Updated: Jan 25, 2020
JOKER: KILLER SMILE
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: DC Comics/Black Label
The pairing of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino on a Joker book sounds like a match made in heaven right? Well guess what it was, but not in the way you might think. JOKER: KILLER SMILE is the latest release for DC's Black Label imprint, where they take DC characters but put a spin on them and take a more mature approach. While they're expanding the line with the Joe Hill line of books and titles like THE LAST GOD (dark fantasy), these mature Elseworlds type stories are what really catch my eye. Not to say that I'm not excited for those as well, but I'm a huge fan of weird/different interpretations on my favorite characters. Which brings me to this book.
On the surface you might expect this book to heavily feature the Joker, well, you'd be wrong. But that's not to say that he's not in it, he's just more in the background to help push the narrative forward. The story centers more on Dr. Ben Arnell, who has the insane notion that he will succeed where others have failed, he's going to cure the Joker's madness. Getting inside the head of this sadistic killer is pure insanity, but it almost seem like Arnell is the insane for even attempting it.
"I want to create things that have never been seen before, I want the sublime"
As Arnell falls deeper down the rabbit hole, he realizes that once you get inside the head of a monster, it follows you everywhere. From the use of a simple children's book, we see that the Joker can affect Arnell even at home with his children. But you're also left wondering if it's even real or he's just imagining it. One thing I can say is that I don't think anyone can cure the Joker, and this just cements that idea.
Trying to figure out the Joker's origin has always been a touchy subject amongst comic fans and Lemire touches on that briefly. As Joker harkens back to that children's book and uses it as one of his many "origin" tales. It's here that Arnell realizes that he might have made a mistake by trying to "fix" the Joker. Ego can ruin even the most brilliant people, and he's seeing firsthand just how detrimental that can be.
Lemire's Joker has this calm demeanor as he speaks of his crime sprees and murders that almost feels like an amalgamation of Heath Ledger & Jack Nicholson mixed with something new and fresh. His Joker is both captivating and creepy at the same time. But let's not forget that Sorrentino brought this version of Joker to life in a way that only he can. The imagery of this book will stay with you long after closing the book. The realism with which he illustrates the Joker almost takes you right into his head along with DR. Arnell. Plus his composition of a scene is heightens the tension unlike anyone else. Just look at his work on GIDEON FALLS, for example.
Overall, this was my favorite book to come out of Black Label so far. I think it was the perfect use of the imprint. It gives us a story that is so far removed from the type of storytelling of the main DCU. It tackles mature themes without being all in your face about it. Whie some may complain that the BL books have been to Batman centric, which I agree, this was so unique that it almost doesnt feel like a Batman book. Which is exactly what they should be striving for with future titles.With 2 issues left I can only imagine the dark insanity in store for us.