I wrote my review for the first issue of this mini-series a few months ago. At the time I thought I knew where the story was going.
Boy, was I wrong.
The subversion of expectation has become a staple of post-modern storytelling. We've seen it done very poorly, as we saw in The Last Jedi. But if done correctly, it can be enlightening and moving.
And that is what I found in these last 2 issues.
In the first issue, we found out that the goal of the three Jokers was to "make a better Joker." With that in mind, I thought I had figured out who they were going to choose. To my surprise, not only did they not choose that person, but the Joker actually calls out this expectation in his dialogue.
Writer Geoff Johns has mentioned how this story is about scars. This is the story of three broken people, and we are not talking about the Jokers. Our three main heroes of this story (Batman, Batgirl, and Red Hood) are all broken in serious ways, some maybe beyond repair. This story has pushed our heroes to the limits, not just physically, but morally.
I have to say that this is one of my favorite Jason Todd stories. He has been set up as the anti-hero of the Bat-Family, but I have never seen him so humanized. You can feel his yearning to connect out of his loneliness. There is a wonderful scene where he starts to realize that Barbara lives a life of pain the way he does and there is just a little bit more light in his life.
One of the best things Johns does is that he gives us moments that we remember. At one point in the story, Batman has to go to Blackgate prison to speak to Joe Chill, the man who killed his parents. The moment he speaks into his cell is something I will always remember in my Batman lore.
There will be some who will be disappointed that this story does not completely explain who the Three Jokers are. Johns is not about to completely take away the mystery and mystique of the character. But he does offer a revelation that blew my mind. It is something that retcons something very traditional in Batman mythology, but it works emotionally.
Again, the story is about scars and the question of whether or not we can heal. And the deepest scars are the one that we cannot see. In this story, Batman has to confront his biggest wound in a way I have not seen and it was beautifully written and presented.
Jason Fabok's art is beautiful. I would let my eyes linger on the page longer than I normally do because of the way he is able to draw out the dark beauty of Gotham City and the people who live there. His drawings feel like they have heft and weight in a way that many comic book art does not. I can feel the impact of Batman's punches and hum of the Batmobile's engine.
Three Jokers is not the greatest Batman/Joker story ever told, but it is definitely in the top 10.