One of the best things about one-shots is just that; a story done in one that stands up on its own merits.Â If the story is great, then the issue will live on, if it tanks, well, thank goodness it was only one issue.
DCâ€™s Jokerâ€™s Asylum mixes the best of the one-shot, with the best of the mini-series to create great Hitchcock-Night-Gallery-esque tales that stand on their own legs, but donâ€™t necessarily need to all be read.Â In the case of Jokerâ€™s Asylum: Scarecrow, it would fall into the category of a good read.
The premise behind Jokerâ€™s Asylum is a look at some of Batmanâ€™s greatest rogues and what drives them, with the Joker bookending each tale.Â The very nature of the characters in the book, push the Twilight Zone comparison out of the way to make room for Serlingâ€™s other edgier series Night Gallery.Â I like how this works for the overall series as it gives each writer a chance to stretch their legs with the Joker, as well as the assigned villain.
The Scarecrow tale is one weâ€™ve all seen before; bitchy girls invite the shy nerdy girl over for a slumber party, only to humiliate her and drive her insane.Â But unlike all those movies, television series, and comic issues, this outcast knows sheâ€™s being set up, and is more than willing to confide her fears about the event with her psychiatrist.Â Too bad the psychiatrist has the prescription for her phobia, and itâ€™s too bad her psychiatrist happens to be one Jonathan Crane.
Knowing he has a chance to feed off the phobias of the young and impressionable, Scarecrow follows Lindsay to the party, where acting as the avenger for his patient, Scarecrow hits each of the â€œnaughty childrenâ€ where it hurts, preying on their fears of popularity, eating disorders, claustrophobia, heights, and so on, all the while twisting poor Lindsay into his way of thinking.
The other nice thing about the Jokerâ€™s Asylum series is Batman doesnâ€™t play a big role inÂ the issues.Â In the Penguin issue, Batman is a mere shadow on the wall for one panel, and in this issue, shows up at the end to save the kids and put down Crane.Â But the damage is done, and Lindsay has the last laugh in the closing panel of the issue.
If you donâ€™t like Night Gallery reference for this issue, the next best comparison would be Tales from the Crypt – and for this Scarecrow issue, it is most apropos.
The pacing and story by Joe Harris is well written, and even though you know how the Scarecrow part of the tale is going to end, it is the twist that keeps you reading to the very last page.Â Harrisâ€™ take on the Joker is fine, but more of a light Joker than the hardcore-over-the-top Joker found in the Penguin issue.Â If you havenâ€™t read that issue yet, think Mark Hamillâ€™s Joker when you read it.
The art is – my god it is amazing!Â From the first splash with â€˜60s era Joker hosting his own Playboy After Dark, to the horrifying Scarecrow reveal, the color palette and cartoony style by Juan Doe totally rocks.Â If anyone knows Mr. Doeâ€™s rep, please let me know as I may have to purchase some original art from this issue.
If you have doubts, check out these preview pages from DC.
Villainy goodness is a great thing, and the Jokerâ€™s Asylum series has been well worth it.Â The art alone is worth high marks, the solid story is a bonus earning Jokerâ€™s Asylum: Scarecrow 4 out of 5 Stars.