Each week I highlight the ultimate Comfort Food Comic release. This is the comic that gets me the most hyped. The comic I’ll remember and revisit the most. The one that gave me that special feeling above all the other releases that new comic book day.
The Dish Of The Week for 2/26/20 is Year Of The Villain: Hell Arisen #3 by James Tynion, Steve Epting, Javier Fernandez, Nick Filardi & Travis Lanham
Look…..nobody is more surprised than I am that this book somehow took the top spot for this week, but against all odds it did! I have so many problems with DC Comics as of late. I have since The New 52. There’s so much I am dissatisfied with and I am so tired. Rebirth was a ray of hope for me but the post Metal state of DC Comics has pretty much left me broken. I HATE the character Batman Who Laughs. Just utterly despise him. I dont think there is one redeeming feature to the character and I dont think he ever should have been used outside of the Metal event. DC seems almost entirely creatively bankrupt right now with their big main books and I was not excited for this series at all. This new Apex Lex flies in the face of decades of established Lex Luthor characterization and motivation. All the disparate post Metal books have left me empty. Scott Snyder and James Tynion’s Justice League run had all the delicious ingredients you could ever want but when baked into the souffle we got, oh boy did it fall flat. Pretty much all of Scott Snyder’s DC work since he took over the Batman title in the New 52 has rubbed me the wrong way. Every book seems to be a tool to get us to the next event. Nothing seems to matter and nothing feels like the beloved DC Comics Universe I grew to love anymore. It is honestly the lowest point I have ever felt as a DC Comics fan.
So how did this third issue of this series, which I didnt particularly care for the first two issues, turn out to be something that stuck with me and really worm its way into something I sort of loved? Well, its James Tynion’s writing. The man has demonstrated a deep, rich love for all the corners of the DC Universe from Batman to the most obscure but lately he seems stuck with dealing with all of these story threads I’ve hated. In this issue, he starts to right the ship. He navigates through the murky awful waters of all the Infected heroes and brings in The Joker.
Let me digress for a moment and say how shocked I am that bringing The Joker of all characters into this somehow makes things better. I have DETESTED the status quo of Joker for the past decade. I dont know how we got to invincible serial killer psychopath that lives to maim, rip his face off and love Batman. It feels so far off of what his character is. He should be the joke obsessed criminal that fights Bats and wants to make money. That’s it. Its simple, its fun and its right. Now I dont mind a more nuanced take on the guy. I was a big fan of Grant Morrison’s idea that the Joker possesses some form of “Super-Sanity”. That he is, as Morrison put it: “That’s why some days he’s a mischievous clown, others a psychopathic killer. He has no real personality. He creates himself each day.” I think thats brilliant. I do not, however, think any writer since Morrison has done this idea justice. He has existed the past decade only to factor into every big event as some undying supernatural ghoul that loves torture porn. I cant stand it. I honestly think it takes away from the multifaceted enduring character of the Joker to distill him down to plot armor gory horror movie villain. It has, just like most of DC’s output, made me exhausted.
Tynion however throws The Joker into this mess of a plot and the character almost immediately starts to warp and shift this ugly muddied DC Universe back to something tangible.
When he shows up to rescue Lex from all the Infected characters, does he come in fighting them toe to toe, chopping off arms and mysteriously being some type of powerful supervillain? No, he just takes out a gun and shoots at them and then makes jokes at Lex and calls the Infected characters Juggalos. Its PERFECT!! He is at the end of the day, just a disturbed smart regular man. All he should be doing is shooting at people and making jokes! Thats The Joker! I also love the juggalo/Infected joke. Please Joker, unjuggalo my comics.
Joker then takes Lex back to his hideout and starts to drop some wisdom on him and here is why this book resonates so well with me. Joker becomes a mouthpiece for me basically:
Joker explains all fo this theyre caught up in: “It’s too big. Our stories dont work when they get this big”. Then theres a panel that I have saved and will be using from here to eternity, that perfectly sums up Batman and The Joker:
This is just a Godsend. Its everything Ive been SHOUTING for years now to anyone who will listen. This is what the good Batman and Joker comics need. This is what the entire damn organization of DC Comics should have hanging on their walls, on their desks, as their computer backgrounds. These characters dont work when you force them into the wrong stories. It hurts them, it hurts the entire line, it hurts the entire industry, and it hurts us the fans. This is why this comic stands out to me and stays with me. It delivers a message that I desperately want them to follow. Its my glimmer of sunshine through the Infected mass of storm clouds.
And then as Apex Lex, the mouthpiece of every contrarian that wants The Joker to be something he intrinsically is not, says: “So what now? You’re going to spray-paint smiles and gas people into laughing in some kind of death amusement park to torture Batman?
And Joker replies: “Yes…Because that’s MY story, that’s what I’m SUPPOSED to do. That’s what I LIKE to do.” And OH MY GOD, HOLY JESUS CHRIST! This exchange floored me. After so long, after every decision DC has made that I have been such a crab about, after a good decade of The Joker being something he is not, we get this. Its a perfect understanding of the character. It is exactly everything I could have asked for and it just fills me with a serene peace and hope for these characters, this universe, this company I love so dearly. Even in the darkest times, we still have hope. We still have creators who understand, who try. We can all weather this Infected storm. I have , however small, hope again and against all odds its from a comic event I want no part of, delivered from the mouth of the modern Joker. Sometime comics really shock the hell out of you. Hang in there with me disgruntled DC fans, we may be ok after all.