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One of the best things about one-shots is just that; a story done in one that stands up on its own merits.  If the story is great, then the issue will live on, if it tanks, well, thank goodness it was only one issue.

DC’s Joker’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 don’t necessarily need to all be read.  In the case of Joker’s Asylum: Scarecrow, it would fall into the category of a good read.

asylum00.jpgThe premise behind Joker’s Asylum is a look at some of Batman’s greatest rogues and what drives them, with the Joker bookending each tale.  The very nature of the characters in the book, push the Twilight Zone comparison out of the way to make room for Serling’s other edgier series Night Gallery.  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 we’ve all seen before; bitchy girls invite the shy nerdy girl over for a slumber party, only to humiliate her and drive her insane.  But unlike all those movies, television series, and comic issues, this outcast knows she’s being set up, and is more than willing to confide her fears about the event with her psychiatrist.  Too bad the psychiatrist has the prescription for her phobia, and it’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 “naughty children” 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 Joker’s Asylum series is Batman doesn’t play a big role in  the issues.  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.  But the damage is done, and Lindsay has the last laugh in the closing panel of the issue.

If you don’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.  Harris’ take on the Joker is fine, but more of a light Joker than the hardcore-over-the-top Joker found in the Penguin issue.  If you haven’t read that issue yet, think Mark Hamill’s Joker when you read it.

The art is – my god it is amazing!  From the first splash with ‘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.  If anyone knows Mr. Doe’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.

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Villainy goodness is a great thing, and the Joker’s Asylum series has been well worth it.  The art alone is worth high marks, the solid story is a bonus earning Joker’s Asylum: Scarecrow 4 out of 5 Stars.

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The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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3 Comments

  1. Dustin
    July 30, 2008 at 4:57 pm — Reply

    I absolutely hated the art on the Joker and Penguin issues of these series, and I thought the Poison Ivy art was a lot better, but not breathtaking by any means. When I opened this book I was blown away at the art style. Good to see that you loved it is much as I did. I was afraid that most people would hate the different style.

  2. July 30, 2008 at 5:37 pm — Reply

    You said rouges.

    (That works better when you say it in your head as either Beavis or Butthead)

  3. Brad
    July 31, 2008 at 8:46 am — Reply

    May have to check this out, it’s a shame there isn’t a solid outlet for new comic material in TV shows, this seems like it would be a great idea for TV, tales of the crypt/amazing stories meets the batman. He’s got a decent amount of spooky & supernatural villains to easily provide a season’s worth of shows.

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