After four years of anticipation, the first issue of Batman: Three Jokers came out and did not disappoint. Writer Geoff Johns previously teased at this story in Justice League #50 during the New 52. For those who aren’t aware, in this issue, Batman had asked the Mobious Chair who the Joker is. It responded that there is not one Joker but three. Fast forward to the present day with issue one on the shelves to spread some light on the mystery. The creative team of Geoff Johns, artist Jason Fabok, and inker Brad Anderson may have taken longer than expected to release this issue, but it’s evident every extra day was put into crafting what may be one of the most important Bat-stories.
Geoff Johns has stated multiple times that this story will delve into the emotional trauma that Bruce Wayne/Batman, Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, and Jason Todd/Red Hood have experienced. And that’s really what makes this issue so successful, rather than being another Batman vs. Joker story with a supporting cast who helps out, everyone has the spotlight. As a result, readers cannot only understand the trauma of these three heroes but also empathize with how they’re feeling now.
he issue opens up with James Gordon and Harvey Bullock investigating a similar tale as that of DC Rebirth #1, with three separate crimes being committed by the Joker at the same time. But the question remains: how can one man be in three places at once? That’s what Batman, Batgirl, and Red Hood investigate in this issue. Throughout the story, there are dozens of callbacks to prior stories and moments, both timeless and minor. More than anything, this is a great example of how much love the team has put into this story, ensuring their love for the characters is shows in more ways than one.
Let’s get into these Jokers, not too much of course because one thing this issue does phenomenally is differentiating between the three madmen. The first Joker is ‘The Criminal,” who would represent the original incarnation. Johns has stated that they chose to fixate on one major trait of his from Batman #1: he doesn’t smile. With that being said, The Criminal is the brains of the operation who is a “cold calculating version of the Joker and a criminal mastermind” (According to John’s at the beginning of August). Second off is “The Clownish” Joker. This is the one we’re all familiar with who has quirky gags, laughing fish, and also beat Jason Todd before killing him. The last one we have is “The Comedian,” and he’s no joke. He’s the same person from The Killing Joke who traumatized Barbara Gordon, who cut his face-off, and who’s been around for years. But really, how are there three Jokers? That’s a mystery to be solved in the issue that not only has major repercussions on the DC Universe but also does something long overdue: reduces Joker’s importance. To clarify, the truth behind this mystery reinstates that Joker himself isn’t some society obsessed maniac who’s determined to make a point. Well, one of them is, but not all!
One of the best parts of this issue is the split between Bruce, Barbara, and Jason. Although there is a little more attention given to one of them, each one of them is given the spotlight. Bruce is shown to be determined as always to stop the Joker (or, well, Jokers) because Joker embodies the evil in the world. Although Barbara is shown to be just as on point as Bruce, her humanity is shown through the conflict in her heart she’s facing. Similarly, Jason is written perfectly. An exceptionally skilled detective with more depth to him than his anger, Jason is shown to have that same determination as Bruce to find the Joker, but seemingly lacks the conflict Barbara faces. The importance of this is seen through their trauma. The scars and pain the three characters share with the Three Jokers is the tether between the past events and the purpose here. Without the pain and trauma he has inflicted, Joker doesn’t mean anything.
Outside of the thrilling storytelling, another grand slam is the art team. Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson knock it out of the park once again with their respective roles. Fabok can capture a modernized interpretation of prior encounter’s with Joker throughout time as well as his masterful depiction of the present day. One of his most overlooked talents is his ability to show expressions through not only facial reactions but body language. When Barbara is enraged, we know she is furious, and not just because she’s shouting. What compliments Fabok is Anderson’s coloring. Everything pops. Anderson’s coloring not only brings the characters to life but gives their emotion more impact. The aforementioned body language only matters when it stands out the way Anderson colors the characters. Additionally, the backgrounds also come to life through the distinction between it from the foreground. It’s not common for the background to be just as lifelike and meaningful as what’s happening upfront, but when it not only sticks out but is just as visually appealing as the rest, the importance isn’t lost.
verall, Batman: Three Jokers is one of the most compelling Joker stories and it’s because of how it focuses on the character without having him on every page. The importance of the character should not be what he’s up to but rather the history behind the character. While the story itself is interesting, the entire creative team is what makes it on track to become possibly the most meaningful story featuring the character without shelving others or overlooking any character’s history or character development. It’s no surprise over 300,000 copies were sold before release.