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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Batman: Jokers Last Laugh

I don't much care for the Joker. He's horribly overused in DC's comics and his continued existence in those comics makes no logical sense.

Here is a killer no jail can hold. He's murdered thousands of people, maybe even tens of thousands of people given the high body counts of DC comics in recent years. There is absolutely no way I can believe he would not have been killed while being apprehended or in custody. No jury in the world would convict the cop or guard who shot him while the Joker was "resisting arrest" or "attempting to escape" or "trying to grab my gun." Not even if the cop or guard emptied his weapon into the Joker, reloaded, and emptied it again.

Think I'm kidding? Look up the real-life cases of policemen shooting innocent suspects multiple times and getting away with it. My willing suspension of disbelief only stretches so far.

Batman: The Joker's Last Laugh [$12.99], which reprints a horrible six-issue series from 2001 and 2002, has much of what I don't like about the Joker. For starters, the premise is absurd: the Joker's prison doc "doctors" a CAT scan to make his murderously insane patient think he has a sure-to-be-fatal tumor. Because it's fun to mess with the murderously insane. The Joker reacts to this by "joker-izing" his fellow inmates - most of them are metahumans - and unleashing them on the world. Oh, yeah, and during the escape, one of the Joker's surrogates creates a black hole that sucks the prison into another dimension.

If we must have the Joker - and, at least when it comes to *this* Joker, I don't think we must - his threat-level should be realistic. Individuals. Maybe Gotham City. But not the entire country or the entire world. He's murderously insane, but he's not the equally overused Darkseid. He's just a man. When the Joker is played as some overpowering force of chaos, his believability goes right out the window.

Written by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty with art by over a dozen different pencilers and inkers, The Joker's Last Laugh is one tedious upping of the ante after another. By the time I got to the Joker sending minions to kidnap Harley Quinn so he can force her to have his baby, my eyes were rolling up in their sockets. The only remotely interesting moment in this awful story is when Nightwing, believing a joker-ized Killer Croc has eaten Robin, beats the Joker to death. Of course, it takes all of one panel for Nightwing to feel terrible about having performed this service to mankind and just one more page for the Joker to be revived.


Six issues. Dumb concept. Lousy writing. Okay art. And a missed opportunity to be done with the Joker.

If we must have the Joker, it's past time for a new Joker. I have some ideas on that score, ideas I think are pretty spiffy, but I doubt the current DC management would ever be interested in them. It's just way too easy for them to keep doing pretty much the same old things with the character. Especially since the readers won't demand something different and then back up such demands by keeping their wallets closed.

Batman: The Joker's Last Laugh gets but one Tony and that's only because I feel sorry for the artists who had to draw this train wreck.




Batman: Resurrection

Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul [$29.99] is a hardcover collection of material originally published in several Bat-titles, including Nightwing and Robin. Writers Grant Morrison and Paul Dini get the cover credits, but there are chapters by three other writers as well. Eight pencillers and six inkers drew the various issues.

Dini's scripts were the best-written. On the visual end, my vote goes to penciller Don Kramer.

The basic plot...with his body destroyed, Ra's is possessing other bodies and intends to permanently possess the body of either Tim (Robin) Drake or Damien, his grandson by daughter Talia and the Batman.

The basic problem...the character of Ra's is at his best when he's this commanding presence trying to save the planet, albeit by often-monstrous means, and not just his own ass. The latter is his entire focus in this story and, as such, it diminishes him. He's really just another villain here, one whose plans directly affect the heroes and his family.

I'm not convinced this material deserved the hardcover format, but the price is reasonable when you factor in the current Amazon discount of 34%. This collection earns a respectable three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony



From Wikipedia comes this 2009 tidbit:
Batman Beyond (1999 - 2001): In the episode "Out of the Past," it's revealed that sometime in 2009, Batman fought Ra's al Ghul in an incident referred to as "The Near-Apocalypse of '09."
Wikipedia also reports these TV references:
2007 television series The Sarah Jane Adventures is set in this time, the earliest January following "a year and a half" after the Doctor Who episode "School Reunion." The Doctor Who episode "Last of the Time Lords" is set mainly in this year. Series 4 of the show is set in 2009 with the episodes "Partners In Crime," "The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky," and "The Stolen Earth/Journey's End."
I'll have more 2009 notes in upcoming TOTs.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 01/06/2009 | 01/07/2009 | 01/08/2009 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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