Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover by Andrea Sorrentino
Variant Cover by Kaare Andrews
I have to be honest from the very beginning and tell you right up front I was very disappointed with the first book of this series from DC Black Label. I figured with what I had seen from the Batman: Damned series and the Harleen series that a series on the Joker would be out of this world. But it wasn’t.
Sadly, the disappointment began with receiving the book itself and just kept going downhill from there.
Every comic book I have gotten from DC Black Label so far has been high quality with thick, oversized pages and nice glossy finishes, impeccable artwork and superior writing. The covers of each book immediately draw the eye to the book itself and almost possess you to buy it, just by their cover art.
This book is thin and flimsy unlike the other books in the Black Label series. The cover art is plain in comparison to the rest of DC Black Label covers as well. The paper seems to be of lower quality in general as is the finish on the paper after the work has been done.
Next, you open the book and immediately the artwork looks very elementary in comparison to the other Black Label artists’ work. And the depiction of the Joker is ridiculously tame. They make him look like a normal guy wearing lipstick. It just doesn’t seem like what we are used to as the Joker.
Then, the writing. Or lack thereof. However, you want to put it. It was simple and basic and repetitive. Oh my god, so repetitive. All the Joker seems to talk about is being happy and wanting things to be beautiful, happy and beautiful, beautiful and happy. Over and over and over again. It’s positively annoying. By the third or fourth time I began to silently ask myself, “Is there going to be a quiz at the end of this or something? How many times do we need to be told Joker wants it happy and beautiful?” Beyond that, the writer wastes an entire two page spread on the children’s story one of the characters is reading to his son at bedtime. No, I’m not kidding, I’m being very serious…two…full…pages. Of a children’s book.
Now, the doctor that is reading this children’s book to his kid is the same doctor that, in THIS SERIES, is currently talking with the Joker at Arkham. This is apparently the doctor that comes along AFTER Dr. Harleen Quinzel, after she fell in love with Joker and helped him escape. The authorities at the hospital look at that as “losing” one of their doctors and are determined not to let it happen again.
But, Dr. Ben Arnell thinks, just like every other doctor to ever talk to the Joker, that he is on the verge of a breakthrough. (A breakthrough to what? Observing the mind from totally crazy to completely psychotic? Lofty aspirations, let me tell ya. “Hi there Mr. Joker sir, yes, now I know for a fact you’re a complete nutjob but, my goal here is to find out just how whacky of a nutjob you REALLY are, if any of it is an act AND if you are truly aware of how crazy you are on ANY level at all. Would you like to converse with me and tell me all the deep, dark, horrible and personal things you’ve never told anyone ever in your life? Me. A perfect stranger to you?” I swear, I just have to shake my head at the ignorance of that approach.)
Still, Ben is warned. He has two more weeks and then he will be moving on to work with another subject. Ben is not pleased with this information.
So, there you have it. No action. No witty banter. No amazing artwork to stun you and distract you from the fact that the story so far could have been written in probably five pages. No prison breaks. No love stories. Nothing.
Just the Joker and his lipstick, his love for happiness and beauty and this Dr. Arnell, who seems to think he’s going to have better luck getting through to the funny man than Dr. Quinzel did. Awfully arrogant, don’t you think? We’ll see how it works out for him.
Letters: Maurizio Clausi (Arancia Studio)
Welcome back to the wonderful world of Grimm Tales of Terror!! Here, we have this year’s Halloween Special issue. This spectacular release is comprised of three small tales suitable for any Halloween fan.
This is the first story. I already loved it just by the name because I love tattoos. I have 13. So, that caught my devilish heart right away. But this story is about a boy, a little youngster named Dan Ankerman. And poor little Dan gets bullied at school. Not only by the standard bullies that call him names, wait for him after school or take his lunch money but, also by certain teachers…like the gym teacher. All because he can’t make a free throw. (Maybe basketball is not his sport, he’s short, what if he’s more into baseball or soccer?) And because he couldn’t make that basket on Halloween, the whole class had to stay late instead of getting out early to go get their costumes ready for Halloween night.
So, as expected, the bully bunch is waiting for Dan after school to rough him up. He sneaks into a Halloween store to hide out and meets our dear friend “Red”. While calming him down and trying to make him feel better, she gives him three temporary tattoos, all images of Halloween monsters, grotesque ones at that. He immediately gets excited and wants to apply one that moment but, Red advises him to wait. So, he stuffs them in his pocket.
Later, he gets accosted by the bully squad and they end up stealing his classroom Halloween party candy bag from him. But they also steal the tattoos. Then, just as excited as Dan was, the three bullies immediately put the monster tats on themselves. Shortly thereafter, the bullies start to not feel so good. Their stomachs start to hurt and they cry out in agonizing pain. But why? And what happens to little Dan?
Cat and Mouse
In this story, we meet a young man named Charlie while he is hanging out with his friends. They are putzing around a Halloween decoration store when they wander into the “Staff Only” area while looking for decorations for the party they are having that night. That is where Charlie meets Red.
Even though they aren’t supposed to be back there and she tells them so, Charlie can’t help but notice a striking oriental décor screen with an amazing art design on it. He is certain that it is exactly what is needed to add that certain something to the party room to get chicks in the mood for some hot and heavy Halloween hooking up. But Red explains that it is a very special piece and that it is designed to test the virtue and spiritual purity of those chosen. She wonders out loud to him that this piece may not be right for a person such as himself. But he won’t take No for an answer and eventually, he talks her into selling it to him.
Later that night at the party, a girl shows up that Charlie has never seen before. He introduces himself, gives her a drink and, when he feels she loosened up enough, he suggests they go up to his room. There she freely admits that she’s feeling a little loopy. Charlie takes that as his cue to give her another drink. But this time he slips some Rohypnol in it. Once she’s pliable enough to his liking, he goes for his moment and starts to undress her, in preparation to have his way with her. But, as he takes off her dress, he sees she has the same marks from the decorative screen on her back in black, like a tattoo.
Then she starts talking about how he’s the one and she knew it from the start…typical first date stuff that would make any guy freak the hell out and run for the hills.
All Charlie wanted was to get laid on Halloween with a drunk little devil honey. What the hell did he get himself into?
In our final tale we follow a man as he stalks his prey, an unwitting woman who is just going about her day. He narrates about how he has to watch, learn their habits, their quirks, their routines. He follows her into a Halloween costume store. As she is looking for a costume for a party she must go to that night, she meets Red.
After they chat a bit, Red suggests this grotesque mask for the Halloween party. Admitting that she’s “not very Halloween-y” she is repulsed by the mask and politely refuses. Red laughs and then takes her to the sexy nurse costumes. All of this is going on while the stalker waits and watches from a corner doorway of the store.
She leaves. He leaves. Narration continues with a countdown letting us know the time is coming, that that urge to kill is just boiling over. So, what happens to the chick? And the guy? And do we see this sexy nurse’s costume?
As usual, I’m not going to tell you.
I will tell you that I loved, loved, loved this issue. I always like when they do the special issues with multiple stories in them. And the Halloween stories are almost always good. While I didn’t recognize a lot of the names in the credits, they definitely upheld the standard that I have come to expect from Zenescope and Grimm Tales of Terror.
The stories were all very well written and even though they were all written by different people, they still flow through the issue very smoothly and with great ease. They have the perfect balance to them as well. I don’t want to say too much as not to give anything away.
Now, the artwork is also fabulous. Again, even though it’s three different artists and a bunch of different colorists, everything seems to fit together perfectly, which I think is a major feat in itself. Every tale includes vibrant color to amplify the impact from each written word.
I highly recommend that you pick this up. They really gave us a treat for Halloween this year!