The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1
Written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Gary Whitta, Greg Miller, Denny O’Neil, Peter J. Tomasi, Paul Dini, Tom Taylor, Eduardo Medeirds, Rafael Albuquerque, Tony S. Daniel, and Brian Azzarello
Art by Jock, David Baron, Mikel Janin, Jordie Bellaire, Dan Mora, Ivan Plascencia, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Joe Prado, Simone Bianchi, Riley Rossmo, Eduardo Risso, Rafael Albuquerque, Marcelo Maiolo, Tony S. Daniel, Tomeu Morey, and Lee Bermejo
Lettering by Tom Napolitano, Clayton Cowles, Troy Peteri, Clem Robins, Rob Leigh, Deron Bennett, Steve Wands, Carlos M. Mangual and Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
The Clown Prince of Crime receives a fun but rote anniversary celebration in The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1. Though filled to the brim with a murderer's row of talent, including legendary creatives like Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez to hot up-and-comers like Dan Mora, most of the stories here build to a pretty familiar and heavily telegraphed punchline.
Speaking of which, this 100-pager's main selling point of staging for the origin story of new Joker partner Punchline also doesn’t do much to pep up the proceedings, even while armed with the handsomely clean lines and engaging colors of Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire. While a great deal trippier and more theatrical than some of the more recent Anniversary Specials, The Joker 80th Anniversary Special 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 operates more like a decent open mic showcase and less like an HBO comedy special.
Early on this Super Spectacular sets a formula and rarely deviates from it. Opening with a reunion between Scott Snyder and Jock, the oversized annual kicks off with the very Tales from the Crypt-inspired "Scars." Focusing on a therapist tasked with rehabbing Joker victims, this Snyder and Jock double-act takes the novel premise and then slowly twists the narrative screws on the reader. It twists so much, in fact, that it disproves its own thesis that the Joker is "just a very, very smart man" and renders him as the sort of darkly magical murder-monster that we all think him to be.
From there, most of the remaining stories play with this same sort of set-up, some more obviously than others. Your mileage may vary on schticks like the pitch-black comedy of Tom Taylor and Eduardo Risso's "Birthday Bugs," which finds the Joker playing party clown to a troubled boy all in the goal of intimidating his henchmen father back into service. Or Denny O'Neil and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez's "Introducing the Dove Corps" which puts an engaging, darkly hilarious spin on 80’s era Joker, casting him as a "non-violent peace-keeper" packing an itching powder flamethrower to free a group of hostages backed by the United Nations. This story in particular brings a nice sense of old-school style to the annual, fully leaning into both the era it is portraying and the visual language of this version of the Joker.
Unfortunately, none of the other stories seem to aspire to be more than just "okay." Gary Whitta, Greg Miller, and Dan Mora’s "Kill the Batman" feels like a really long walk to a not-that-funny comedy beat wrapped in some fun, Batman: The Animated Series-inspired artwork. Paul Dini and Riley Rossmo's "The Last Smile" slaps at a poignant, introspective look at what the Joker actually fears, but never fully commits to its own bit until it's finally over and we're forced to move on from living in the moments it just posited. Peter J. Tomasi and Simone Bianchi even try to give the Joker his own Arkham Asylum moment with "The War Within" which adds a sort of heavy metal poetry thanks to Tomasi's staccato writing style and Bianchi's heavy, brooding pen. But regrettably, none of it really sticks beyond taking just another setup akin to the opening story.
Most damning of all is James Tynion IV, Mikel Janin, and Jordie Bellaire's introduction to new villain foil Punchline in "What Comes After a Joke?". Though the whole story has a clean look and clear expressiveness in its character models, the script is fairly groan-inducing - especially once you start realizing that the whole idea behind Punchline seems to be "disenfranchised Zoomer Harley Quinn" - which in today's moment is nowhere near as funny or engaging as DC might hope. To be honest, it calls to mind some of the most boneheaded moments of Nick Spencer's Captain America run and its ill-conceived, Gen Z-flavored "How do you do, Fellow Kids?" villains. As a result, the "can't-miss" story of this annual is precisely the opposite - totally skippable.
So while occasionally this annual has a spark of style and fun, The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 largely amounts to no great shakes. Though the novelty of seeing some iconic creators return to DC and Gotham City might be enough for some fans, The Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 doesn't hold much that would be of value to casual readers.