Review: The Joker # 14 – The Batman Universe

Overview: IN Joker # 14Jim Gordon returns to Gotham, and everyone from Batman and Oracle to Detective Hallows wants to know what Jim did to the Joker.

Editor’s Note: Due to the anthological nature of this collection, we will include a synopsis and analysis for each story instead of dividing the synopsis and analysis. Spoilers will definitely be revealed.

Story 1: “The Joker” Part 14 by author James Tynion IV and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli

Synopsis: Joker # 14 begins three weeks after the massacre at the Sampson Family complex in Hooper Texas (see last issue) while Jim Gordon is sitting in an interrogation room. A very lively detective Isabella Hallows comes in and asks Jim about the events from the last issue. Jim denies being there for the massacre and claims to have arrived only after.

In the news, we see reports that Vicky and Sawyer Sampson were arrested in the wake, and stories of the Sampson family’s cannibalism are widely circulated.

Hallows interrogates Jim about Vengeance and Bane, and Jim denies having seen any of them, even going so far as to say that the last he heard, Bane was dead. When Hallows asks Jim about the Joker and notices that she knows the Joker and Jim were on the spot at the same time, Jim just leans back and smokes his pipe.

Three weeks ago, Bane Vengeance stopped killing the Joker while Gordon was watching. Bane and Vengeance fight, but Bane easily takes his daughter down. He tells her that her rage makes her blind and she is a deliberate puppet of their masters. Bane wants his daughter to get rid of her programming.

While the father and daughter fight, the Joker considers running after it. Jim stops the Joker and escorts him away from the fights.

Some time later, Jim arrives back in Gotham City. He walks around the city picking up the latest news he’s missed (such as the events in Fear State), and he monologues about how Gotham is akin to a nightmare that never changes. As he rides the subway, Jim talks about the darkness that permeates Gotham and how people let this horror in. He is about to lay the beat down on a teenager with a clown mask as he thinks it better and lets the teenager drop.

After the subway ride, Jim calls his daughter, Barbara. She has not forgiven him for what he has done for the Joker, but she wants to warn her father that Batman knows that too. As Jim reaches his home, he ponders whether his idealistic younger self would ever forgive his older self for what he has just done.

Back in the Sampson home, Gordon escorts Joker to Cressida. When asked what she wants with the Joker, Cressida admits she does not really care about him. Her father was a Grand Master of the Court of Owls who fell from grace, and she has sought to strike back at both the Court and the Network. She teamed up with Bane to help pull the network forward and the Santa Priscan leaders who used cloning technology to flex their muscles, and the plan was to use the Joker as a chaos agent to set this whole event in motion.

After Cressida has explained what she wants, Joker asks Jim what his deal is. Jim refers to something an old partner told him a long time ago in a bar in Chicago (Joker # 1). Then Jim draws his gun at the Joker.

Back in the now, Jim walks into his dark apartment building, pulls out two glasses, pours two drinks up, and tells Batman to get out. Batman demands to know where the Joker is.

Analysis: Joker # 14 fills in some of the missing pieces about Bane and Cressida, but more importantly, it focuses the narrative back on Jim Gordon. His moody neo-noir tale returns as he endures an interrogation from former love affair detective Isabella Hallows. Once on a first name basis, she requires Jim to refer to her with her real title. It’s a fine detail, and it tells readers everything they need to know about where Jim and Isabella’s relationship stands after Vengeance’s breakup of their dinner date so many issues ago.

Author James Tynion decides the plot from the last issue mostly outside the panel, but it serves a purpose. Like the ending of a noir classic or two that this series is inspired by, the main character Gordon holds all the answers everyone wants. This issue is a tease in that way, which makes readers wait for another issue until everything is revealed with the Joker’s whereabouts.

But this choice is for Joker # 14‘s improvement. As Jim mentions in his tale at one point, this was not really about the Joker. The Joker was the catalyst for so many things – Jim’s nightmare, Bane and Cressida’s plot and all the chaos that ensued in the last fourteen issues. But this story has and continues to be about Jim’s development as a character. It’s about his aging from a young, idealistic cop to a worn-out ex-commissioner who sees Gotham as different shades of gray. It’s about a man who made mistakes in his pursuit of perfect and untouched justice, and from those mistakes Jim came to see darkness around him, which he once shrugged off, even when an old partner back in Chicago warned him about not to do so.

At its core, the Joker the series is a fun, twisted, crazy plot kettle, but it is also a deeply personal exploration of an often overlooked character integrated into the world of Gotham and Batman. It’s about why people change. It’s about failure. Most importantly, it’s about learning to cope and live with oneself.

Giuseppe Camuncoli continues art assignments for Joker # 14. Although Camuncoli’s linework is cleaner and more pristine than Guillem March’s, it’s no less effective at creating a mood. Camuncoli does a fantastic job of keeping beats in order in this track, swinging between the action scenes and the cool, noir-inspired moments alone with Jim Gordon. The colors of the Arif Prianto are certainly also wonderful to admire.

Story 2 “” Knock Knock “by author Alex Paknadel and artist Vasco Georgiev

Synopsis: The security of Joker # 14 ser Madison is a soldier who gets caught in an attack abroad. Her prison guards torture her, and when she is finally free and discharged from the military, her boyfriend leaves her. She no longer has humor and he can not stand it.

Madison is sleeping in an alley when Punchline comes and calls and gasps all the other pimples in the alley with her homemade nerve agent. Madison is fascinated by Punchline and obsessed with her laughter.

One night during the Joker War, Madison Punchline sends a message. Punchline returns and sees the half-joked Madison waiting for her. The two fighters and Punchline are confused about what Madison wants. Madison wants more punishment, she wants more abuse that makes her smile.

Madison asks for another joke, and Punchline gives her more Joker toxin. As Punchline leaves, Madison chops down on the container of gas.

Analysis: There’s definitely a mood and an idea that the creative team for this backup is playing on, and it fits in nicely with the Punchline trial, which has used all previous editions of the Joker series. At the same time, this, like the other backup chapters, still feels separate from the main story and does not add much to the overall story. It does, however, give the credit for creating a closer vibe to the Gordon tale.

Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally at Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title throughout Things from another world.

Joker # 14

Overall score

4/5

Joker # 14 gets back on track with the personal, tragic and downright humorous Jim Gordon tale that makes this series stand out.

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