The Joker, Jack the Ripper and the KKK, plus Oz! Books

THE THREE JOKERS by Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok is the payoff to a bizarre reveal from Johns’ Darkseid War arc, that the Joker is actually three different people, something the World’s Greatest Detective never noticed before. Now the trio of Criminal (Golden Age Joker), Clown (the one murdered Jason Todd) and Comedian (The Killing Joke version) are united to pull off their master stroke against Batman — but what is it?

I’ll have a detailed post up at Atomic Junkshop tomorrow on what an illogical, pointless trainwreck this book is, so I won’t go into detail. The greatest flaw for me is that there’s no real difference between the three (the Clown beating Jason Todd to death and the Comedian crippling Barbara Gordon aren’t as sharply distinct as the story claims). All three Jokers conform to the Bat-books’ current (and stupid) take on the Joker as someone who has no purpose in life other than hurting Batman; the Golden Age Joker was nothing like that so why not contrast them? Not that I ever expected this idea to pay off well.

WITCHFINDER: Reign of Darkness by Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson and Christopher Mitten has Sir Edward Grey hunting down Jack the Ripper, convinced it’s a former adversary of his. When his initial efforts to prove it don’t pan out, Scotland Yard stops listening, but Grey won’t quit; eventually he discovers a conspiracy involving the Heliotropic Brotherhood of Ra. A good story, introducing Grey to Sarah Jewell, who previously appeared in the chronologically later Rise of the Black Flame.

SUPERMAN SMASHES THE KLAN by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru adapts a serial from the 1940s Superman radio show (Yang says in the afterword he was fascinated as a kid to learn there’d been prominent Chinese characters in an old Superman story). Young Chinese-American Roberta Lee is the viewpoint character for much of the book, watching uneasily as she and her family move into a white Metropolis suburb, enraging the Klan of the Fiery Cross, hence the symbol they get on their lawn. Clark Kent and Lois Lane, not to mention Superman, are on the case, but Superman’s also been dealing with unnerving memories of his origins ever since he battled the kryptonite-powered villain Atom Man (another character from radio).

Yang does the best job I’ve seen with the idea of Superman as an immigrant, hiding the scope of his powers (e.g., that he can fly rather than leap, and can shoot heat rays out of his eyes) so that he won’t be too alien for Earth. The whole book is a winner.

MERRY GO ROUND IN OZ by Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren McGraw (illustrations by Dick Martin) was the fortieth and last of the original Oz series, which L. Frank Baum’s publisher continued after his passing. It’s easily the best of the post-Baum books; where many of the earlier ones would pad space by having characters wander from one  weird city or kingdom to the next, the McGraws actually have a strong plot (they do have little kingdoms such as View Halloo and Good Children Land, but they don’t let them suck up too much space). A party from the knightly realm of Halidom sets off to seek three missing magical McGuffins; a boy from Oregon lands in Oz alongside a magically animated roundabout horse (the mystery man who sends him to Oz is one plot hole I wish the authors had resolved); and Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion get lost on the way home to the Emerald City after a visit to the Easter Bunny. Needless to say, everyone meets up and the various quests all turn out interlinked. I’s great fun if you like Oz, and I love the world-weary voice of the Cowardly Lion as he confronts yet another peril.#SFWApro. Images by Jerry Robinson, Gurihiru and Dick Martin, all rights remain with current holder.

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