Just as I predicted, this third installment had Batman and Joker working as a dysfunctional team and I loved every page, word, and brush stroke of it. I would say that this was the best of the whole series. The art really emphasized how the virus is affecting Batman’s vision and judgement. There were a couple of times here where I thought that what he said was out of character but then I brushed it aside as an effect of the virus. For instance, he says this:
I don’t mean to sound romantic but if not for Gotham…there’d be Paris. Certainly there are other cities I could call home, but I don’t think that there is any other that would make me feel it. I’ve actually entertained the idea, that once this calling of mine cripples me, time spent in a wheelchair along the banks of the Seine would be good time. Worth the life that preceded it. Sorry, that does sound romantic.
It just feels weird to hear Batman apologize for some idea that he entertained in his head. This is why I am going to rationalize this ‘odd’ bit of characterization as an effect of the virus because later in the pages we see Batman question his abilities and himself.
Before I continue, I wanted to discuss The art: the art has this 3D and off color/almost psychedelic look to it. I wish that Jim Lee had drawn this but it is clear that the art here was supposed to be ‘off’ and ‘crooked’ because we are supposed to ‘see’ what Batman and Joker are seeing. It has this really creepy vibe especially as the most significant moments occur in the dark. I really liked this issue for the creepy art and because we see another side to Joker: he is actually somewhat a celebrity in Paris!
It should be noted that this installment takes place primarily in the dark. First it starts in the catacombs. In Prague, they travel via the sewers and in Berlin, they meet up in a seedy Berlin club where questions aren’t really asked. Going by my theory that each city represents a part in the Batman Joker relationship metamorphosis, Paris is known as both the ‘City of Light’ and the ‘City of Love’. As noted, this third part takes place mainly at night save for one scene. Joker’s white skin contrasts with the darkness. I thought this was interesting because this emphasizes the fact that in this issue, Joker holds the cards. He is the light while Batman is literally and metaphorically in the dark as the virus consumes him.
Joker has his connections in the Parisian underground which he utilizes so that he and Batman can find the Trojan Horse. Batman notes this when he says “It makes me realize how little I know about my enemy, even after all these years.” Berlin established the divide, Prague turned it around and here in Paris, Joker is the one who is in control.
We see more of Joker’s thought processes and insight which is actually a treat. He is often characterized as this brutal monster but we hardly see his more intellectual side. It’s nice to be reminded that Joker can be very smart and sophisticated. You have to be really smart to understand to understand chemistry and the compounds used to create the rictus grin. Moreover, he is someone who takes pride in his ‘work’. The smiling dead bodies are his calling card, his signature. Paris is a city renowned for its love of art. It is synonymous with style and finesse. I particularly liked Joker’s quotes: “Paris’ elite love me–I’m an artiste….The bourgeois dig me, too, dear…flat life can be so boring. Like everything that doesn’t matter, they are everywhere all at once. And while they may not have much money, they have eyes. Sights my underworld connections can exploit to suit our needs. Sure the Marseille Mob can be a bit rough but if you have taught me anything, rough gets the job done.”
I like that Azzarello revisited this aspect of Mr. J. In his ‘Joker’ GN, he portrayed Joker as this ‘disease’ with no rhyme or reason to his behavior. He killed just because he could. In ‘Knight of Vengeance’, he revisited the Killing Joke and gave a personal and amazing twist to Joker by portraying him as a her who lost her son in Crime Alley (while reinterpreting Thomas Wayne as Batman in that verse) who wanted to kill Harvey’s twins as revenge. Brutal but touching in a twisted way.
Seeing these two out of their element (Gotham) and interact is a treat. I really liked the part where Batman actually gives Joker a ride as they swing between fortresses. Joker didn’t kill anyone this time.
Another thing that stood out to me was when they found Nina. To me, Nina was nothing more than a plot device. Even her name means just ‘girl’ in Spanish/Italian. She dies by having to be force fed burning coal. Maybe I am looking too much into it but I saw it as foreshadowing. Could this ‘death’ represent the end of the old Batman/Joker dynamic? I saw a couple of references to outdated technology in the Prague and Paris installments which led me to believe that we might see some changes between these two.
Our next stop is Rome. I just found out today that it won’t be out until February 3rd but if my hunch is correct, they should have pushed it back to the week of the 10th which is just four days before Valentine’s Day. Haha.
A solid 5/5.