Batman: The Joker’s Last Laugh

What would the Joker do if he was diagnosed with terminal cancer?

That’s the question posed in Batman: The Joker’s Last Laugh.  As it turns out, the Joker’s response to inevitable death is all-out mayhem, as he’s determined to leave his mark on the world.  In his mind, if he has to go, he wants to take as many innocent people with him as he can.

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Joker’s plan is nothing short of epic: break out every inmate from the prison he’s currently incarcerated in (after Jokerizing them with his laughing gas, of course) and use them to do his bidding as he plots to unleash his chemical compound on the entire world, turning the entire planet into a wave of Jokers.

It’s his plan for a legacy, and it’s absolutely maniacal.

Of course, this is a Joker comic, so there’s plenty of humor interspersed with the violence.

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Apparently the weather isn’t cooperating with Joker’s plans for world domination.

This comic is brilliant in its characterization, with a large supporting cast that helps add to the overall story.  We see Barbara feeling angry and guilty, as she was away from her monitors when Joker broke free, as Nightwing tries to explain to her that they can’t kill the Joker no matter what he’s done, because they’re better than that.

Later we see Harley Quinn hiding out, as the Joker has gotten it in his head that he needs an heir, and that she’s the perfect vessel for a little Joker baby (she disagrees.)

As the story progresses, we learn that the Joker’s cancer diagnosis was nothing more than a sick joke by the doctor treating him, as a means of making the clown prince of crime sweat a little.

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Yeah, brilliant idea, make the crazed psychopath think he has nothing to lose. What could go wrong?

The comic comes to a head after Huntress battles Killer Croc and finds Robin’s cape amidst a pile of bones.  The entire team believes Robin is dead, and blame Joker for the loss.

In a rage, Nightwing tracks down the Joker and starts pummeling him, going so far as to almost beat him to death.  At this moment, Robin resurfaces, very much alive (no explanation is given here as to just how he’s alive. I’d assume it’s explained in a Robin comic?)

Unfortunately, Robin’s reappearance has a drastic affect on Nightwing, who realizes that he crossed a line that night.

The implication of this loss of control will likely be felt by Nightwing for some time.  If he wasn’t already as morose and brooding as Bruce, he will be now.

The comic closes with Joker returned to his cell, with heightened security in place to ensure he can never escape again.  I’m sure it won’t last forever, but the measures taken at least seem effective at the time.

This was a pretty great comic. The plot was over the top, but then what would you expect from Joker when he believes he’s about to die?  There are a bunch of villains featured, as well as appearances by just about every member of the extended Bat family (including Man-Bat, yay!).   Everyone joins together to stop this madman, and they feel like more than a team; they’re a family.

It was especially heartbreaking to see how everyone reacts when they believe Tim is dead.  I admit to not fully embracing the drama, only because I was 99.9% certain that he doesn’t actually die.  Still, even the depiction of a supposed death was enough to tug at my heartstrings.  More than anything else, this provided the perfect catalyst for Nightwing to cross that line, and who better for him to take out his anger and pain on than the Joker?

Joker has caused so much death and destruction within Gotham, and especially within the Bat family, that no one can really blame Oracle or Nightwing for considering the possibility of killing him, or at the very least not saving him should his life be at risk.  They maintain a higher caliber of justice though, and ultimately know that they must do what they can to save any human life.  Given how many deaths Joker is responsible for, it’s a tricky situation, and a stance that I’m sure many people may not fully agree with.  Still, this is what separates Batman from the criminal element.  It’s a very clear-cut distinction; without it, Batman is no better than the villains he fights.

It’s interesting to read how Joker would respond if he knew his life was about to end, and it’s a reality that no one wants to face.  His unhinged mind goes completely off the rails when faced with his own mortality, and while Joker doesn’t dwell on the thought of death itself, he leaves a path of destruction in his wake as a means to cement his legacy.

Personally, I think he’s caused enough damage in his life to remain infamous for a long time.  Then again, I can’t imagine a point where Joker would actually die anyway, so maybe it’s a moot point.

-Jess

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