When people say that Batman is the opposite number to The Joker, they aren’t kidding… as this one-shot follow-up to Joker: Killer Smile shows! Take the jump for our review of Batman: The Smile Killer #1 from DC Comics.

BATMAN: THE SMILE KILLER #1

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Steve Wands
Editor: Chris Conroy
Publisher: DC Black Label
Cover price: $5.99
Release date: June 24, 2020

SOLICITATION: It wouldn’t be a Joker story without a surprise… and right on cue, here’s an unexpected one-shot epilogue to Joker: Killer Smile! Young Bruce Wayne grew up watching The Mr. Smiles Show—and the show might have been watching him back! And not only was young Bruce watching, he was listening…listening as Mr. Smiles spoke across the airwaves only to him…

The Eisner Award-winning creative team of writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino land one last gut-punch, turning the mythos of the Batman on its head in the most devastating trick The Joker has ever devised!

THE VULNERABLE CHILD, BRUCE WAYNE

When is Batman at his weakest? Or, better put, when WAS Batman at his most vulnerable? When he was a young boy, even before he lost his parents!

During this confrontation, the Joker hits Batman where it counts—in his past! Many of the elements of the previous Black Label series return in this book, but with a different twist to them. Bruce is made to believe that he’s actually responsible for the loss of at least one of his parents, and that took place under the orders of Mr. Smiles from the show he watched as a child.

It’s quite devious, you know, to taint Batman’s purity by making his past a lot darker than even he knows it is. And the Dark Knight’s origins, if changed, might alter his ability to face the Clown Prince of Crime with such determination. Yikes!

The same team that produced the Black Label imprint mini-series Joker: Killer Smile is back, and looking at this whole set-up from the other side, creepy as it is.

Interestingly, Ben Arnell is back, and he’s talking to Bruce, who is actually in prison for a serious crime. And he apparently knows Bruce’s alter ego.

This book looks at the influence of TV shows on young minds, especially when they are very impressionable. Can this really be the truth behind Bruce’s obsessions?

Of course, this isn’t the first time we see Bruce out of his element. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo recently explored something of this theme during their recent concluding mini-series as well, but this is a very different road being travelled.

Unlike the Joker, though, all Bruce needs is to be pointed in the right direction. And, thankfully for all of us Bat-fans, he gets just what he needs near the end of the book.

As always, I’m drawn to Mr. Lemire’s ability to use drama instead of super-heroic action to pull me along in his stories. It’s so unlike most of the other creators in comics, both now and in years past.

And Lemire also pulls on the importance of family a lot, and that’s clearly evident in this book as well. Bruce’s family actually plays an important part in this entire drama, something that can be a big surprise at times. And we actually don’t see the Joker all that much in this story, although he’s pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

My biggest concern is that, if you haven’t read the previous Joker books, you might get a lot less out of this title than if you had. So, if you need to, go back and read or re-read that mini-series before launching too deeply into this one-shot.

STILL HAS THAT SKETCHIER ART TO MATCH THE STORY

One of the best things that Mr. Sorrentino does is use dark and black patches very effectively. Batman is sometimes hard to make out in the shadows, and even Bruce can often be found there as well. It’s where Batman is often most at home, but that’s often not the case in this offering.

Just like the previous books, the facial expressions are critical, and they are superbly done! The action sequences move well, too, but you just can’t deny that the suspense is palpable, as they say, and it’s gripping!

BOTTOM LINE: More Insight into the Dark Knight!

As much as the Joker remains a mystery to many of us, Batman is pretty clearly defined in many stories. In this book, we see just how different Bruce Wayne might have been if just a few things had happened differently in his formative years. Does the Joker put Batman out of his misery? If he does, it’s the end of one of the great rivalries in comics, so I wouldn’t bet on it! Still, it is fascinating to explore more of Bruce Wayne’s psyche.

I always like to say that classic characters are just that profound because they can be examined all different kinds of ways and on different levels. Batman: The Smile Killer is proof that the Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne both have many more stories to be told left in them, so I’m looking forward to even more from this creative team… and the Bat-books in the months and years ahead!


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Batman: The Smile Killer #1

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Dark Knight Insight

In this book, we see just how different Bruce Wayne might have been if just a few things had happened differently in his formative years.

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About Author

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

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