The Things I Do For Comics – Joker’s Daughter
Upon reading an installment of “The Things I Do For Comics”, friend of the Brotherhood Rex Mason suggested I review a very recent comic. While I normally stick to the “classic” awful comics of the 1990s, I am not one to turn down a challenge, so I begrudgingly accepted his suggestion of…
JOKER’S DAUGHTER #1
You may know also it as Batman: The Dark Knight 23.4
Full disclosure? I did not enjoy this book. I know that’s not a surprise to return readers, but I thought that a 20 page book will be a breath of fresh air compared to my last two entries, which were both especially long issues. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Force Works and Spawn/Batman, though horrible, were compelling travesties. The difference between Spawn/Batman and this is similar to the difference between The Room and Saw VI .
Well, let’s pull this band-aid off, why not?
So, as you may or may not know, October 2013 was DC Comics’ VILLAINS MONTH. The publisher placed all of their normal monthly books on a one-month hiatus and in their place released 52 standalone issues featuring their rogues gallery. Cool idea, right? Well, DC also decided to offer gimmicky 3D covers on these titles, and then announced that they’d failed to print enough to meet the demand, so it ended up being a pain in the ass to anyone but the most persistent speculators. Most of these books focused on the origin tales of established villains or setup for an upcoming story arc, and one in particular had a lot of hype around it: Joker’s Daugher #1. The idea of the “Joker’s Daughter” is far from new; The character existed in the DC Universe before Crisis on Infinite Earths and was reimagined in their post-Crisis continuity as well. However, this reincarnation promised to be an edgier take on the character. Now, as a veteran comic fan with an eye on the industry, I was pessimistic about this prospect. Taking an existing, unpopular concept and rolling it around in the grit so to speak has not been a recipe for success in quite some time, but that didn’t stop the speculators from hunting down the 3D cover and driving the price up on this book for a week or so.
When a book like Hawkeye #1 sells out and commands $40 at internet auction, it’s tough on collectors but good for the industry. When a book like this does the same, it’s a step backwards. The reason is that this books is positively atrocious. Had any of the comic bounty hunters who waited outside of stores on Wednesday morning hungry for a copy of this issue actually been interested in the medium, and not just a paycheck, it never would have been the sensation that it was. It is very, very bad.
But I digress, I bothered to get a digital copy of this book so that I could make fun of the specifics, not just generalize on my complaints about the industry!
This complete and utter piece of garbage opens beneath Gotham City. A cloaked figure is… gathering armor? C-3PO head aside, what the fuck is going on? Admittedly, I’m a bit out of the loop on DC Comics, I stopped reading them when they started to violently suck, but is there a reason why:
A) There is an entire Morlock culture of freaks living beneath Gotham City.
B) There is an abundance of discarded armor in the tunnels inhabited by this civilization?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but Gotham is in the United States of America, is it not? I wasn’t a history major, but to the best of my recollection there was no period in US History where the Northeastern region of this country wore suits of armor outside of a renaissance fair. Anyhow, this hooded figure places her cat in a “backpack” which is clearly a garbage bag and heads down toward the Nethers. Along the way, she spots bioluminescent vines on the walls and decides they’re poison ivy? Is that made up, Ann Nocenti? That seems pretty goddamn made up.
Now, I’m a full-grown man who enjoys beer and burritos far more than he does rigorous exercise… and yet pool floats still manage to keep me above the water. In the event that I force an inner tube beneath the surface of a pool, it finds its way up to the surface in no time with or without me on board. It speaks testaments to the sheer force of this cloaked woman’s will that she is able to skim along the floor of this underwater city in a hippopotamus shaped pool float that’s easily her size. Sure, it’s later mentioned that she’s got a tube going from this float to her mouth and is somehow using it as an aqualung AND a submarine vehicle, but that only makes things more confusing. Well, I hope you’re into nonsense, because this next bit is a fucking doozy.
Even if we ignore the fact that a Cat + Plastic Bag = Dead Cat in no time flat, who the hell would even THINK something like “Hmmm. I want that half-moon of metal.” ? If this character is supposed to be mentally challenged, then I’m very concerned for that cat. I don’t think I could accurately judge the amount of air a cat needs for an underwater adventure, so I’m positive that a slow adult, such as the one depicted here, would fall short. And why not just reach out and grab this coveted half-moon of metal? Why use your weird stick with an invisible slot to retrieve it? I’m pretty sure that this cloaked character is trying to suffocate that cat and this whole metal-scavenging thing is just an excuse to stall for time.
As this mysterious figure emerges from the water, she prattles on a bit about how she’d like a book to read. The cat, who is apparently named Cat, is still in a watertight bag while Cloaky reminisces about her parent’s failed marriage and the FUNdamentalism of reading. The minute her head hits air, some little boys begins tossing rocks at her face and calling her ugly. And not as an adjective, either… they quickly ascribe her with the nickname “Ugly” to save time. She explains to “Cat” that they make fun of anyone who’s alone, and then finally lets him out of his plastic bag-shaped “backpack”.
Looking back down at the water, Cloaky spies the Joker’s face floating along. If you’ve not been following New 52 DC continuity, the Joker’s face was cut off early on after the relaunch and in a fairly recent Batman storyline, the Clown Prince of Crime strapped it over his exposed muscles as a makeshift mask of his own visage. Here it is, in “The Nethers” a lot better-looking than when we last saw it at the end of “Death of the Family“. She mistakes the face for her reflection… somehow… and it reminds her of her adolescence.
She seems to have had a touch of the ol’ Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which is a serious mental problem outside of terrible comic books, but here results in face-cutting, AWFUL puns, and the sound effect “RROW”. By the way, that’s awfully similar to the sound a cat makes as it’s removed from a plastic bag.
After shaking herself loose from that flashback, the main character (who after removing her cloak is clearly the title character of this comic) realizes that the floating mask is not, in fact, her reflection but a severed white face sporting a permanent grin. She then launches a chain of some of the worst scripting I have seen in recent memory. Who the hell would ever speak these sentences aloud?
I ask once more; Is this character meant to be pitiable? Is she being written as mentally ill, like the Joker himself, or as mentally disabled, like the kind of person who would say these kind of things out loud? The kind of person who would snatch a mask out of the river and put it on their face, I guess, which is precisely what she does. She then says, I shit you not, “The Joker has a twisted power. Just right for me.”
Moving along, Joker’s Daughter stumbles upon a couple at dinnertime. The woman is crouching over a rat on a spit, poking it with a knife and the man is taking some time alone with his thoughts on a nearby rock.
Now, that ain’t cool. You don’t watch your common-law sewer wife cook a rat with your hands behind your head and then leave her nothing but leftovers. It’s certainly not fair, but neither is writer Ann Nocenti calling this rude man “fat”. He’s pretty damn slender, himself, even if it doesn’t excuse his treatment of his wife. Also, did he gouge her eyes out, or squirt ink at them or something?
Anyway, it’s at this point where the book takes a sort of peculiar feminist stance. Personally, I’m all about equality. I don’t think any one person or people should be held higher than another, so when Joker’s Daughter does a bit of probing and discovers that this underground civilization treats men far better than women, I can understand her being upset. However, I think that her solution of mutilating the men and turning them into a servant class beneath the women is perhaps a bit too severe of a treatment.
The world is full of inequality, this is true, and the world of comics doubly so. But in the comics world, at least, there are people who can directly control the actions of all of the characters. Ann Nocenti writes the monthly Catwoman and Katana books, and I would think that either of those characters would be a far better leader for a movement such as this than the visibly insane Joker’s Daughter. Also, tights, thigh-high boots and an exposed midriff send a confusing message.
Joker’s Daughter’s plan to liberate the women of this city is to borrow an idea from the Greek comedy Lysistrata. In this case, though, instead of withholding sex to end the Pelopennesian War, they’ll withhold any sort of domestic work to achieve equality in their society. JD didn’t even need to mention Lysistrata, all the women of the city will be doing is going on strike, but this issue is riddled with clumsy references to the classics. Speaking of which, after explaining her plan to the woman and now-deformed man, they bring her to the leader of the city. His name is Charon (ugh) and he is inexplicably standing on a river boat (double ugh) and wearing a coat made of coins (triple ugh).
Joker’s Daughter doesn’t appreciate this welcoming man’s offer to share everything he has, so she decides to attack Charon with his half moon stick. He falls down, in clear… defiance?
Shortly after being accused of defiance, Charon actually steps up and fights back. Actually, fights back is perhaps an overstatement. He restrains the Joker’s Daughter and offers to help her in spite of her attack. When he gets the better of her, he defiantly mocks her by saying “Stop fighting me so I can help you.” He tells her that, if his tribe agrees to her proposal that women rule over men, then it shall be so.
Interlude: A flashback to the childhood of Duella (hopefully not Dent), the Joker’s Daughter. This shit is BAFFLING.
I also don’t get the above panel. Why is he looking upon his newborn daughter in horror, mouth agape in contradiction of the narration? She’s not exactly Danny DeVito in Batman Returns, right? That’s a pretty cute kid, actually. Green eyes are unusual, but I don’t think anyone considers them a birth defect. This dude needs to chill out.
Well, that panel is pretty straight forward. This kid is good and fucked up. She’s like Wednesday Addams, except her parents aren’t okay with it. They discuss getting her “fixed”, I assume they mean seeking psychiatric help and not a spaying, but I think they should have done more than discuss it. She has knives hanging over her face at night.
When she’s a bit older, she brings home a dog without her parents’ approval. She thinks it’s pretty and fluffy, but it looks like a slimy meatloaf.
When Duella takes a box cutter to her own face, enough is enough and her parents seem to send her away? It’s not exactly clear, she’s dragged off by some orderlies as they watch in tears, but then she seems to be in a typical hospital bed without restraints prior to her reconstructive surgery. When the surgeons set out to repair the damage she has done, they forget to anesthetize her, and she squirms about during the operation causing further damage.
After that, her parents are done with her. She runs away and eventually ends up here in the weird primitive underground city beneath Gotham. Once more, Charon offers his charity but Duella responds by using that strange physically-confusing half-moon metal stick thingy of hers on him.
Then we’re shown that all of the other men have been joker-ized along the way to Charon, and they’re all quite keen to experience life as slaves under Duella’s rule. Charon tries again to make them see reason, but it is for naught.
And at last the clusterfuck has ended. I don’t want to think too much about what I just read, really. It doesn’t deserve that much thought. It’s a fairly awful writer’s sloppy attempt at creating an edgy female joker, with all the subtlety of a Troma movie. The artist, Georges Jeanty, isn’t normally this terrible, as I recall, but he wasn’t given much with which to work. There really seems to have been an issue with communication between the two, and a resentment on Nocenti’s part. Jeanty’s pages obviously convey one idea and she scripted over that in sheer defiance of logic. Please bury this book in a deep, dark hole and never dig it up. And if you have a 3D cover, sell it as quickly as you can before the market comes to its sense.
That is all.
Martian Luthor Kang is a bitter, jaded man whose cantankerous behavior belies his relative youth. He currently resides in an apartment with a remarkably tolerant woman and upwards of a thousand DVDs, most of which are owned ironically.
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