So you think The Joker was a great movie (well, it was)? Or you think nothing could quite match Heath Ledger’s demented yet logical representaiton of the clown of crime in The Dark Knight? Or perhaps you are a little more classic and prefer Jack Nicholson getting chalky faced and green hair for The Batman?
What if we said that there is a book that outshines all those great films and great actors? Well, it exists. And was released in 2008. Which is why we think you should be reading.
The Joker is written by Brian Azarello and illustrated by Lee Bernejo. And let us tell you that both have done a disturbingly brilliant job. Unlike some graphic novels written in the past, The Joker does not feel dated or old. No, it feels right up to modern times. And that makes it an even more compelling, and disturbing, read.
For, let’s get this straight – unlike the films, The Joker makes no attempt to figure out why the Batman’s arch nemesis is evil. No, it begins with him being released from the asylum (we never find out how he managed it) and then slowly take back the city he had left. The story is told from the perspective of Jonny Frost, who goes to pick him up when he is released from the asylum. A small time thug, he gets pulled in by the Joker’s charisma and before you know it, starts dreaming big himself. The interplay between Jonny and the Joker runs right through the book – one of them dreaming of being a crime lord himself, the other busy being one!
Meanwhile, the Joker literally goes on the rampage, intimidating and killing people, almost at random. There are confrontations with Two-Face, the Penguin, the Riddler; a person is skinned alive; houses and streets are burnt; women are assaulted..and there’s more. This is pure evil on the loose. The dialogue is intense, the drawings brilliant. It is like watching a film. A very adult, very disturbing film. You cannot help but feel a shiver run down your spine when the Penguin asks the Joker how he got released, and the clown replies “Well, I am not crazy anymore…just mad!”
Wait, some will ask, what of The Batman? What’s the Caped Crusader doing while all this is happening? He does make an appearance, somewhere in the 128 pages of this book. But telling you more will give the story away. And this is a story that needs to be read. To be experienced. For you to realise, in the words of Jonny Frost:
“There will always be a Joker.
Because there is no cure for him.
No cure at all.
Just a Batman.”