Overview: In Knight Terrors: The Joker #1, Joker is forced to face his worst nightmare, a Gotham City without Batman and the Joker…the Regional Management Assistant Vice Supervisor in Wayne Enterprises!
Synopsis (Spoilers Ahead): The scene opens atop a roof in Gotham City, torrential rain soaking everything in a strong deluge of water. Insomnia, a deadly and mysterious new villain, has struck, forcing the entire world into an eternal slumber, searching the dreams and nightmares of all the heroes and villains for the nightmare stone.
Within the dreams of The Joker, Batman’s death has finally come about in a manner least expected; a slip, trip, and subsequent face-plant and fall off the roof to the dirty streets below ends in the Joker’s victory, who, now without an arch nemesis to beat each night as a life-long goal, is left bereft and feeling hallow, searching for something to fill his time and provide a purpose to live. Even the thought of killing Superman or Green Arrow doesn’t inspire joy within him.
The situation gets so bad that rewatching the Real Housewives of Metropolis is his morning routine. His henchmen, upset and feeling betrayed by their leader’s apathy, leave Joker to his own depressed sense of self, which finally brings him about to see an ad for a position within Wayne Enterprises. With nothing better to do, he applies.
Surprisingly, The Joker’s interview goes well, and he accepts the job offer from Mr. Dee within the company and is soon the newest hire of Wayne Enterprises. The first day of the job is spent searching for all the money within Wayne Enterprises, or the classified files for their weapons projects, which yield no results and a harrowing conversation with his colleague, Helen.
Helen explains how their department oversees the approval A.E.R.s (approved expenses reports) for the region. The big offices on the 65th floor decide where the money goes, Expenditures on 53 move the money around, and Accounting on 48 ensures that it was spent appropriately. Approvals on 33 approve Accounting and generate the A.E.R.s, which finally brings the reports to Helen and Joker’s department, which they then approve.
The conversation leaves The Joker more than frustrated and almost attempts to murder Helen with a butcher knife, but alas their reminder to report to the daily A.E.R analysis meeting forgoes such attempts.
A few weeks later, Joker kills his direct supervisor, Griffin, more so out of annoyance than anything else. Griffin didn’t like The Joker’s end-of-month reports, which were just doodles and murderous illustrations–many of which involved Griffin himself—and so the Joker smashed his head in with the breakroom microwave. Problem solved!
The next day, Mr. Dee, the department head supervisor, calls The Joker into his office. Bruce Wayne himself has taken a liking to The Joker, and so Mr. Dee feels it’s the best move to offer Griffin’s position to their newest hire; Joker is now the Regional Management Assistant Vice Supervisor. Mr. Dee is positive this is the right move, between the arrests of previous staff and the deaths of recent ones, they’ll have Batman himself knocking on their door if they don’t turn the ship around!
Batman is dead, says a very shocked Joker. Mr. Dee just laughs.
A few weeks later, between staff meetings, analysis reviews, and employee outings for drinks in Gotham, The Joker runs into his old henchmen after their attempt to mug him. So like a regular white-collar worker, the goons didn’t even recognize their old employer.
Rumor on the street is Batman is back, however, The Joker brushes that off. With a final comment to his old men to find a purpose—something other than waiting around for a man in a bat costume to assault you—The Joker leaves. Hypocrisy can be extremely subtle, after all.
The next day at work, the Joker actually spits out his coffee when one of his fellow employees recounts the story of how his wife, Cynthia, was mugged last week, yet Batman saved her and even retrieved her purse. Upset, The Joker demands to know if Cynthia saw Batman, which her husband affirms in the positive. After all, there aren’t a lot of guys running around dressed like giant bats, last time he checked.
More than you might think, it seems, The Joker mutters under his breath as he turns away.
That night, after returning home, The Joker hangs up his suit jacket and grabs a drink, turning on the TV to the evening news. The newscaster reports that Wayne Enterprises is facing huge penalties from the IRS for misreporting their quarterly expenses; Bruce Wayne himself issued a statement saying he was embarrassed by the report and would personally be getting to the bottom of how that happened.
Snorting encouragement to the man, The Joker props his feet up on his coffee and reclines back, the dead, mangled corpse of Batman hung up and visible in the closet behind him.
Analysis: From the hand of Matthew Rosenberg, writer of The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing, which featured a series with Joker as the main character, and artist Stefano Raffaele, Knight Terrors: The Joker #1 illuminates the worst fear of The Joker: becoming an average, white-collar employee.
The series is following the death of a longtime DC villain (Dr. Destiny, also known as John Dee), which gives way to the debut of a new villain called Insomnia, whose machinations affect both villains and heroes alike. Forced to confront their deepest, darkest fears in a nightmare dimension, this concept is the main theme of DC’s new summer event.
I actually felt like this take had some originality to it that I wasn’t really expecting; unlike many of the heroes and other villains around him, The Joker’s fear isn’t that of some moral conundrum, ubiquitous broken philosophy, the death of a loved one, or any other kind of life-altering, heart-wrenching event. For The Joker, understanding what it is exactly he and his department do within the company is a greater nightmare than death, which is exactly where he finds himself in DC’s newest storyline.
Despite this new take on The Joker and his worries, I was left feeling like this issue didn’t use everything the scenario had to offer its advantage. Paperwork, filing, approvals, unnecessary meetings, and hours of online employee training to name a few would have been quite entertaining to see within the world of DC, and I think would have provided quite a bit of humorous relatable content.
I think it could have similarly highlighted exactly why office life is the nightmare The Joker is forced to live a bit more. In every deprived, murderous plan and within every thought is expressed the clear need of The Joker to be so entertaining, surprising, and excitable, anything to ensure he is absolutely, positively, not boring. It’s a core identity, so much so that his real identity has been washed away and so assuredly replaced with the performative character he has created for himself, that to be stripped away of the unpredictable chaos is to essentially strip away The Joker. It didn’t feel like it really was a nightmare for him, which I think could have been easily achieved by displaying a Joker left with no idea of who he is, and absolutely no sense of self.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with an advanced copy of Knight Terrors: The Joker #1 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.