Overview: In The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #5, two different Jokers and Red Hood all converge somewhat explosively in Gotham City, while elsewhere in Los Angeles another Joker sets plans in motion.
Editor’s Note: Due to the anthology nature of this collection, we will feature a synopsis and analysis for each story rather than breaking up the synopsis and analysis. Spoilers are sure to be revealed.
Story #1: “The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing ” Part 5 by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico
Synopsis: The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #5 begins in the snow-covered streets in Gotham West Side, as several elementary schoolers call out through the neighborhood for their friend Ricardo, searching the nearby houses. Their game of water pistols has led Ricardo to seek shelter in one particular house, which had previously been owned by the Crown Prince of Crime and is not only off-limits but also supposedly haunted.
The children are brought to a halt upon seeing their friend standing motionless inside and are then shocked when the Mad Hatter makes an appearance. Before anything can happen, the window shatters, and the Joker, dressed as a poor version of Batman, comes crashing through, a bat in one hand.
The Joker has come all this way to see Jervis and to find out, through blunt force trauma, who gave him the keys to his house. Jervis, his face beaten and bloody thanks to the bat, insists that the real Joker returned to town and gave him the keys three days ago.
In Chinatown, Drury, otherwise known as Killer Moth, is interrupted from his alone time with his beer by Jason Todd, the Red Hood. Jason tells Drury that he can either confess to what he knows about the Joker and help Jason in his search or become very familiar with the view of his femoral artery.
Drury says everyone knows about Jason’s search and that he’s been hunting an imposter. The real Joker has, in fact, come back to town and is pissed; he’s reached out to a whole bunch of freelancers to set a trap for the fake one; word on the street is that Mad Hatter took the job. Both Jason and the real Joker are after the same person.
In Gotham, South Side, the fake Joker ensures a padlock is firmly secure around the handles of the front door before venturing fully into an abandoned warehouse, armed with only a water pistol. As he makes his way through, dressed as a firefighter, a cage falls down and slams around him, trapping him inside.
In the warehouse, the two Jokers come face to face, both unimpressed with the other and both with their own plans. Although he’s trapped in a cage with no way of getting out, the other Joker is now trapped inside the house with him; the fake Joker ensured the only way in or out was securely locked, with the only key in his pocket. To make things even better, the fake Joker set the whole place on fire before he came in. He doesn’t even mind if he’s trapped alongside the other Joker, just so long as they burn together.
Enraged, the supposed real Joker points a gun at the other’s face and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t hand over his means of escape; he was supposed to find out who the other really was but doesn’t care anymore.
The fake Joker comments that threatening to shoot someone who just made plans to burn himself alive is a fun choice and then points his water pistol at the other and pulls the trigger. Just because they’re called water pistols doesn’t mean other liquids can’t be put inside. Liquids such as acid, for example. Screaming in pain, the real Joker crashes through a window and falls to the ground four stories below. Using the remaining acid in his water gun, the fake Joker free’s himself and makes his way out.
Also, in Gotham South Side, Jason’s pursuit of his quarry is interrupted by the appearance of Batgirl, Stephanie Brown, who warns Jason that Batman know’s he’s in town and hunting down the Joker and isn’t about to sit by and let it happen. Stephanie also tells Jason that the man he’s tracking isn’t the right guy, according to Batman, and says that she’s supposed to be stopping Jason, not encouraging him to leave Gotham before Batman arrives. Their conversation is interrupted by a warehouse building in the distance going up in flames.
The fake Joker casually makes his way out of the burning building as the real firefighters arrive and strolls over to an open emergency entrance below the underground platform for the subway line. Making his way down, he discovers the other Joker injured and slumped against a wall who comments that he never signed up for this.
Chuckling, the fake Joker says that he didn’t force the other to run through a fourth-floor window…but pointing his water pistol at the injured Joker, demands to know what he meant by his earlier comment.
A shot from above at the hand of the Red Hood silences the hurt Joker before he can say more than he was hired, his face exploding with a massive hole surrounded by brown mud. Screaming in agitation and still demanding to know who hired him, the fake Joker starts to run out of harm’s way and crosses the subway tracks as the train barrels by, supposedly hitting him straight on.
Above, the Red Hood kneels with his hands interlocked above his head and is surrounded by armed police officers, shocked that he actually managed to kill the Joker successfully.
Upon investigating, the police officers search the now empty subway platform and report back that whatever or whoever the Red Hood was shooting was is gone. There’s nothing to see other than some wet clay.
In Malibu, the Joker demands into his cell phone that the fake Joker was supposed to be brought to him alive: is it certain he’s dead? On the other line, Clayface snaps back that he’s sure, and no, he wasn’t able to grab to the body with the Red Hood and cops crawling all over. All he wants is the rest of his money, but the dial tone is all that remains to listen to Clayface’s demands.
Turning to his henchman, Mr. Waffles, the Joker orders him to pack his bags; they’re going back to Gotham.
Analysis: Now, five issues into this series, and seems we’re finally getting some insight into what’s truly going on. There are two Jokers, both of whom are seeking out the other, and now several members of the Bat-Family who can be expected to make appearances.
Stephanie Brown’s attempt to dissuade Jason from carrying out his plans falls on deaf ears, and even the threat of Batman isn’t enough to make Jason turn around and go back. I find myself a little frustrated reading what feels like the same storyline for the one-hundredth time in a row. Jason attempting to kill the Joker and Batman stopping him isn’t anything new, and I think a new approach to this problem is warranted.
The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #5 ends with Jason, as the Red Hood, in the custody of the police and under the belief that he’d finally succeeded in killing the Joker. Unfortunately, what he doesn’t see is that the man he’d gunned was actually Clayface, hired by the true Joker to try and lure out the other, who, thanks to the impending subway, seems to have taken care of the other Joker. Throughout this, it’s clear that several of the Gotham rouges have accepted a job from the Joker posted in Los Angeles to capture the pretender and deliver him to the other for reasons. This, however, doesn’t happen, and so the Joker is now on his way from sunny California to Gotham City because, as they say, if you want something done right, you better do it yourself.
Story #2: “Big Bad Problems!” by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Francesco Francavilla
Synopsis: The backup in The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #5 sees Gargantua as the latest candidate for the Joker’s obsession, which, despite her very clear distaste for the man, leads him to believe that if he changes his way and does good, honest work, he’ll be able to win over her affection. A few weeks pass, and the Joker sticks to doing nothing but just that, but every effort to impress Gargantua with his virtuous work ethic does nothing to help his cause.
A few days later finds the Joker seeking the aid of the Demon Etrigan; he wants Gargantua to notice what a better person he’s become and uses Etrigan’s book of spells to cast one on himself in the hopes that it would do just that.
The next night, Gargantua tries to destroy a tall building (as she gravely dislikes them) but is stopped by the Joker, who is now just as tall as she is. Unfortunately, any moment they might have had is short-lived by holes forming in the Joker’s face, and tiny little naked Joker men begin climbing out. It seems he cast the spell wrong after all.
Disgusted, Gargantua states she needs to go as she’s late for a date (with Etrigan, no less) and leaves the Joker and his mini look-a-likes wondering why she didn’t want to date him.
Analysis: I just…have so many questions with this one. I will give kudos to the creative team, writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Francesco Francavilla for being able to provide a short story series that is so consistently bizarre (and somewhat disconcerting). As I’ve noted before, these extra stories are not my favorite, nor am I one to find the dark humor very comedic; however, I hope they serve to entertain others.
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 on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.
The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #5
Despite the forward momentum of the plot, I’m still not taken by this series but am happy to feel a little like things feel like they’re finally moving! The issue ends with Jason’ in the custody of the police (who very much do not like him), Batman is aware of his actions and is potentially going to get involved, and the Joker is on his way back to Gotham City while the other has vanished, and is possibly (but highly unlikely) dead. How things will turn out, in the end, is still yet to be seen.