Batman has failed to save the city from the Joker and his goons… Enter The Clownhunter! Your Major Spoilers review of Batman Secret Files: Clownhunter #1 from DC Comics awaits!
BATMAN SECRET FILES: CLOWNHUNTER #1
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Rosi Kampe
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: August 17, 2021
Previously in Batman Secret Files: Clownhunter: Clownhunter’s brutal mission to hunt down all the clowns from The Joker War continues! The untrained but focused vigilante stalks a boss-level clown, but his luck might be running out as he walks into an ambush set by Punchline! In a horrific parallel to his days at Gotham Academy, Clownhunter finds himself overwhelmed and outgunned… just the type of odds he likes!
AN ISSUE-LONG BEATING
We open with a flashback to Bao Pham’s days at Gotham Academy, facing a constant stream of quasi-racist bullying and beatings from the rich kids of Gotham City. In the present, he’s not doing all that much better, as he follows a low-ranking goon named Sol the clown into an ambush and nearly gets killed by the goon, who is in the employ of Punchline. Clownhunter fights back, but ends up surrounded by an army of clowns with lethal intentions, and most of the rest of the issue cuts between his beatings at the hands of the children of the 1% and his beating at the hands of Joker’s goons. Still, even Punchline recognizes that the kid has guts, offering him backing and better gear if he just turns his righteous fury against a villain other than the Joker, only to have him spit right in her digital face. She washes her hands of the boy, but The Red Hood arrives just in time to save the day…
…and to offer Bao the training he’ll need to get close to The Joker.
OUR HERO SPEAKS IN LOWERCASE
While I’m not always a fan of the grimdark cycle of violence that is the Bat-books, this issue gives me something a little bit different (albeit still with the requisite dead parents, something that Punchline actually calls out in-story). The use of Red Hood in this issue is excellent, and his agreement to help the kid, regardless of what Batman wants makes perfect sense, what with the whole “murdered by the Joker” part of Jason’s backstory.
The art in this issue doesn’t really feel like a Batman comic at all, centering a wiry, angular Clownhunter who looks like the scrawny kid that he is against a group of clowns of various sizes and shapes, and everyone with realistically homemade battle gear. The downside comes when Red Hood arrives, as he looks like he comes from a completely different universe than the main character, but somehow that, too, feels appropriate. There are some moments where the visual cues are missing in the storytelling, and the puzzling decision to have Clownhunter speak in a lowercase font is confusing to me (Is he whispering? Is his voice box damaged? No clues are given), but all in all, there’s a lot to like here.
BOTTOM LINE: I LIKE THIS KID
Batman Secret Files: Clownhunter #1 does its job well, in that I left this book wanting more of Bao Pham and his story, thanks to unique art and a story that works more often than not, leaving this issue with a better-than-average 3 out of 5 stars overall. I am not 100% sure that I’m ready to brave the whole Batman family of titles, but I would be willing to look for more Clownhunter in the future, which is really all a book like this can ask.
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BATMAN: SECRET FILES - CLOWNHUNTER #1
Clownhunter's back story is a familiar tale in Gotham, but his tenacity and his interactions with Red Hood in this issue have me interested in his story. The art isn't bad, either.