Jan 30, 2009

Batman Number 1, 4/4: The Joker Returns

To read the first parts of this review: Part 1/4 Part 2/4 Part 3/4

The Joker Returns
FINALLY!! Oh my God it's been like twenty-six pages. They SURE took their time bringing him BACK. How can you have The Joker return in the SAME issue that he debuted. It's not like they released the comic, got feed back, found out he was a well received villain, and THEN decided to bring him back. It's like being at a friend's house, saying goodbye, and then walking into the bathroom and taking a shit. Only to walk back out and tell people how much you missed them, and that's it's been a so long since you've seen each other. Being in the next room doesn't count as leaving.

So there isn't much to this story. In jail, The Joker unscrews two of his teeth… ah… yeah… where he keeps the two components of an explosive, to blow himself out. Cause the best place to keep shit is IN YOUR TEETH. It's The Joker… I'll let it go… he is nuts. After breaking out of jail The Joker goes to his hideout, which is under a graveyard that is entered by a trap door under a tombstone. I'll give you a second to comprehend that… okay, you good… let's move on.

Like the LAST time, The Joker hijacks the radio waves saying how he'll kill so and so and steal this and that. He carries through with two threats, while Batman is doing nothing, AGAIN. I've already commented on this lazy writing in the first part of the review. But to do the same lazy writing AGAIN in the same issue, no less, is just plain sloth.

Batman finally goes after The Joker, where he gets his ass handed to him… AGAIN. Oh... but it's not in the same way. The Joker uses an ax, instead of kicking him in the head… so THAT makes it completely different. Before The Joker can kill Batman though, police come, and start shooting at Batman. At least Kane and Finger remembered he was a vigilante.

So The Joker says he's going to kill Edgar Martin at nine o'clock, just cause Martin said some shit about him. The Joker kills him by lacing a deck of cards with Joker Venom, so that at said time Martin would cut himself on the cards and die. What kind of half ASSED long shot is THAT! A bullshit one, that's what. How the HELL could The Joker know that Edgar Martin would want to play solitaire while the police watch over him. Let alone know that he would slip and cut himself AT nine o'clock… WHAT THE FUCK. My suspension of disbelief is stretched enough as it is with a man dressed up as a bat, but to add explosives kept in someone's teeth, and now THIS crap… no… NO… I'm calling bullshit. BULLSHIT!

In his street clothes, Bruce Wayne convinces Commissioner Gordon to place false news articles in the newspaper about a "Fire Ruby" to set The Joker up for a trap. The Joker falls for it, being the queen he is, saying that he will take the ruby over the radio. When The Joker shows up, the police are ready with gasmasks, so The Joker can't use his Venom on them. So he pulls out guns and shoots them instead. I laughed my ASS off so hard at this part. The police think that they have finally outsmarted The Joker. They didn't even stop to think he might have a real gun.

Fleeing from the trap, The Joker is followed by Robin. Robin in turn gets punched in the face and falls off a building, catching himself at the last minute on a flag poll. On the street below Batman confronts The Joker. To which The Jokers says that he remembers that Batman has a bulletproof vest on and will therefore aim for his head. Or as I like to think of it "I'll shoot you in the face bitch!"

Robin falls on top of The Joker knocking the gun out of his hand. So The Joker pulls out a knife. But when he strikes, Batman jumps out of the way… and… The Joker ends up stabbing… himself in the chest? Was he drunk or something? HOW the HELL do you stab yourself accidentally! If I stabbed myself, my friends would shit themselves laughing.

As the police arrive Batman and Robin leave. In the ambulance the doctor realizes that The Joker is still alive… DUM DUM DUM!

Although this is the end of the story, the last panel on the page is a call to arms to become one of "Robin's Regulars." Because Robin has been irregular lately and needs your help to get his bowels moving again, so stick a finger up there and get things moving again. "Robin's Regulars" are kids who live by Robin's code and do lame shit like help old people cross the street and say gay shit like: "Always be helpful to those who need help!" What is Robin's code? I'm glad you asked, it seems ROBIN is an acronym for: Readiness, Obedience, Brotherhood, Industriousness, and Nationalism. So you are to obey, work hard, and be ready at a whim for what ever your "brothers" want you to do for your country. Jesus Christ this is like a Hitler Youth group for kids who like to wear capes.

On an ascetic level this comic is not the greatest. Like most, if not all, Golden Age comics the writing is stiff, the dialog is nothing like what a real person sounds like, and the stories are repetitive and interchangeable. In the course of the whole comic there is only one panel that didn’t have word balloons and caption boxes piled on top of it. The art, like the writing, is stiff. Everyone looks indifferent to what is going on around them. And the inking tends to leave everything flat. There are far worse examples of writing and art in comics, but there is also far better.

This comic is important for historical reasons. It is one of the early books, along with Superman, to be based on a single character. Breaking away from the anthology format that was the standard. Comic books were starting to come into their own, and break away from the strips. Which was at their peaks, in both popularity and substance. As my friend Brett Von Schlosser pointed out to me, there are MANY similarities between Batman stories of this time and the oh-so popular comic strip Dick Tracy. Dick Tracy did it better, being short daily episodes. But Batman has become the more popular by contemporary standards. Batman, and comics as a whole, at this time were still trying to find their own ground in the longer format. This comic is also important cause… well… it’s the Goddamn Batman!


Anonymous said...

Great stuff Jesse. I liked how you ended, wrapping up the whole essay series. It is good to love the classics, but unwise to praise them blindly.

I see this era as analogous to the silent film period of film. People were still trying to figure out what the hell the medium was, and had no understandings of the intellectual potential for the medium, and thus the true talent only rarely approached the medium, especially not in kidstuff like superheroes. Gladly enough time has passed that the good talent has come to comics, and we have much better creators in recent history and today.

Jesse Haller said...

True. But there are exceptions. Like Eisner.