Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Batman, Batgirl, and Red Hood stand above a table littered with scattered pictures of different Jokers over the years. There are dozens, and Batman reminds Batgirl and Red Hood that the three Jokers have spent years trying to create a better Joker. Before they can break down why the three Jokers were working on this, Red Hood and Batman erupt into an argument.
Red Hood plans to murder the remaining two Jokers, noting that Batman doesn’t have the guts to do it. Batman counters that he’s thought about it, but it’s not his way. The two fight about their intentions, with Red Hood noting that the only reason why Batman won’t turn Hood in is that Batman’s identity would be exposed.
Batman ends the fight by reminding them that they agreed to work together on this. Then, the team goes over the three Jokers. First, there was the Criminal. The Criminal is the more serious Joker, and he reminds Batman of his earliest confrontations with Joker. Then, there was the Clown, who is much more theatrical and sillier. Lastly, there is the Comedian, who has a darker undertone beneath that smile.
Batman believes that one of these three is the original Joker. Batgirl wonders if the original Joker made the other two in order to conceal his identity. Before Batman continues, he stops to apologize to Jason Todd and offers to guide Red Hood to a better path. Jason shrugs off the offer and focuses on tracking down the Jokers. Before the team sets off to stop the Criminal and the Comedian, Jason asks Batman if he knows the real identity of the Joker, betting that Batman probably does.
Batman says that he doesn’t.
Later, Batman arrives at Blackgate and is informed that the Jokers abducted Joe Chill. While searching Chill’s cell, Batman finds a stack of letters addressed to Bruce Wayne. A guard informs Batman that Chill wrote letters all the time, noting that the prison reverend would know more.
Outside Blackgate, Batgirl and Red Hood look onward. Batgirl tells Hood that, in murdering one of the Jokers, Hood trapped Batman and herself in a corner. She threatens that next time, she’ll unmask if she has to.
Inside Blackgate, Reverend Evans tells Batman that Joe Chill picked up classes again in prison since he dropped out when he was thirteen. Evans notes that Chill’s learning disabilities inhibited his efforts, but Chill truly was a changed man long before his terminal illness.
Batman looks through the stacks of letters, finding one written by the Joker. This one’s addressed to Batman; inside is a ticket to the Monarch Theatre.
Batman, Batgirl, and Red Hood head to the Monarch Theatre, each one using a different entrance. Both Batgirl and Red Hood are overwhelmed by Jokers dressed as ushers. Batman enters the main theater where the Criminal has Joe Chill tied up and dangling over a vat of chemicals.
Batgirl and Red Hood fight off the ushers. As Hood is overwhelmed, Batgirl comes face to face with the Comedian, who is wearing a camera around his neck. Meanwhile, Batman and the Criminal talk, and the Criminal tells Batman that he’s doing this because he’s trying to create a Joker that’s more important to Batman than anyone. Right now, the Criminal believes that the Joker is undefined chaos, but he wants a Joker who matters, which is why Joe Chill is the perfect candidate.
Red Hood wins his fight, and he rushes off to help Batgirl. Before he can get to her, Hood is shot in the shoulder by the Comedian. Batgirl swoops in, smashing that camera into the Comedian’s face.
Joe Chill dangles over a vat of chemicals. Before Batman can save him, he has to dodge gunfire from the Criminal. A stray bullet hits a rope holding up the rafters upon which the Criminal stands, sending him clattering to the floor. Batman swings in and kicks the Criminal, which sends the Criminal’s lighter into the chemicals. A resulting explosion sets the place ablaze. This allows the Criminal the opportunity to cut the rope Joe Chill dangles from. Before Chill can fall into that chemical pool, Batman saves him. Once the two are safe, Chill tells Batman that he knows who Batman is, and then he asks if Batman is going to kill him. “No,” Batman replies.
“I deserve it,” Chill says. “I truly am sorry.” Chill thanks Batman for both sparing and saving his life, and Batman replies with, “You’re welcome.”
The Criminal is back on his feet, threatening to blow them all up with sticks of dynamite. Before he can get a chance, the Comedian shoots the Criminal in the head, then surrenders.
As Batman and Joker return to Arkham, Red Hood approaches Batgirl and asks if there’s more to their relationship. Batgirl pushes Hood away, telling him that he misinterpreted what happened. After Hood leaves, Commissioner Gordon tells Batgirl that she shouldn’t get mixed up with a guy like Red Hood. Batgirl tells him not to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong, ending that line with “…Dad.”
In the ambulance to Arkham, the Comedian tells Batman that he didn’t like the Criminal’s plan to create a Joker with an identity. He felt it was wrong, but he used his pull to convince the other two Jokers that Joe Chill was a perfect candidate. In doing this, the Comedian created a little drama where Batman would have to save Chill, thus healing the oldest wound Batman has, which would pave the way for the Comedian to become Batman’s biggest pain.
Back at Blackgate’s hospital wing, Bruce Wayne reads one of Joe Chill’s letters, then holds Chill’s hand as he passes away.
In Alaska, Bruce Wayne drives out to a remote house where a woman and her son live. Flashbacks tell us that shortly before, Bruce was talking to Alfred about the identity of the Joker. Bruce tells Alfred that he’s Batman and that he knew the identity of the Joker one week after they met. Through flashback panels, we learn that this woman and her son are the woman with a child from The Killing Joke. She was given money and escorted to safety from her abusive husband, and her husband was told a story about how she died in order to keep her hidden.
Batman tells Alfred that if the Joker’s identity is known, the press will track down his family and bring them to light. More importantly, Joker will know that they’re alive. “So yes, I know his name. But the Joker’s name isn’t what’s important. It never has been.”
Analysis: The finale of Batman: Three Jokers brings us more incredible art from Jason Fabok, complemented with colors by Brad Anderson. It’s a gorgeous issue, arguably one of the most beautiful-looking books on the shelves. Fabok has a natural ability in creating a moody, noirish atmosphere that’s brilliantly paced and carries with it a subtext read in character’s faces, which sometimes flies in the face of dialogue in order to create a more nuanced meaning.
The artwork is exemplary, and it’s been consistently the best part of this miniseries over the course of these last three books.
In this finale, we get a story that wraps up one thread wonderfully while leaving the others dangling in the wind. Red Hood’s rash outbursts make no sense in this issue, and they feel disconnected from the Red Hood in the last issue. There are mentions of the moment that Barbara Gordon and Jason Todd shared, but it’s as if the conversation about healing and how to move forward was seemingly forgotten. As a result, Jason comes across as petulant for petulant’s sake, and his arguments with Batman feel theatrical purely for the idea of having some sort of melodrama in the earlier parts of the book. These outbursts are untethered by the book’s end, with Barbara and Jason going their separate ways like two ships passing in the night.
The implication behind Batgirl referring to Commissioner Gordon as “Dad” is unclear as well. Does Gordon know that Batgirl is his daughter, and is Barbara acknowledging that? Or, is she being snarky? Or is she muttering that last word under her breath as she leaves the scene? It can be read multiple ways, and an extra line of dialogue or perhaps an extra panel could better clear up this confusion.
The real heart of this finale, however, is when Batman has to save Joe Chill from the Joker. It’s played out beautifully, with Batman learning about Joe Chill’s repentance from Reverend Evans, as well as his learning disabilities, which puts this murderer of Batman’s parents in a more sympathetic light. This comes into play later when Batman saves Chill’s life without hesitation, even telling Chill “You’re welcome” when thanked for saving/sparing the rehabilitated murderer’s life. It’s a beautiful moment and intercut with flashback panels from Fabok, this forgiveness is tender and connects with the idea of trauma and healing that has been a theme throughout this miniseries.
It even works masterfully as a plot point by the Joker. With closure finally happening for Batman, the idea of healing is wonderfully twisted as a way for the Comedian to set a drama in motion to heal his greatest foe and thus make himself Batman’s greatest wound. Writer Geoff Johns and Fabok circle back to the idea of Batman healing after the Joker’s plans are laid bare, reminding us in Chill’s final moments that in spite of this elaborate Joker ruse, Batman, and us, have closure. The tenderness and forgiveness is, ultimately, the point.
What closes out this book is nothing more than fan service as Batman reveals that he has known the Joker’s identity since one week after their first meeting. First off, Alfred is alive in this book, which puts into question when it takes place. Currently, Alfred is dead in the main Batman title. Secondly, Bruce Wayne drives by the hidden Alaskan home of the wife and child of The Killing Joke incarnation of the Joker, noting that he doesn’t reveal Joker’s identity for their safety. This affirms the idea that the origin story in The Killing Joke is the “real” Joker’s origin. With Bruce noting that he knew the Joker’s identity one week after their first meeting, this also suggests that the “original” Joker is the Comedian or the one that most closely resembles the Joker most often seen from the 1970s onward. None of this truly matters in the grand scheme of Batman books and seems only to be included to tout the fan-favorite Alan Moore story. Sadly, its inclusion muddies that last touching moment when Bruce holds Chill’s hand, and it also means that Batman lied to Batgirl and Red Hood in this issue’s opening.
Final Thoughts: Batman: Three Jokers concludes well enough. Some of the story threads are lost, but the important one sticks a tender and heartfelt landing that makes it a meaningful read. Jason Fabok’s art continues to be the best part of this miniseries.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic digitally and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue through Comixology.