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Joker is a 2008 one-shot graphic novel written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Lee Bermejo, focusing - just like it says on the tin - on The Joker, everyone's favourite Monster Clown. The whole story is done in a Darker and Edgier, Film Noir style and is told by a naive young criminal named Jonny Frost who yearns to be a big man in Gotham. So when (for reasons nobody seems to know) The Joker is released from Arkham Asylum and sets out to reclaim the city for himself, Frost decides he wants in. Carnage Ensues! Along the way, they bump into The Riddler, Two-Face, the Penguin, Killer Croc, Harley Quinn and the B-man himself.
There's a lot of visual similarities between this version of the Joker and the one presented in The Dark Knight; Word of God chalks this down to coincidence. The original title of the comic was even Joker: The Dark Knight (in the same vein as the partnership's previous graphic novel Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, which is a fun companion to this work) but that had to be scrapped for obvious reasons.
It's tremendous fun to imagine the Joker speaking in Heath Ledger's voice, though.
If you wanted the page for the character, that's here.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Joker suggesting that Killer Croc give him a blowjob actually makes Croc and the other gangsters laugh.
- Ax Crazy: Imagine all the murderous insanity that powered the incarnations of The Joker that Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Mark Hamill played. Now cram it all into one guy. The Joker is fucking nuts in this book.
- Batman Gambit: The premise is that Joker, somehow, gets out of Arkham through the front gate, it's suggested but never said whether in fact he was legally released. Later, he intimates to the Riddler that this was a sham.
- "The best place to hide, Edward, is in sanity!"
- The Caligula: Guess who...
- Cardboard Prison: Practically lampshaded, since no-one seems to understand why the Joker is being released.
- Cassandra Truth: Harvey Dent sics one of his crooked cops on Johnny to warn him about the Joker, and then calls Johnny to his office to warn him some more: "you are involved with a sick man who will see you die...because for him, death is the punchline." Granted, the Joker's far from laughing by the time he shoots Johnny in the face at point-ouch range but Dent was close enough about the death part.
- Darker and Edgier: Oh yes.
- Deconstruction: Arguably for people who idolise The Joker, as with Johnny, it's basically saying, "You wanna be like the Joker? Here you go."
- Downer Ending: Jonny, dying of a bullet to the face, concludes that the Joker represents a disease older than civilization with no cure and jumps off a bridge while Batman and the Joker have a punch-up in the background, neither of them apparently even noticing.
- And yet, Batman DOES defeat the Joker at least spiritually in that battle. "To Mock You".
- Evil Versus Evil: Most of the book is Joker vs. Two Face's criminal empire. Batman doesn't even step in until Harvey Dent, terrified by Joker's threat to "kill" one of his personalities, makes his own Bat-Signal and pleads with Batman to intervene.
- Establishing Character Moment: When the Joker goes to meet with a bar owner who formerly worked for him, they disappear for a few minutes...before the barman returns, stripped of all of his skin from the neck down.
- He then slaps a dollar bill onto the man's blood-slicked ass. (It's a strip club!)
- Five-Bad Band: The main people in the Joker's gang:
- Glasgow Grin: Joker has a particularly nasty-looking one, and Jonny seems to get one when the Joker shoots him in the face.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Anything might make the Joker laugh, anything might make him kick you in the bollocks. Or knife you. Or grind the broken end of a glass bottle into your face.
- Hannibal Lecture: At the end, Joker tries to deliver one to Batman, calling him out on trying to look like a monster but leaving his chiselled, heroic jaw bare for all to see. Batman turns it completely on its head and sends Joker into an Unstoppable Rage.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Killer Croc's job includes "disposing of bodies". Om nom om.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: The Joker owns a strip club called the "Grin and Bare It".
- The Ishmael: Johnny Frost, or "Johnny Johnny" to Joker.
- Justice by Other Legal Means: Not used, but mentioned gleefully when the Joker discovers that both of Harvey Dent's personalities are married, since, much like Al Capone with tax evasion, Dent could be put away for bigamy.
- Kick the Dog: For Joker, it's raping Shelly and murdering a completely random couple in their home.
- Laughing Mad: Jonny ends up laughing deliriously at one point.
- Meaningful Name: Possibly just a coincidence, but the name Jonny Frost is sort of similar to Joe Chill, the man who gunned down Batman's parents.
- Oh Crap: The look on Joker's face when he finds Croc and his men hogtied, indicating that Batman has finally found him, speaks volumes.
- The entire city of Gotham gets a collective one when the news spreads that Joker is being released from Arkham.
- One-Scene Wonder: The Riddler shows up in a single scene and generally comes off as the most competent and awesome criminal in the book.
- Batman also only appears in about four pages, and aside from the word "Us?" he has exactly one line. And it is awesome.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Oswald Cobblepot is never addressed by his real name or his criminal identity, The Penguin. Joker only ever refers to him as "Abner" as a sign of disrespect.
- Properly Paranoid: Joker always thinks someone is watching him.
Joker: "Look out the window, Jonny Jonny... tell me what you see"
Jonny: "I see lights"
Joker: "Lights? Heh heh heh HA HA HA HA! Those lights? They're pin pricks... in the dark. He's out there. You know that Jonny? Right on the other side of this window... watching me."
- See Viewers Are Geniuses below. He has good reason.
- Rape as Drama: The Joker rapes Shelly, Jonny's ex-wife.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Basically the plot of the story is that the Joker is out to get back his criminal empire and get revenge on those who screwed him out of said empire while he was in Arkham.
- Scary Black Man: Killer Croc is reimagined as a scary black man with sharpened, shark-like teeth and a scaly skin condition.
- ...which is exactly what he's always been. It's just that his skin has become worse over the years.
- Shout-Out: The unexplained briefcase Joker gets from the Riddler is a shout-out to Pulp Fiction.
- Slasher Smile: The Joker, of course.
- Stripperific: Harley Quinn, who briefly acts as an actual stripper.
- The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Johnny introduces himself as "Johnny. Johnny Frost." when he firsts meets Joker. This backfires somewhat, because it causes Joker to refer to him as "Johnny Johnny" for almost the entire story.
- The Un-Reveal: It's never quite revealed how Joker managed to get out of Arkham via legal means.
- The Voiceless: Harley Quinn doesn't get a single line despite doing some thoroughly awesome stuff.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: About five pages in, right when the Joker is strolling out of Arkham and looking back at its battlements. Take a look at the gargoyle in panel two. Then again in panel four. Miss something?
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Harvey Dent seems to think he's living in Casino or Goodfellas or some other crime-Noir drama, with himself, naturally, at its head. The Joker cuts his arm open for it.
- Jonny has similar delusions.