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All Together Now by Hope Larson
The Ash Family by Molly Dektar
Batman: The Smile Killer by Jeff Lemire The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
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Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
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Wayward Witch by Zoraida Córdova
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Joker: Killer Smile: 10/13/20

Joker: Killer Smile

Joker: Killer Smile by Jeff Lemire was released last year as a three issue comic. This hardcover omnibus also includes a new story, Batman: the Smile Killer, which I will review separately.

Save for Batman the Animated Series, I usually avoid Joker stories or movies. Most of his versions are ridiculous: too violent. Too silly. Too clownish. Too insane. Too powerful. Too too too. The only reason I chose to read this version is because I enjoy Lemire's work.

The book opens with Dr. Ben Arnell taking his turn as the psychotherapist to the Joker. Although there is a glass wall between them and although he's in custody, anyone who knows anything about Arkham will know Dr. Arnell isn't going to come out of this well.

Intertwined with the interviews and with Dr. Arnell's home life is a twisted children's story about a clown who disturbs a utopia of cute animals. I was reminded a bit of the unintentionally disturbing A Color Clown Comes to Town by Jane Belk Moncure (1987). Except this clown has a chainsaw. This story is the first clue that something has already gone wrong.

The twist is the one common to the doctor and patient story. It's been used in Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (2003) and all the way back to it's purest form: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

This comic, and the follow up, also sits on the road narrative spectrum (just like everything so far I've read by Jeff Lemire).

The traveler is Dr. Arnell. He sees himself as a protector, a scarecrow (99), but through narrative expectations, we know he is a minotaur (or a monster in the middle). Scarecrows and minotaurs are the same kind of traveler, so the reveal doesn't change the position on the spectrum.

The destination is uhoria (CC). At first it's the Joker's past. Then it's the apparent time slips that Dr. Arnell is experiencing. Finally it's the revealed truth of forgotten memories.

The route is the maze (CC). There are traps and blind alleys (namely in the form of repressed memories). The route is fraught with danger both to the traveler and to people he encounters.

To summarize, on the road narrative spectrum, Joker: Killer Smile is the tale of a scarecrow learning he's a minotaur while traveling to uhoria via the maze (99CCCC).

Four stars

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