By Tom Farr
Throughout Batman’s DC Comics history, The Joker has been the one villain to cause the Dark Knight the most grief. From murdering the second Robin (Jason Todd) to shooting and paralyzing Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, The Joker’s wave of terror has been consistently present in Gotham City. Strangely, however, The Joker’s personality hasn’t been consistent throughout history.
At times, he’s a murderous comedian, a crazy clown, or just a homicidal maniac. This is the premise behind Geoff John’s latest Batman story, Three Jokers, published by DC’s Black Label, with art by Jason Fabok.
In a single night, three heinous crimes are committed by the Joker at the same time. The Gotham City Police Department is baffled, as are the Dark Knight and Batgirl. Did the real Joker commit one of the crimes and copycats committed the other two? Could there are actually three Jokers, each taking on one of the personalities reflected in Joker stories of the past? Johns refers to these three Jokers as the Criminal, the Comedian, and the Clown.
More than one Joker the whole time?
Batman and Batgirl team up with Jason Todd’s Red Hood to solve the mystery of the three Jokers. This leads them on a journey of discovering that there may be more Jokers than they even realize. In fact, after two issues, it seems the original Joker may have somehow begun replicating himself long ago with a plan to overwhelm Gotham City with new Jokers.
The Joker’s Lasting Impact on Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon
Longtime Batman fans will enjoy the references to previous Batman stories, especially the exploration of Jason Todd’s death at the hands of the Joker and his return to the land of the living. Three Jokers implies that the Joker had a longer endgame in mind when he initially “killed” Jason Todd.
Plus, Three Jokers is an in-depth exploration of the effect the Joker has had on Jason Todd and his relationship with Batman. It also takes him in a new direction in his relationship with Batgirl. She also has to reflect on the Joker’s profound impact on her life after the events of The Killing Joke - the landmark Batman story in which the Joker shot her to try to break Jim Gordon.
A Closer Look at The Joker and Batman’s Origin
At the center of it all is Batman. The core event of Batman’s life is the murder of his parents, and that event seems to play a significant role in Three Jokers. In some iterations of the Batman story, the Joker himself is responsible for the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne.
This was the primary storyline of Tim Burton’s Batman film. In Three Jokers, the classic story of Joe Chill as a murderer is maintained, at least as far as we know. However, even that seems open for further discovery leaning into the upcoming third and final issue of the series.
Three Jokers is an impressive story so far on its own, but combined with the art by Jason Fabok, it truly stands out as one of the more groundbreaking Batman stories of recent years.
This isn’t surprising given its publication under Black Label, which seems to give writers and artists more freedom than with DC. Of course, the story could succeed or fail with the third and final issue that comes out on October 27.
For now, Three Jokers is a compelling story that takes a deep dive into some of the past's most iconic Batman stories.
by Tom Farr
Comic book writer Scott Snyder is probably best known for his work on Batman, especially his Court of Owls storyline, but he's also the writer behind DC's popular Dark Knights: Metal and Death Metal events. Charles Soule is just as prolific, having written for Marvel's X-Men, She-Hulk, and several Star Wars comics. They're both talented storytellers in the comic book medium, and together, they're a powerhouse creative force. Their creator-owned comic book series Undiscovered Country with Image Comics is currently eight issues in, and every issue is full of surprises and an invitation to keep going.
A United States closed off from the rest of the world
The story's premise is that the United States closed off its borders and walled itself off from the rest of the world over thirty years ago. The world has changed drastically in the three decades without American influence. Still, the most significant problem the main characters face is a global pandemic called Sky, which is wiping out the world's population. Charlotte Graves is a scientist desperately searching for a cure when she's invited to be a part of a team that includes her brother Daniel.
When they get a message from the United States, the first anyone has heard thirty years, it's from a mysterious Dr. Elgin. It comes with a promised cure for the Sky virus if they come to America to get it. Charlotte, Daniel, a journalist, an army colonel, American expert, and a team of diplomats embark on a journey to America. However, what they find is a shocking de-evolution of a civilized America.
In addition to discovering the mysteries of what's happened to the country and searching for a cure to Sky, the team must find a way to survive the deadly sci-fi landscape that Soule and Snyder created. The world of the story is made all the more impressive with the standout visuals created by Daniele Orlandini and Giuseppe Camuncoli
Exploring a future America similar to our own
Even though it's a sci-fi story set in the future, with Undiscovered Country, Soule and Snyder have been able to explore a United States that is sharply divided by vastly different worldviews over what being American is about, which is strangely relevant to the the divisions of today. It's also a story that is enriched by a cursory knowledge of American history and iconography. As an educator, I sincerely appreciate this aspect of the story.
There's only so far a story can be carried by sci-fi mysteries. However, the real strength of Undiscovered Country is the characters. Enormously complex, each character has a vested interest in discovering whatever lies behind the walls that separate the US from the rest of the world. Arguably, Charlotte and Danielle are the characters that drive most of the story with a complex history that includes their parents. They are somehow tied to the sealing of the US. Still, Soule and Snyder do a great job exploring the other characters' backstories in a compelling way.
Eight issues in, Undiscovered Country continues to deliver non-stop surprises, mysteries and complex character development.
By Tom Farr
Since Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, it seems like an endless stream of new Star Wars stories continues to be released ever since. This includes films, such as the sequel trilogy, Solo and Rogue One, as well as television shows, books, and comics. While the steady stream has had a few missteps, depending on who you ask, one area that seems to consistently satisfy fan curiosity is the various Star Wars comics published by Marvel.
Combining top-notch comic book writers such as Charles Soule, Greg Pak, and Kierron Gillen with phenomenal artists such as Will Sliney, John Cassaday, and Salvador Larroca, Star Wars comics explore the mysteries between film episodes. They also give us a more in-depth look into many of the most well-known and loved film characters’ motivations. Plus, they’re telling great stories that resonate with Star Wars fans.
Here are five Star Wars comics that are worth diving into first.
Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith (2017)
Written by Charles Soule, this 25-issue exploration of Anakin Skywalker’s early experiences as Darth Vader begins from the moment Vader steps off the operating room table at the end of Revenge of the Sith. We learn why dark side users have red lightsabers, and we see the beginnings of the Inquisitorius under Vader’s leadership.
There’s the return of Jedi Temple librarian Jocasta Nu and the addition of an ancient Sith Lord and artist named Momin, who is tasked with designing Vader’s infamous castle. Most fascinating, however, is the reason why Vader had his castle built on Mustafar as we see him desperately trying to get Padme back even years after her death.
The Rise of Kylo Ren (2019)
Also penned by Charles Soule, this 4-issue comic reveals the deep conflict that helps turn Ben Solo into Kylo Ren after Luke’s near attempt to kill him. We learn that the Knights of Ren have faced Luke Skywalker before, and we see Luke as a badass Jedi Knight. In the sequel trilogy, we sometimes see the good that still exists in Kylo Ren, but his comic origin reveals that his descent into evil resulted more from coercion and deception than a fully-informed choice. We also find out about the origin of the word “Ren” in Kylo’s name.
Darth Vader (2020)
Taking place after The Empire Strikes Back, Greg Pak’s comic explores uncharted territory with Vader as he goes on a galaxy-wide quest for revenge after Luke rejects his invitation to join him. Determined to find anyone who helped keep Luke’s identity hidden from him, Vader looks into the past and discovers someone who was very close to Padme Amidala. That someone wants her own revenge against Darth Vader for the deaths of Padme and Anakin Skywalker.
Star Wars (2020)
Also taking place at the same time as Greg Pak’s Darth Vader, Charles Soule is exploring Luke Skywalker’s mission to complete his training as a Jedi after discovering the truth about his father. Luke learns the truth about why the Jedi are no longer around and finds the motivation to continue his goal of becoming a Jedi like his father. He even faces off with the Grand Inquisitor. This series is shaping up to be one of the best pieces of Star Wars storytelling to date.
Darth Vader (2015)
Kierron Gillen had the task of filling in the gaps between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back from Vader’s perspective. Vader’s dual goals of re-earning the favor of Palpatine after allowing the Death Star to be destroyed and learning the identity of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star drive the plot of this story. We see the moment Vader learns he has a son, and a fascinating new character named Doctor Aphra is introduced.
Although the comic feels like an exploration of Darth Vader’s character as an outside observer, meaning we never get inside his head, there’s still much revealed in the struggle to find redemption in Palpatine’s eyes. It also doesn’t hurt that we also see Vader often questioning the wisdom of his master. It turns out that the seeds of his betrayal against Palpatine were sown many years before.
ics. There are plenty of fun reveals and compelling character development moments. After reading these, there are many more worth checking out, such as:
Kanan: The Last Padawan
Doctor Aphra, Star Wars (2015)
Obi-Wan and Anakin
And there are plenty more to come.
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