Sunday, November 16, 2014

[Best of Batman] The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker

I don't even know why I like the Joker anymore. Now that first statement is probably the most heinous blasphemous remark I will ever type (and will never type again) as an avid Bat-fan. But I felt the need to confess it because I've been keeping it bottled up inside since...well, since Heath Ledger's outstanding performance in The Dark Knight film. It was only during and after Death of the Family crossover event that I think I became one of those fans who contracted the "Joker fatigue" wherein I found everything that New 52 advertised and hyped about the return of the Clown Prince to be insufferable and diluted.

I think I'm beginning to hate myself for this, which was why I feel that I should buy The Joker: 75 years Anniversary collected works since I recently bought the Batman one last week. I need a refresher; I need to be reminded again why this delightfully terrifying clown psychopath was an important part of my childhood in the first place because I don't know why I'm no longer that enthusiastic about him, let alone eager, to read a story featuring him as the central villain. Heck, as much as I'm enjoying Snyder's Endgame so far which once again brings back the Joker front and center (especially in that previous fucking issue), I just can't handle another conversation or passing remark about the Joker FROM ANYONE (unless it involves his relationship with Harley Quinn which I'm always up for because they're an interesting study BUT MY GOD NEW 52 HARLEY IS ALSO MAKING ME ANGRY).

Maybe it's just a simple case of SENSORY OVERLOAD. Earlier this year, I found out that two of my closest friends haven't watched The Dark Knight so I happily watched it with them (separately so I watched it twice). Last year I got so hooked with the indie webseries The Joker Blogs and I awaited each of their episode release like a battered puppy craving the abuse due to Stockholm Syndrome. And then came Death of the Family which I had countless talks about with several people online in different social media accounts. Things escalated steadily especially when I regretfully engaged in the unending argument in three separate forums about who is the best Joker (Ledger, Nicholson, or Hamill) because nobody ever wins that black-hole-all-consuming debate EVER. Pretty soon I was just SICK OF EVERYTHING THAT HAS THE JOKER STAMPED IN IT. And I'm reliving the horror again by typing all of this shit out and wasting your time (if not possibly irritating you myself) by making you read all of these whiny and bitchy sentiments. Still, it helped me pinpoint why I hate the Joker now. "Hate" is an overdramatic statement because the character will always be important and well-loved for me but what I do hate is what he has REPRESENTED in New 52 material lately.

And it's not just about him being an overhyped "phenomenon".

It's the way he would cast a large, looming shadow over every other villain from Batman's rogues gallery to a point where the re-imagined origin stories for some villains in New 52 need to compete with his insane and chaotic characterization, if not imitate or increase it. Take for example Thomas Elliot a.k.a Hush whose updated origin in Batman Eternal is 'crazed up' because that level of darkness is something a new generation comes to expect from a Bat-villain if he ever lives to survive the competitive market where the Joker defines what makes a villain formidable and worthy of battling it out with Batsy. Am I the only who noticed this? With Nolan's franchise and subsequent characterization of the Joker as portrayed by Legder, the comics began to emulate it because it's the kind of brand that sells pretty damn well. You know what, I wasted far too many paragraphs airing out grievances as oppose to giving you a fleshed out review of this comic book by Ed Brubaker which was composed of sixty-seven pages while the other half has Green Lantern Alan Scott in it, one I didn't even bother to read.

This was a serviceable comic book which I don't think anyone post-Nolan and those who subscribe to New 52 solely will enjoy that much. It was straightforward and quite predictable even though the prose is engaging enough, considering it seamlessly alternated between Batman and Gordon's POVs. As a companion piece to Year One, The Man Who Laughs does a good job introducing the Joker into the timeline where his first encounter with Batman is composed of the quintessential tropes that are recognizable enough to attribute to the Joker (such as his convoluted and theatrical plans which he will nationally broadcast on television; the absurdity and comical way those plans unfold and achieve their effect; a steady body count as the story progresses; and the eventual climactic clash with Batsy). Overall, I enjoyed myself because it was a nice break, a simple story that was engaging enough. But this wasn't going to resonate the same way a more violent and grittier Joker-centered piece would. If that's what you're looking for then you might not bother with this one anymore.

I really have to buy the anniversary hardbound collection of the Joker stories soon. I feel that it's the remedy I've been looking for to purge me from my ongoing Joker fatigue at this moment.


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