Review: Batman #144

“The Joker: Year One” – Part Three
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Giuseppe Camuncoli & Andrea Sorrentino
Color Artists: Alejandro Sanchez & Dave Stewart
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Review by Max Byrne

Batman #144 brings the 3 issue Joker: Year One arc to a storming conclusion. The previous chapters have all been building up to this moment. Does it stick the landing? Yes, the tale does reach a satisfying conclusion overall.

The key element in play here is Zdarsky deciding to ruminate on the symbiotic relationship between Batman and Joker. Sworn enemies yes, arch-rivals definitely, but at the heart of it all, what defines their relationship? Is it mutual hatred or mutual co-dependence? The truth is probably a bit of both.

In a wonderful exchange, our two eternal foes explain to each other that the only reason the other is still breathing is because they have allowed it to be so. The only difference is that Batman’s involvement is coming from a place of hate, whilst Joker’s is coming from a place of love.

Yes, he does love Batman. Without a Dark Knight to constantly battle with, his life would be lacking in purpose, pleasure, and stimulation. Whilst he wants to see our titular hero jump through hoops and suffer in unspeakable ways, he never wants to truly best him.

No spoilers here, but the conclusion of the future-set section ponders that very question. Has Joker snatched defeat from the jaws of victory deliberately over the years? Would he have triumphed countless times if not for his innate desire to keep Batman in the game? It’s a chilling concept indeed.

The past-set section of the book also comes to a violent, bloody conclusion with Jim Gordon playing a huge part. I’ve always enjoyed callbacks to the younger Gordon, showcasing the idealistic lawman fighting corruption from within his own ranks. Ever the stoic cop, seeing him throw caution to the wind and put himself in the worst of harm’s way, to expose the evils of his bent colleagues, is great to see. The sense of peril is genuine and the consequences are brutal.

The ending to the book is a little abrupt to be fair, but it does convey a true sense of bringing the story to its natural conclusion. As we now can pivot back to the main, present-day narrative involving a Zur-En-Arrh-enabled Failsafe, having this trip down memory lane/glimpse into the future has worked as a framing device for a potential team-up between Batman and Joker. Showcasing their shared past can inform their shared future, perhaps?

Conclusion

Batman #144 wraps up the mini-arc well. The script and characterization are terrific and the artwork is sublime. Whilst the 3 issue run might not have re-invented the wheel, it has thrown a new light on the eternal conundrum that is the Joker. Where we go next remains to be seen, but I look forward to it immensely.

Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment


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