Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Don Kramer
Publisher: DC Comics
Paul Dini has done something that I think happens very rarely in Batman books. He has created a truly classic Joker story. The only times that this rare occurrence has happened recently were over 30 years ago.
Denny O’Neil in Batman #251 and Steve Englehart in Detective Comics #475-76 left their mark on the Joker without having to re-invent the character. They just went back to the classic 1940s version (Batman #1), updated it for their time while telling a hell of a good story. Now Dini has done the same.
In all of his classic homicidal maniac stories, the Joker’s plans have involved either personal gain or revenge (or both).
The problem with Alan Moore’s Killing Joke was that the shooting of Barbara Gordon and the kidnapping and humiliation of Commissioner Gordon were not true “revenge” motivations. The motivation there was spite rather than revenge, and the Joker is not a spiteful homicidal maniac.
His homicidal mania is based in either “what's in it for me?” or “I'm going to kill you because you did me wrong.” In both cases, he feels a compulsion to show the police and Batman that he can carry out his schemes even though he has told them what he plans to do.
With the kidnapping of Robin in Dini’s latest issue, the Joker is again acting in this classic vein. Here he is planning to kill Robin because Robin has done him wrong in the past. It doesn’t matter whether Tim Drake has ever done the Joker wrong; it’s Robin the Joker is after.
Complimenting Dini’s script, illustrator Don Kramer’s depiction of the Joker was nearly perfect in every panel except for a two or three where he turned the Joker’s grin into a frown. The chemical bath that turned the Joker’s skin white, his hair green, and his lips ruby red also contorted his facial muscles into that terrifying grin. It should be on his face even when he’s frowning on the inside—which makes him all the creepier.
I’m so glad Dini decided to abandon the idea of doing a mature version of his Animated Series type of stories. Here’s hoping he continues along the path set out with this fantastic issue.
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