Three Jokers Book Two Does Not Quite Follow Through

SPOILERS AHEAD

In Batman Three Jokers Book Two, we get more insight into Batman and Jason Todd and a better idea of the Jokers’ grand plan. Excitement and expectations were definitely high after the shocking death and ending of Book One. It seemed as though Book Two would continue with something similar but unfortunately misses the mark. While the issue gives us some new details into Bruce’s thoughts on Jason, there is little else fresh here.

The story continues with Batman and Barbara chasing down the other Jokers’ crimes. Barbara awkwardly tells Bruce about Jason killing the Joker as they travel between crime scenes. Bruce doesn’t really react to the shocking news as they rush to find Jason and the third Joker’s crime. Jason arrives there first, unfortunately, and somewhat predictably falls victim to the Jokers as he did so long ago. Batman and Barbara find him badly beaten and left at the final crime scene, a pool of Jokerized victims. While Batman heads off to follow another clue the Joker has left for him, Barbara extends some comfort to Jason. The issue ends with the Joker interacting with Joe Chill and hinting that something shocking will be revealed.

This comic was really important to the story’s success as it’s the meat between the three parts. While Book One starts off with an exciting mystery and predicament, this book feels like a holdover to the punchline that is waiting in the third book. For a story so long in the making, I was expecting to be wowed three times over. The three-volume format could turn out to be a hindrance to this story that needs more time to build up to its finale.

Batman’s lack of reaction and response to Jason killing Joker point-blank pulled me out of the story. It suddenly didn’t seem to matter and therefore made the last issue feel irrelevant. When Batman is out of character and off his game for no apparent reason, it looks like a writer’s misstep. The three-part format doesn’t allow for more depth and development, but it still felt out of place. Jason, being captured, and almost beaten to death again, seemed repetitive for the Joker. It’s essentially a remake of the original crime. It doesn’t add much to the initial beating and doesn’t accomplish much of anything in this story. There is some hope, though, or at least the chance for some.

I found the most fascinating piece of information could be the single message that this story seems to be heading towards. It may just be my detective skills at work, but here goes. As the Joker is torturing Jason, he mentions that they are trying to answer the question “Who is the Joker?” and Jason is part of the experiment. It’s no coincidence that this is said at a crime scene where there is a pool full of people dead or dying from Joker toxin that somewhat look like the Joker. Perhaps the big reveal is that Joker is not a man, but an ideal or chaos or a symptom of Gotham. This theory continues to gain speed as Joker has caught up with Joe Chill, the earliest villain of Bruce Wayne/Batman as a child, and asks him why he really killed the Waynes?

This is an intriguing thought, but it only works by degrading the Joker’s history and character that we have up to this point. It’s not a love affair between a mysterious, unpredictable agent of chaos and the vigilante of Gotham anymore. This would mean that almost anyone could be the Joker because of Batman, a bad day, and some toxin. If this does turn out to be the plot, then the third book will simply be a lengthy explanation by the Joker. This story ends with the next book, so its impact will only carry so far either way.

I’m not finding that I’m so much enjoying the book as trying to guess what the whole tale is about. It seems Jason’s story has concluded as he’s found some solace from talking with Barbara. Barbara wants all this madness to end, and Bruce seems to enjoy following the clues. I feel the same way, though and just want to know the answer I think this all has been built for. I hope I don’t find myself wishing for a fourth book when I reach the end of the third. I don’t want the answer to just present itself; I want there to be more. I don’t see myself needing to go back and reread the first two books based off of the upcoming conclusion whatever it is, but I’ve been wrong before. Here’s hoping for a crazy curveball of a finale. I give Batman Three Jokers Book Two 2.5 out of 5 crowbars and recommend it for fans of Batman: A Death in the Family.

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