Joker: Killer Smile
Medium: comic
Year: 2019
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Keywords: Black Label, superhero
Format: 3-issue DC Black Label mini-series, plus an additional one-issue story, Batman: The Smile Killer
Series: << Batman >>
Website category: Batman
Review date: 17 July 2023
joker killer smile
I approve of DC's Black Label on principle, but it doesn't have the best hit rate and this particular release didn't work for me.
The main story is about a psychiatrist (Doctor Benji Arnell) who thinks he can cure the Joker. Uh-huh. Good luck, mate. This gets a lot more unsettling when we meet his wife and child. Naturally, things start going freaky and hallucinogenic and the Joker knows their names and... no, no, wait, stop. Why are you still there, Benji? This is going to end badly. The readers knew that from the start. What the hell are you doing, assuming you can cure the Joker and putting your family at risk? Get out of there. Now. Right now.
In fairness, Benji starts questioning his own motivations. Yes, that's a start, but I'd needed more than that to be able to believe in what I was reading. Look at the Joker's history. Look at the life expectancy of people he passes in the street. Benji could sod off and die, as far as I was concerned. It's a creepy, scary read, yes, but hollow because it had already lost me halfway in.
I liked the Mr Smiles children's book pages, though. I also quite like Andrea Sorrentino's art, which reminds me of Arthur Ranson and John Ridgway (albeit without being quite as good as either).
At least that's better than Batman: The Smile Killer, though. This book's main story is old-fashioned and very familiar (the doctor treating insanity who goes insane) and it's extremely effective in its dark, bleak way. It'll give you the willies. For me, it just has a flaw in its character motivation. The bonus extra story, though, has Batman possibly going mad in a similar way and seeing things that are impossible and... naaah. I didn't believe any of it. It's all bullshit. The story makes no discernible attempt to convince you that what you're reading is objectively true, then doesn't give an explanation at the end. It's just 32 pages of "huh?" that isn't even particularly original. Scott Snyder's Batman did something similar, for instance.
In short: that was a mistake. This book cost me ten quid on Amazon, but I'm not sure it's worth keeping. I might put it in the bin.