Overview: In The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #12, only one of the Jokers will come out on top to carry on the legacy of the Clown Prince of Crime.
Title: The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #12
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Main Cover: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Variant Covers: Christian Ward, Otto Schmidt, and Ben Oliver
Release Date: November 7, 2023
This comic book review contains spoilers.
In Gotham Midtown, fake-Joker puts together a plan; although he isn’t the original that doesn’t mean he still can’t have fun, right? Right. The plan first starts with recruiting a now-petrified Red Hood (Jason Todd), who was previously infected by Batman (in Batman #138) to make him afraid of everything to prevent him from killing anyone, especially the Joker. The effects of Batman’s work is easily undone by the Joker, thanks to a small dose of Joker toxin, which is enough to bring back Jason’s full sense of self.
Ultimately, the Joker and Jason can both help each other, as in a shocking turn of events, it’s become clear that this Joker isn’t the real Joker—just another sad victim of his madness—and so “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Across North Gotham, Ravager (Rose Wilson) lures Batman (Bruce Wayne) far away from the South of Gotham in order to give Jason and the fake-Joker time to hijack a train and attract the attention of the real Joker. Said train is heading straight for Gotham, full of enough Joker toxin to wipe out the entirety of the city, but Jason doesn’t know that. The fake-Joker plans to keep it that way.
The plan works: Joker (the real one, not the fake one) arrives overhead in a dirigible, and it doesn’t take long for a fight to erupt both atop the swift-moving train and within the main cabin between the two Jokers and their lackeys.
The Red Hood joins the fray, which brings the grand scheme to light; the brakes of the train have been dismantled, the throttle set to full speed, and the current plan is to let Gotham Central station do the stopping for them, at which point all the tankers full of toxic gas will be released. Then the fight quickly resumes, which ends with Jason inside the dirigible, thanks to a forced ride from Killer Moth (Drury Walker), and requesting help from Batgirl. Hood gets Batman instead. There isn’t much time to let their differences dictate their actions, so Batman quickly provides Jason with options on how to make the gas inert and Jason runs with it.
The conclusion is a massive collision as the blimp Jason is steering crashes magnificently into the train just as it traverses the Bolland Bridge, sending both vehicles, the gas, and everyone abroad smashing into the river below in a fiery explosion.
Ten minutes later, Ravager and Manhunter arrive at the scene, and Ravager wastes no time jumping into the water and fishing out an unconscious Jason Todd. A few quick rescue breathes later, and they both lay on the river’s bank simply catching their breath.
The remaining survivors of the Joker’s entourages split ways with a last few insults tossed back and forth. The henchmen are stopped by the appearance of one of the Jokers, butt-naked and holding the severed head of the other Joker. Whether he’s real or fake, it doesn’t matter. He is after all…
The long fight is now over, and the Joker stands victorious. But isn’t that always the way it was going to go? This issue by Matthew Rosenberg felt quite anti-climactic, starting with how quickly Jason Todd’s fear-induced state was reversed, to the end of the Jokers’ fight, and finally to how easy it was for Jason to be resuscitated after being submerged underwater for at least ten minutes.
But let’s start with the biggest plot grievance; a fear-induced Jason Todd at the hands of Batman. For a character whose entire ethos is constructed around helping others and being a beacon of hope for those who are suffering, this action felt especially out of character for Batman, and that’s before you overlay the fact that the relationship between Jason and Bruce is supposed to be a familial one. Although the actual moment between them took place in The Gotham War, the effects are seen briefly in this issue. For such a grievous course of action, I would have presumed the comeback to be a bit more impactful, yet instead, a quick spray of toxic gas by the Joker, and bam, the Red Hood is back into action, flying a blimp headlong into a moving train to save all of Gotham City. It’s almost like the entire story could have been developed just fine without Batman’s decision in The Gotham War to reduce Jason’s free will and paralyze him with fear to prevent anyone from being killed.
Moving on, the Joker orchestrates a plan that I think almost anyone who has read comics for even a little bit of time is familiar with; wipe out Gotham City by unleashing toxic gas, how very original. The attempt is thwarted successfully by the Red Hood, with help from Manhunter and Ravager, and Gotham is left with one less Joker.
The art by Carmine Di Giandomenico gives each character plenty of gritty looks and uneven texture, which fits well with the story. The color palette feels like it sticks to its sickly greens, yellows, and purples, which is apt considering the story is by and large focused on the Joker.
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.