Joker: Killer Smile #1
Locked away in Arkham Asylum once more, the Joker spends his hours talking to his new psychiatrist Dr. Ben Arnell. As the doctor leaves the asylum back to his normal life, strange things begin to happen. Is he losing his mind while treating Joker or is Joker pulling the strings from behind the locked gates of Arkham?
I picked up the new Joker: Killer Smile #1 more out of curiosity. rather than any sort of dedication to the character. I have a complex relationship with many fictional characters, perhaps none more so than the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s the names on the cover that attract me rather than any idea of what might be inside: Lemire, Sorrentino, and Bellaire.
I was not disappointed by this decision.
Andrea Sorrentino’s art is immediately arresting upon the opening pages. Expertly woven combinations of incredibly detailed line work and Jordie Bellaire’s highly effective colors draw the reader in right away. The layout of the pages are also masterful, with panels shaped like onomatopoeia, frames made up of Joker’s pearly whites, and pride of place given to the exact right visuals. Sorrentino and Bellaire work so well together on this issue that it’s almost a shame that all comics are not drawn by this artistic team.
Lemire’s writing, of course, is always on point, and that is no less true of this issue. While I have more than a touch of hesitancy about a story where Joker (potentially) drives another psychiatrist insane, Lemire’s report card of boundless creativity and the sheer differences between Dr. Arnell and Harley Quinn give me the confidence that this story will be handled well. It’s certainly off to a great start. There are various shades of influence here that give me confidence this miniseries will surprise me even further.
As a lifelong fan of the horror genre, I would be remiss to end this review without speaking to the way Joker: Killer Smile draws from other genre pieces. While never veering into anything more than cunning homage, Joker: Killer Smile certainly has its influences from the film genre. The scene in which the horrifying book is read has shades of The Babadook. Dr. Arnell’s blackouts are reminiscent of dozens of horror movies where the protagonist loses track of their time. One can scarcely have a book about Joker locked up in Arkham without shades of Clarice Starling or Will Graham speaking to Hannibal Lecter. Lemire’s genre awareness lends itself well in these pages, never veering from homage to rip-off in the slightest.
While my relationship to the character of Joker remains a complex and often snarly beast, Joker: Killer Smile #1 has proven to me that my confidence in the team was well placed and well rewarded.
Final Thoughts: Joker: Killer Smile #1 (Lemire, Sorrentino, Bellaire, Wands) is a strong start to a curious miniseries, full of genre awareness and palpable tension.
Joker: Killer Smile #1: Well Maybe the Real God Uses Tricks, You Know?
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 9.5/109.5/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 7/107/10
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