Joker/Mask (2001)

“Wait! Where’s the SWAT team? I don’t see the SWAT team! I don’t even rate the SWAT team anymore.”

Joker/Mask is the collection of a four issue series from DC and Dark Horse. The story was written by Henry Gilroy with art from Ramon F. Bachs and Howard M. Shum. I have not seen the work of any of these creators before but Gilroy is a co-writer on the Star Wars: Clone Wars TV series among other animation series credits. Bachs is a Spanish artist who has worked on a number of Star Wars comics as well as some titles for Marvel and DC.  Shum is a writer on a number of titles as well as an artist.

The Joker decides to go to a museum and blow up an exhibition featuring frowning clown masks. However his day does not go well as the head henchman has sent the other henchmen to the wrong location and Harley Quinn has removed the detonators from all the explosives. But the henchman discovers a mask that gives the wearer a manic energy and superhuman powers. Wearing the mask, the Joker is able to beat Batman severely enough that he is out of action feared dead and the Joker is left free to pursue his insane agenda across Gotham while monopolising the television airwaves. Harley fears for the Joker and enlists Poison Ivy’s help to remove the mask from the Joker before he blows up Gotham for real.

This story features the Joker on maximum overdrive and overkill. Even Harley Quinn finds it hard to continue to love her Mister J and the Joker/Mask has to keep coming up with wilder and more extreme exploits to stop himself becoming bored with how easy committing crime is with super powers. While there is some really good comic moments in this book, the manic intensity of the Joker/Mask combination is sometimes too much for the reader as it is for the characters in the story. With the Joker/Mask as the main character throughout the book, the pressure to come up with gag after gag relentlessly is a perhaps a drag on the writing.

I liked the art from Bachs and Shum. It is very cartoony in style but fit in well with cartoon qualities of the Mask and the manifestation of his powers. There are even some lovely renderings of Poison Ivy as well.

A quick and cheerful read that won’t change your life but is worth a look if you can find it.

Gotham City Sirens: Union (2010)

 

Quote:
“… I was livin’ it up as personal court jester to the Clown Prince of Crime!”

“You know he hates being called that.”

“I’m sure he prefers it to “Puddin'”!”

 

This book collects the first seven issues of this new series – one of a few started in the aftermath of the Batman R.I.P. storyline. It was written by Paul Dini who of course is no stranger to the Batman world having written Batman comics and been heavily involved with some of the Batman animated series. He is also the co-creator of Harley Quinn who is one of the lead characters in the book. The art is by a newcomer to DC, the Spanish artist Guillem March.

Gotham City is a strange place in wake of Batman’s death. Dick Grayson takes over as Batman with Bruce Wayne’s son as Robin. The Riddler gives up a life of crime. And Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn become BFF and move into Selina’s soon to be converted animal shelter. The story outlines how the girls run into each other and end up with Selina, a plot by Hush, posing as Bruce Wayne, to get revenge on Catwoman through Harley and a jealous Joker’s attempts to kill Harley for associating with Wayne.

I really wanted to love this book but it ended up being just OK. The action is a bit slow in getting going and is not helped by the third chapter, called Riddle Me This, that inexplicably only features our heroines on one page and details a story featuring a team-up between the Riddler and Batman to try and prevent a crime that has a puzzle element to it. The second half of the book is much better with Poison Ivy and Catwoman tracking down Hush and rescuing Harley before becoming targets of the Joker’s apparently insane jealousy. The final chapter in the book is another filler story. So it was disappointing that a new series had two seemingly filler stories in its first seven issues and that the whole did not really hang together as a storyline as much as it should have. The fact that the story improved in issues 4 – 6 is enough to give me hope that a second volume is worth investigating but the writing needs to be a lot more focussed on the central characters and have a stronger plotline.