Superman: Emperor Joker

Imagine a world entirely constructed by the Joker’s psychotic mind.

That’s the premise for this Superman tale.  Simply put, Joker manages to get ahold of most of Mr. Mxyzptlk’s magic and fashions himself a brand new reality, in which he is emperor of the entire universe and the rest of humanity is his to toy with as he sees fit.

Superman is labeled a murderer. Lex Luthor is Joker’s slave.  Lois Lane is a cold, calculating businesswoman.  Bizarro is the top hero of the world.  Countless characters show up, each with their own depressing life to live under the Joker’s watchful gaze.

None, of course, has it worse than Batman, who is strung up and tortured to death each and every day, only to be brought back to life and forced to go through the ordeal again.

Superman, though a bit fuzzy, knows something isn’t right.  This completely illogical world is not where he belongs.  He escapes Arkham Asylum and seeks to discover the truth of who’s behind this mad world.

As he encounters scores of old friends, now strangers in this backwards world, Superman realizes he will need all the help he can get to stop Joker’s evil reign and restore order to reality.  He seeks out members of the JLA, a ragtag group who were likewise imprisoned at Arkham and who bear little resemblance to the heroes we’re familiar with.

After more than a little persuasion, Superman convinces his friends to have faith in him, restoring them to their rightful selves.

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It is his own unwavering faith that restores them, proving just how indomitable the man of steel truly is.  Not only is he able to maintain his faith in the wake of utter chaos, but he is able to rally those around him to follow in his stead as well.  This is true power, power that not even the Joker can imagine.

That being said, reforming the JLA only gets him so far, and I can’t say I was surprised. After all, this is Joker we’re dealing with.  Batman inevitably has to be a part of the final confrontation.

At this point the comic takes a broader, more reflective turn, with Superman realizing that Batman is, in many ways, Joker’s Achille’s heel.  He confronts Joker directly, pointing out that Joker continues to keep Batman around, even in his own universe, because he needs him, because he can’t exist without him.

Hoping to prove Superman wrong, Joker wills Batman out of existence, only to continue seeing him again and again.

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This is a great image.

This scene pinpoints the never-ending battle that is constantly raging between Batman and Joker, decisively explaining why, even in his own creation, Joker can’t envision a world without the Batman.  They are simply that interconnected. Unfortunately for Joker, Batman has the upper hand in this relationship.  He is the Joker’s reason for being, and as such Joker can never truly be rid of him.

Superman exploits this little chink in Joker’s own psyche, allowing him (along with Mxy and The Spectre) to regain control and rebuild the universe as it was.  As the story closes, it almost felt a bit anti-climactic for Superman. After all, it was the mere presence of Batman that stopped Joker.  Superman made Joker aware of this weakness, but his actions weren’t exactly…exciting.

Alas, my concern was unfounded. As the world is returned to normal, we learn that Batman’s memories of being tortured to death every day cannot be easily removed, and that such memories will likely spell the end of the caped crusader.  Superman refuses to let this happen, and agrees to allow Spectre to transfer those horrific memories out of Batman’s mind and into his own.

There’s the Superman we all know and love. His self-sacrificing behavior is what makes this his story, and although he seems to be able to handle those memories better than Bruce, his actions are nevertheless heroic and selfless.

Overall this was a wonderful story.  The idea was intriguing and the writing was exceedingly well done.  There were plenty of references to past events and outside characters to feel like this has a proper place within continuity, none more jarring than when Joker is seen sitting around a table with all three Robins, each one of them dead.  Jason Todd’s Robin was particularly tongue-in-cheek, with a note hanging around his neck:

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Clearly a reference to the poll taken by DC to determine whether Jason would live or die, I found this inclusion to be extremely entertaining, albeit morbid (but hey, this is the Joker, after all.)  I like small details like this, and appreciate having read these past stories even more now.  I can only imagine how many previous events will be referenced in the comics I have ahead of me.

The story managed to be funny and dark all at the same time, alternating between the two as only a story featuring the Joker can.  The details were well-thought out, and the culminating scenes explaining Joker’s weakness were fantastic. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this comic going in, particularly when I imagined how a battle between Superman and Joker would even have a questionable outcome, but this story provided the perfect backdrop for such a battle to occur.  There’s is not a battle of strength, but of minds, and luckily for the world, Superman was able to one up the Clown Prince of Crime.

Besides, where else can you find an instance of the Joker making a Spice Girls reference?

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Aaaand now that song is stuck in my head.  Friggin’ Joker, causing chaos wherever he goes.

-Jess

 

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