, it really works, since Kubert uses the Joker's violent yet oddly caring upbringing of the gorilla as a contrast to his aunt's abusive and undoubtedly terrible upbringing of him.

In this way, Kubert comes close to making Joker into a sympathetic character, but, given all his previous origin stories, it's hard to know if we're seeing the real one or an imagined one.  Joker is sufficiently depraved to create his own Aunt Eunice.  In fact, Joker is sufficiently depraved to create Jackanape himself, making you wonder if anything in this issue was real at all.  Joker's childhood is shown as so compellingly and terribly sad (thanks in no small party to Clarke's artwork brilliantly conveying the emotion on a young Joker's face) that you find yourself hoping that it's not real, because, if it is, you'd be forced to see Joker in a different light.  In that way, it's one of the better entries into the various versions of Joker's origin.

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