Batman #23.1 Joker- Ok, I seriously hate anything that goes like 23.1, 23.2, 23.3, and so on. Plus, if you have read anything about the joke that is the way DC handled this Forever Evil publication run, then you can guess that they are losing some love from retailers. So realize that when I went into this book (the first of the villain one-shots I’ve read) that the deck was stacked against it. Even if I could ignore everything from a retailer perspective and how these books have been a pain in my ass for the past month, the story was just bleh. I don’t know who I should blame, Andy Kubert or DC editorial, but this is one of the worst comics I’ve read in a while. Let’s break this down slowly. First of all, it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual Forever Evil story. That can almost be seen as a good thing, but if you force a $3.99 special one shot down our throats under the illusion it’s part of a companywide event and then realize you can’t do that with the Joker due to previous events where his face was ripped off and he may or may not be dead, then you need to not bother. Allowing that as not a big deal, the book’s big mistake is showing the Joker’s childhood, where he may have gotten his pale skin by being cleaned with bleach by his abusive Aunt. Yeahbuwhu? So I guess Killing Joke is out the window completely, except for the parts that are but aren’t(dammit, DC). I’m a staunch believer that you should never show anything from Joker’s past. That’s why Dark Knight worked so well when Joker kept changing the stories of his scars. But considering Dan Didio thought he should reveal exactly who the Phantom Stranger was within their first issue of the new series, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that DC doesn’t understand the finer points of their own characters or good storytelling.
The next point is going to seem a little weird, but there is a method to my madness. I love gorillas in comics. I take my primates very seriously. So in this book Joker finds a baby gorilla, raises it, beats it, trains it to construct complex weapons, and teaches him to be an all-around henchman. All of this in a montage that I would normally love because it has a Gorilla with a bazooka. But seriously, go watch Project Nim. Raising a primate will mess them up all sorts of ways, and will most likely mess you up as well. It just doesn't work that way unless you have a science gorilla or magic gorilla. Plus I can’t even comprehend the time frame here, because it’s hard to believe Joker would spend, I don’t know, 10-15 years to train a gorilla considering the New 52 has all these characters being around for only maybe 5 years. Gorillas don't age like dogs. Time frames and training aside, this is supposed to be the origin of Jackanapes, a character that was a minor but amazing footnote in Morrison’s dystopian future where Damian Wayne is Batman. The Jackanapes depicted there was a brilliant (and talking) molecular biologist with a few choice lines. It’s a long distance to get us from this one-shot to that point (I’m guessing with Kubert announced as writing a Damien Wayne series that’s the path he’s setting up here), and I don’t want to read about it for the same reasons I don’t want to see the Joker’s childhood. It’s the same reason I don’t want to know about what happened Before Watchmen. It’s unnecessary and sloppy, and undermines the brilliance of a few short panels meant to stand alone.
But I digress. The actual scripting and storytelling was wooden at best. There wasn’t a real point to the story, which could have worked if you were pulling for a focus on anarchy but that wasn’t the case. The end was anti-climactic at best. The Andy Clarke art is actually great for the content choices, so that’s the only positive I could really find. But as an opening salvo to Villains Month, this leaves a pretty bad taste in my mouth. DC, you have made me dislike a comic with a gorilla. I'm not sure I can ever forgive you. C-