I’m always amused when people say The Joker is their favorite comic book villain. Really? Which one?
Since 1940, The Joker has been a merry prankster, a vicious sociopath, and a gangster. The Joker has been depicted as a chaotic force unleashed on Gotham and a cunning criminal. He’s killed a Robin, paralyzed Batgirl, and tried to trademark “Laughing Fish.”
In Brian Azzarello’s Joker, the story is told from Jonny Frost’s perspective. Frost volunteers to pick up Joker when he’s released from Arkham Asylum. Frost is showing his respect to Joker, but getting close to Joker also means living the life Frost thinks he deserves. In an interesting character moment, Joker immediately sizes Frost up as the type of guy who has a shovel in his trunk.
Outside Arkham, Joker finds his criminal empire divided among his lackeys. The majority of the book follows Joker’s reclamation of his empire and the brutal elimination of those who showed him disrespect — with Frost along as gunman and driver.
With his scarred smile, it’s easy to connect Azzarello’s Joker with Heath Ledger’s, but I don’t believe that’s the intent here. Instead, Azzarello has taken Batman’s rogues gallery and presented a realistic take on how Gotham’s underworld would work.
Drawn (overdrawn?) by Lee Bermejo, Killer Croc is a hulking brute with a skin disorder, not a human/reptile hybrid. The Riddler sports a tattooed glam look, not the Matthew Lesko suit. (Note to Mimi, you won’t be happy with this Harley Quinn.) These aren’t monsters or costumed villains, they’re criminals operating out of dives surrounded by alcohol, drugs, and violence.