More than five years in the making, Batman: Three Jokers has finally come to its conclusion and, with that, delivered what should be a poignant and touching moment for The Dark Knight, but it does not stick the landing. In my review for the first issue of the series I noted that the debut spent too much time spinning its wheels, reacquainting the reader with the minutia of Batman lore and its various connections to The Joker. This isn't typically a problem with DC comics, but it was detrimental to spend 45 of its 48 pages telling readers information they already know, barely starting a story. With all three issues framed together now, it's clear that this was a feature for the series, not a bug. Taken in its entirety, it's clear the many stories featuring the World's Greatest Detective and The Clown Prince of Crime hang like an albatross around the neck of Three Jokers.
Three Jokers #3 delivers a surprising revelation at the start regarding just how there are three Jokers, but then undercuts itself by immediately moving to set up another big reveal. Along the way writer Geoff Johns shifts large pieces of Batman in new directions (whose status as being "in continuity" remains to be seen thanks to the Black Label button on the cover), but these moments are hampered by further reveals that should feel shocking, but instead form a massive plot hole that makes Three Jokers series feel hollow. The core question and marketing tool of this series was why and how there are three Jokers. Three Jokers brushes that question off in its conclusion in favor of delivering a half-baked synopsis about the trio's plot. Not only half-baked, but seemingly cribbed from "Death of the Family," another Batman versus Joker story likely still fresh in reader's minds.
There's a moment in Three Jokers where Johns makes it clear that The Joker's nature as a chaotic hurricane in the life of Batman is simply who he is and there is no larger explanation for him that could make his actions make sense. Great, but this has been the driving force behind the villain for decades now. It's not anything fresh or unique, and it lands with all the force of a Joker fish flopping on the aquarium floor. Even the film starring Joaquin Phoenix (despite giving him a "name") made it clear that his status as Joker was what made him important—not any details about who he was before.
It cannot be overstated though how much of the goodwill and enjoyment of this entire series is tied directly to Jason Fabok's artwork and Brad Anderson's colors. When Three Jokers isn't playing Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's greatest hits with less nuance or cherry picking which parts of The Killing Joke it wants to make canon, it's filled with dynamic action and breathtaking detail. Though much of the comic is laden with dialogue, the many sequences between Batman and The Joker carry weight and feel large because of how Fabok brings them to life. It's frankly flawless artwork, dragged down only by the writer's insistence that this story's words should be the star. Never has a boot kicking a clown's face looked better than it does in these pages and Fabok deserves all the acclaim he receives, regardless of the plot he depicts.
Batman: Three Jokers is something of an extended joke itself. You read this comic hoping for answers, for some new insight, for something to matter. Well the egg is on your face now because essentially everything you knew about The Joker is the same and you've already read most of these Batman comics before. And all of the things this story teases as pillars of Batman lore moving in new directions are literally swept away. You've been sprayed in the face by the fake flower, a cream pie falls in your lap after splatting on your head. This was a joke and it was on you.
Three Jokers imagined there was some reason within DC Comics' continuity that could explain the many disparate interpretations of The Joker. Instead, it wound up revealing that DC continuity itself has already answered every question that has been asked about him. There's just not as much nuance in The Joker as we like to imagine.
Published by DC Comics
On October 27, 2029
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Jason Fabok
Colors by Brad Anderson1comments
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover by Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson