This Batman article contains spoilers.
After four years of waiting, the first issue of Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s long-teased Batman: Three Jokers miniseries was finally released this week. Published under DC’s mature/prestige line, Black Label, Three Jokers is Johns and Fabok’s attempt to tackle the Joker’s history as well as put a prestigious capstone on Johns’ Justice League run, where Three Jokers was originally seeded so many interminable, endless Marches ago.
Because so much time has passed, though, you might be confused about why there are so many Jokers running around (what is this, Congress?). Here’s what you need to know about the Joker’s new groove:
Why Are There Three Jokers?
Presumably, that’s a mystery the book is going to address. Way back at the end of 2016’s Darkseid War arc during pre-Rebirth Justice League, Batman sat in Metron’s Mobius Chair, which gave him the ability to know anything there was to know in the universe, so he asked it who the Joker really was. The answer shocked him: the chair told him there were three clowns.
That mystery was reseeded in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, the special Johns-penned one-shot that brought DC’s New 52 era to a close and introduced the current, Watchmen-obsessed continuity. The issue again alluded to the three Jokers, and then left readers to stew on it for four more years while Johns worked on movies as well as Doomsday Clock and some other comics. In that time, DC opened Black Label for mature comics and the Three Jokers story that was originally going to be a regular mini got the oversized prestige treatment.
Who Are the Three Jokers?
Johns and Fabok approach the Three Jokers mystery quite literally in the first issue, which features the Clown Princes of Crime causing chaos all over Gotham while Batman, Red Hood, and Batgirl try to figure out what’s going on. Each Joker appears to represent a different era, and they are reflected by the Bat-family members who are trying to catch them.
One Joker is wearing the aloha shirt and broad hat of The Killing Joke’s Joker. He presumably is the Joker from that story who traumatized Barbara Gordon and her father, crippling Babs, which forced her to give up her life as Batgirl for a while before returning to the role during the New 52 reboot.
Another Joker is waving a crowbar around and dressed in his ‘80s garb. This appears to be the Joker from Death in the Family, the story where the Clown murdered the second Robin, Jason Todd, and his mother, breaking Batman for a time in the process. Red Hood’s inclusion in Three Jokers gives Jason the chance to process this trauma again.
The third Joker is a mystery. He doesn’t have any clear identifying features besides being a smidge more serious than the other two. In fact, he most resembles the Joker from his solo series, but in a purple overcoat. He also appears to be the mastermind of the group. He is the one Batman appears to be going head to head with in the next issue.
There is one problem with the title of this miniseries, though. By the end of the first issue, there are only two Jokers left.
Truth in Advertising
The three Jokers of the book start simultaneously committing crimes as part of a coordinated plan to mess with Batman. One, the Death in the Family Joker, is captured at the site of
The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge a murder at the Gotham Aquarium, which now has a shark tank full of the chemicals that created him. While Batman rushes off to investigate another crime, Batgirl and Red Hood are left to guard this Joker until the Arkham bus comes to take him away. However, he successfully manages to goad Jason into shooting him in the head, and the issue ends with Jason standing over the Joker’s corpse making a lame joke about the killing.
Earlier in the issue, mastermind Joker pointedly tells the other two that his plan is to make another Joker to join the team, insinuating it’ll be someone in the Bat Family. This may be a red herring — as Batgirl is poised to face off with The Killing Joker, rendering this next bit of speculation moot. But at this point in the story, there are signs that this miniseries will end with three Jokers, too: Mastermind Joker, Killing Joker, and…the Red Hood.
Batman: Three Jokers #2 is out Sept. 30.