Overview: In The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #10, Mr. J will stop at nothing to reveal who is his imposter, all the while the Red Hood seeks to make good on his promise to kill the Joker.
Story #1: “The Joker: Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before” by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico
Synopsis (Spoilers Ahead): In Old Town, Gotham City, Black Mask (Roman Sionis) observes his captive with cool indifference. A man is bloodied and bruised, strapped down to a chair, and surrounded by some of Black Mask’s hired helpers.
Their objective is simple: Black Mask wants to know where his missing men are and what it is exactly that Commissioner Montoya did. Things quickly go sideways as acid-green laughing gas fills the room and leaves everyone but Black Mask—whose quick thinking provides him with an actual oxygen mask—laughing uncontrollably.
The doors to the chamber open and the Joker, dressed as a flight attendant, walks in, unaffected by the gas filling the air. Now, this Joker is a little peeved that his fellow peers and associates, crime lords of Gotham, aren’t taking him seriously. No one seems willing to work for the Joker, and to be a crime boss, one must have employees.
Elsewhere, at the waterfront, The Ventriloquist (Arnold Wesker) and Scarface hangs up the phone just as a man approaches, his face shrouded by a red hood. Two guns are suddenly held to two faces, one flesh and blood and the other cloth. The Red Hood (Jason Todd) makes good on his threat to shoot one if the other doesn’t talk, which leaves the puppet a bloody mess. Red Hood demands Arnold Wesker tell him where he can find the Joker.
Back in Old Town, things have quickly progressed from bad to a gruesome worse. Acidic gas fills the room, and while the Joker does what he wants to the unconscious bodies lying around him, he asks Black Mask if the man knows who exactly is playing dress-up and pretending to be the Joker. The crime boss tells Joker to leave him out of this insane war, as none of it matters to him. The Joker should really just go find the other Joker, after all, he’s already in Gotham.
Delighted, the Joker places a call to Arnold Wesker, informing him that the other Joker is in town and that he needs to call everyone back to their base to regroup. However, it’s not the Ventriloquist who answers the call, but rather the Red Hood, and he isn’t planning on missing his shot a second time.
Quickly hanging up the phone, the Joker places a second call to one of his henchmen, Shocky. The order is the same, however, Shocky informs the Joker that one of his guys found who the fake Joker is, but he’ll only tell in person. Shocky wants to see the look on the Joker’s face when the identity is revealed.
Twenty minutes later at the Joker’s warehouse, Spoiler (Stephanie Brown), Ravager (Rose Wilson), and the Red Hood peer at the bloodied body of Shocky. They’re not alone for long as Manhunter joins the fray, and a battle between them quickly ensues before Spoiler quickly puts an end to it. They’re all on the same team; both Jason and his partners and Manhunter are tracking the Joker, however, it looks like they’re not tracking the same one. Movement from Shocky causes them all to pause their musings and a decision is quickly reached to get the unconscious criminal to a hospital and into the operating room.
Once in the OR, the poor surgical team is halted before they can even begin care by the Joker, who points a gun in their faces and shoots one, before trying to get Shocky to reveal the identity of the imposter. The man flatlines before he can complete his sentence. It’s irrelevant, however, as the Joker proclaims that of course he knows who the imposter is. He made him!
Analysis: Writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico bring the latest installment of the Joker series, which blends lots of violence and sarcastic commentary, with a cool color palette and artistry that gives the story a rather fitting horror look and feel to it.
Within Gotham and the criminals that rule her streets, there is dissension between the crime bosses and Joker; currently, no one really respects the Joker as an actual crime boss—the man doesn’t have any assets or human capital—and his reputation is being further harmed by the fact that there’s an imposter dressed up and looking like him running around and causing havoc. Here, the issue breaks down the Joker’s objective very clearly: figure out who the imposter is. By the end of the story, it’s revealed to us that he’s known all along, as the Joker was responsible for creating the other Joker. Is this referencing the events that took place back in the first issue of the series, or is the Joker referring to something else entirely? It’s unfortunate that no reveal is provided in this issue, however, I’m hopeful that we’ll get a much better handle on where the characters are at by the next issue.
Within the midst of the Joker vs. Joker war, the Red Hood is relentless in his quest to put a bullet through the man’s head, successfully this time. He’s joined by several other heroes, Spoiler, Manhunter, and Ravager, which was fun to see. Hopefully, these characters stay present as the story continues, as that could provide a playing field for team-ups and character dynamics that maybe haven’t been done before.
Story #2: “The Joker: Making of a Monster 123!” by writer Mathew Rosenberg and artist Francesco Francavilla
Synopsis: The Joker is once again causing his typical mayhem in the streets of Gotham City, releasing venomous Joker gas into the air and infecting the citizens around. One henchman, who doesn’t seal his mask properly and breathes in the Joker gas, ends up continuously laughing and is brought by the Joker to Professor Pyg. The request is simple: turn the man into the Joker.
The request is made into a reality, which leaves two Jokers, whose identity crisis becomes a problem as the two start to fight and bicker. And so one Joker kills the other Joker, putting things back in their proper place.
Analysis: There isn’t too much to say on this issue, other than it almost directly mirrors the events taking place in the main title. Clearly, two Jokers are too much for even the Joker to handle, and he solves this problem the same way he solves all his other problems: a bullet to the face. One pleasant surprise with this side story was that it was so much more normal and less disturbing than others before it, so I give it props for that!
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with an advanced 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.