Joker: Killer Smile #2
As Dr. Ben Arnell continues to treat the Joker, it becomes ever clearer that he is spiraling down into the madness that such an arrangement brings. As the story crescendos with a cliffhanger ending, it leaves readers frightfully and morbidly curious as to what will happen next in this folie a deux.
This is the story of Dr. Ben Arnell. A brilliant psychologist overcome with hubris and pride, believing he can not only go toe-to-toe with Joker in Arkham Asylum, but outright cure the most treatment resistant of all of the rogues gallery. A man who calculates his time spent with Joker as unchanging and brief and wholly without affect. A man whose slow crawl towards the yawning void of insanity suddenly shifts into a bolting run when his convenient lies to himself are pulled out from underneath him by the Joker.
This is the story of Harley Quinn. After all, the set-up is mirrored and the comparison is unavoidable at this point. A brilliant psychologist, filled with hubris and pride (and eventually lust, but not at first, not yet), who believes that she can cure the Joker through her superiority. The first, but hardly the last, and hardly seen for her true value. Where Harleen was a single woman, Ben was a family man (note: was). Where Harleen’s attraction to Joker was based in romantic affection, Ben’s seems almost along the lines of celebrity worship–the dynamic wherein someone believes that they can change and harness someone’s power and value, through their own inherent identity. Much like men who worship Tyler Durden or Patrick Bateman, while misunderstanding their intrinsic farcical nature and existence as send-ups of toxic masculinity, Dr. Ben Arnell (and many fans of Joker, if we are honest with ourselves) believe that there is something there. Something of value, worth saving or emulating.
This is the story of mental illness. The slow realization that normality is no longer so normal. The horror of pushing loved ones away. The manipulation by those around you, and the sudden, urgent tipping of the scales, which unbalances you from your former position before you’re even aware you are falling. The call of the void, as it were, only this void has chemically bleached skin and shrieking green hair.
Above all else, this is the story that Joker wants us to see. Isn’t every Joker story, in some way or another, at least where Batman isn’t the protagonist? Ultimately, it’s not about even seeing him in some vulgar display of his manipulative powers. It’s not about showing off. It’s about seeing what will happen, much like a cat playing with an insect.
Ultimately, I am entirely curious to see where the successive four issues go. While the parallels to Mad Love are unmistakable, the inherent purpose of Joker’s actions seem different. While both had purpose, it seems as if right now, his purpose for Dr. Arnell is no more than curiosity. However, Joker’s motivations may not be so wholly simple.
I look forward to being surprised.
Joker: Killer Smile #2 (Lemire, Sorrentino, Bellaire, Wands) takes us on a journey, all while daring us to not blink or look away, as we plummet off the terrifying precipice.
Joker: Killer Smile #2: A Million Stones, a Million Bones
Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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