Written by Brian Azzarello with art from Lee Bermejo, ‘Joker’ is an original graphic novel featuring, you guessed it, the Joker. We follow criminal (and narrator) Jonny Frost as he gets in over his head when he volunteers to collect the Joker upon his release from Arkham Asylum. The Joker takes Jonny Frost under his wing as he attempts to reclaim his criminal empire.
With Azzarello, most famous for 100 Bullets, you know what you’re going to get: a crime noir drama. I’ve read a lot of his stuff in the past, but have to confess I’ve followed his work a little less recently after being disappointed with the end of 100 Bullets. This book however, which was published within a year of 100 Bullets’ climax sees him at the top of his game.
Lee Bermejo is an artist I know mostly from his cover work. It looks good, but I have to say I was never a huge fan. Like many comic artists who paint their work, I found a lot of his art kind of static, which doesn’t work for me. Here, however, although some panels appear fully painted, the majority of the book is Berjemo’s pencilled work, coloured by a third party, and this is far better. This is a great looking book. Berjemo’s Joker, as well as Batman and the other supporting characters are portrayed far more realistically than most interpretations of the characters (I’ve also read, but can’t confirm, that Bermejo’s Glasgow-Smile-sporting Joker pre-dates Nolan and Ledger’s take on the character). The book, I must point out, may be unsurprisingly, with its focus on Batman’s darkest enemy, far more explicit in its portrayal of both sex and violence. This tale, which is surely one of the best looks at the Joker, is most certainly for mature readers.