Joker (graphic novel)
|Date||October 17, 2008|
|Main character(s)||The Joker
|Page count||128 pages|
Joker is an original graphic novel written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Lee Bermejo. It was published in 2008 by DC Comics. It is based on characters from DC's Batman series, focusing primarily on the title character. It is a unique take on the Batman mythos, set in an alternate reality with a noir atmosphere and narrated by one of the Joker's henchmen.
Azzarello and Bermejo had previously worked on a similar take on the main Superman villain in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, and Joker grew out of a discussion following completion of the project and was greenlit by DC Editor Dan DiDio the following day. The initial plan was to reflect this connection with a title sharing the same structure, Joker: The Dark Knight but it was felt to be too similar to the film The Dark Knight, and so the name was shortened. When the writer was asked if he preferred writing villains he said "I relate to them. [Laughs] I don't relate to the heroes. The Man, tryin' to keep you down!"
Jonny Frost, a low-level thug, is sent to Arkham Asylum to pick up the Joker. Joker immediately takes a liking to Frost, using him as a chauffeur. Frost drives the Joker to the lair of Killer Croc. The three go to the "Grin and Bare It" strip bar, which was formerly owned by the Joker. With the help of Harley Quinn, the Joker kills the new owner and asks the shocked audience if they are willing to help him take his city back.
Next morning, the Joker robs a bank and coaxes the Penguin (mockingly referred to as "Abner") to invest the stolen money. The Joker embarks on a killing spree, murdering many thugs who stole his money, turf, and bizarre sense of reputation. Informed by the Penguin that Harvey Dent, a crime boss with a split personality, is evading a talk with him, an engraged Joker trashes a phone, kills one of his own henchmen, and then sets the "Grin and Bare It" on fire.
The next day, Frost is detained by Dent, who warns Frost that the Joker will kill him. Subsequently, Frost is late to the Joker's meeting with the Riddler, a disabled weapons dealer. They exchange a briefcase, and the Joker leaves. Once on the road, the Joker's crew is shot at by off-duty cops hired by Dent, and Frost saves the Joker's life in the scuffle.
Joker embarks on a turf war against Dent, prompting him to meet with Joker. They meet at the city zoo. Joker brings the briefcase he got from the Riddler. Joker says he has learned Dent has two wives, and threatens to use the contents of the briefcase as leverage against him. The meeting becomes hostile. Joker attacks Dent, with shards of broken glass glued to his fingertips. When Dent's men raise their guns, Harley (disguised as an ape in a cage) expertly shoots each one in the head.
After helping Frost get his ex-wife Shelly back from Dent, Joker rapes her. He says this makes them even, since Frost "cheated" on the Joker by not revealing his own meeting with Dent. Later, Harvey paints a bat on a spotlight, and pleads with Batman to stop Joker. When Joker and Frost return to their apartment, they find the window shattered and flee to Croc's lair. However, Batman has already subdued Croc and his gang.
In a final attempt to escape, Joker and Frost flee to a nearby bridge. While Joker is "screaming through tears", Jonny inexplicably finds himself laughing, unable to stop. They find Batman in wait, and Joker, being provoked by Batman's tauntings, shoots Frost in the chin. Joker and Batman fight as Frost climbs over the edge of the bridge and falls.
The graphic novel generally received positive reviews. IGN stated "Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo's Joker is a deeply disturbing and completely unnerving work, a literary achievement that takes its place right alongside Alan Moore's The Killing Joke as one of the few successful attempts to scratch beneath the surface of the Joker's impenetrable psyche". AICN noted that "The story is compelling, especially the gut-wrenching showdown at the end of the book, and the art is mouth-wateringly good." 
- Exploring the Joker - Brian Azzarello Talks, Newsarama, September, 2008
- CCI: Brian Azzarello Q&A, Comic Book Resources, July 26, 2008
- "::BATMAN ON FILM INTERVIEW: Batman artist Lee Bermejo, Part 2::". Batman-on-film.com. 2007-05-23. Retrieved 2011-01-03.
- Joker's Wild Ride (an interview with the author), on IGN.com
- Review. IGN
- Bug, Ambush. "THIS HALLOWEEN AICN COMICS REVIEWS JOKER+preview! DARK CRYSTAL! RISERS! MUSCLES&FRIGHTS! FINAL CRISIS...oh the horror! + MORE!!!". Ain't it cool news. Retrieved 2008-12-02.
- Bad Azz Mojo - Part 4, Broken Frontier, October 13, 2006
- Review, Comic Book Resources
- Best Shots Extra: Joker, Newsarama
- Graphic novel slugfest, Comics Bulletin