The Joker Has a Secret
The Good: Initial plotline was interesting, some nice artwork in the two page spreads.
The Bad: Lackluster progression of plotline, artwork tries too hard to be symbolic, no Harley Quinn, uninteresting tertiary characters.
Always a fan of The Joker, I eagerly picked up this miniseries within early 2006, hoping that it would provide some new insight into the twisted relationship that Batman and his primarily villain have. In retrospect I probably shouldn't have bothered, for this five issue series does very little that is new.
The series begins with the Joker and Batman getting into yet another fight, only this time an enterprising witness takes a few pictures. One of these makes it look as if Batman is trying to murder the Joker, and this leads to a media backlash against our hero, one which the Joker tries to push further. This would create a straightforward and rather interesting tale, but the author Sam Keith decided to spice it up a bit by adding in several flashbacks and flashforwards, interspersed with scenes about a few minor characters who really aren't important.
Judging by the artwork and the dialogue, it seems that Keith (who was also the artist) wanted to create something that was a cross between Alan Moore's The Killing Joke and Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum. That is, he wanted to write something that had several introspective elements to it (from Killing Joke), but also play around with symbols through impressionistic artwork (like Arkham Asylum). This artistic approach, however, makes the story extremely disjointed and difficult to read. It becomes rather hard to figure out what is happening in the storyline, with so many flashbacks, symbolic splash pages, and narrative asides popping up.
One of the large problems I had with this miniseries was the introduction of a new woman in love with the Joker. This would have been acceptable had she been portrayed in a unique way, but the character of Terry Ammons serves the exact same plot purpose as Harley Quinn: an obsessed woman who is in love with the Joker and would do anything for him. This story could have been made far more powerful had the psyche of both the Joker and Harley Quinn been examined, but instead we get a clone of her character that has no effect on Batman continuity. Due to this glaring omission, I question if the miniseries is even meant to be within continuity at all.
In addition to Terry Ammons, other peripherial characters come off as one dimensional and uninteresting as well. One of the plotlines concerns the Joker blackmailing the journalist Mooley Williams, who just so happens to be a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne. This side plotline, although it culminates in Mooley being held hostage by the Joker in the final issue, is rather uninteresting and ultimately unimportant to the main interaction between Batman and the Joker.
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