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Review: The Joker Annual 2021

The Joker Annual 2021

Although the character is overexposed in both comics and other media, The Joker is one of DC’s most underrated current comics. It’s a multi-layered crime saga starring Jim Gordon, who has left the police force and is grappling with his need to take revenge on Joker while juggling a million other plates and forces, including clones in the last issue that came out. Arguably, the best installment of the comic was The Joker #5 with Matthew Rosenberg and Francesco Francavilla collaborating with series writer James Tynion that’s a worthy companion to Batman Year One thanks to its noir-like visuals and deep insight into the character of Gordon. The Joker Annual 2021 is the sequel to Joker #5 and is set during a, well, interesting time when organized crime is on the decline thanks to folks like Carmine Falcone being behind bars. However, there is still crime, but it’s mostly harmless pranks like the Joker robbing a Mexican candy factory with the help of a pre-Secret Six glow up Catman. But this seeming lull in the action doesn’t snuff out Gordon’s crusade to clean up Gotham, especially the dirty members of the police force, and these overt actions come back to bite him and only stoke the flames of his vendetta against the Joker any more.

The Joker Annual 2021 feels like if The Dark Knight and the 1960s Batman TV show had a beautiful baby, and this is definitely meant as a compliment. The comic’s tone is gritty police procedural meets pop art. With The Joker doing candy-centered crimes, Francesco Francavilla uses a fittingly garish color palette while going back to reds and blacks when Gordon is raiding warehouses or firing cops. His approach to storytelling is powerful and enhances Tynion and Rosenberg’s characterization like when Batgirl drops Catman from the sky onto a squad car while two cops argue if they should call her Batgirl or Batlady. Francavilla also shows the homicidal maniac hiding behind the clown when the Joker actually gets “serious” any time someone questions his methods adding a bit of shadow to his teeth and lipstick. His crimes might seem ridiculous compared to his modern appearances, but Joker does some real damage throughout the story and worst of all, shows Jim Gordon that he can’t have law and order in this city.

James Tynion and Matthew Rosenberg’s dialogue is a real treat in The Joker Annual 2021 with Harvey Bullock using blurred out expletives like a lethal weapon to Jim Gordon using pointed questions and contradictions to find out one of his men who is still corrupt. Bullock doesn’t have an arc like Gordon or especially Gotham City, but he and Barbara Gordon act as the voices of pragmatism and reality as fired police officers make great villainous henchmen. He’s portrayed as a high functioning alcoholic, and it’s presented as a personal flaw instead of a systemic flaw like the corrupt police officers. Tynion, Rosenberg, and Francesco Francavilla don’t go full “ACAB” in The Joker Annual 2021, but they do show how freed of their badge and uniform that police officers will do even worst things.

I do like how this comic shows that Gotham is truly a rotten system with the power vacuum of the mob leading to supervillains like Joker, Black Mask, Penguin, and Killer Croc taking over as well as firing all the bad cops at once having consequences like funding issues or them becoming Joker’s foot soldiers. In a highly stylized way, The Joker Annual 2021 shows that corrupt systems can’t truly be fixed from within, which is where vigilantes like Batgirl and Batman come in. However, despite helping against Catman, they spend most of the issue causing property damage and complicating Gordon’s police deployment strategy as he’s torn between 100% taking their side and following the usual protocol.

Francavilla draws Gordon with a look of consternation for much of the issue, and he really is over his head for most of the book struggling to balance cleaning up Gotham with being a father. Until she shows up with a bruise and isn’t in her bed at 2:30 AM, Gordon barely pays attention to Barbara and makes his favorite meal instead of hers while also demonstrating workaholic tendency. This workaholism completely obliterates his relationship with his off-panel son, Jim Jr., who is with his ex-wife in Chicago as Gordon won’t visit him although he has a lot more vacation time as a police commissioner versus a detective. Gordon’s decision in this matter ends up having real ramifications in future storylines, including The Joker. He tries to have it all and ends up broken with final pages acting as a grim punchline to his attempts to end mob corruption once and for all in Gotham. That stuff never ends, or why would we still have Batman and Batman-adjacent stories.

The Joker Annual 2021 is a masterpiece of day-glo crime storytelling from Francesco Francavilla, who can create tension from a flashlight or a cigarette butt as well as James Tynion and Matthew Rosenberg, who continue to flesh out Jim Gordon and his relationship with his daughter Barbara and the clown prince of crime. Like Joker #5, this comic easily stands on its own, but also adds context (Aka emotional scarring) to Gordon’s actions as he haphazardly tries to create his own system for taking out the Joker while keeping his soul intact.

Story: James Tynion IV, Matthew Rosenberg 
Art/Colors: Francesco Francavilla Letters: Tom Napolitano
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.3 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Brendan Fraser Joins the Batgirl Film

Firefly

Brendan Fraser will be suiting up as another DC character as he’s joined the cast of the upcoming Batgirl movie. Fraser will play Firefly, a sociopath who enjoys torching things.

Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah are writing the screenplay for the film. It’s expected to premiere on HBO Max. It’d be the first major DC film to skip theaters for streaming and is part of a major shift in DC and Warner Bros. plans for their live-action properties.

Batgirl stars commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara Gordon who dons the cowl to be Batgirl.

Brendan Fraser has starred in other DC properties playing Cliff Steele/Robotman in Doom Patrol. That character debuted in Titans.

Firefly debuted in Detective Comics #184 in 1952 and was created by France Herron and Dick Sprang. The character was originally a criminal that used lighting effects to commit robberies but was eventually changed to one obsessed with fires. The character has appeared already in live-action DC shows including Arrow and Gotham and also numerous DC animated series.

Batgirl has been unmasked as Leslie Grace Lands the Role of Barbara Gordon

Batgirl #50

Reports have been coming out that Warner Bros. and DC have found their Barbara Gordon/Batgirl in Leslie Grace. Grace is considered a rising star after her breakout role in In the Heights.

The casting has not been confirmed but Grace has confirmed it herself on Twitter.

Batgirl currently is going to be an HBO Max release and one of the major properties to debut exclusively on the platform. Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah will direct the film off of a script by Christina Hodson. Kristin Burr is producing.

Generally, Batgirl is Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Commissioner Gordon who must deal with balancing the Gotham Police force and masked vigilantes in the city, including his daughter.

Batgirl was created by Bill Figner and Sheldon Moldoff and debuted in Batman #139 in April 1961. Originally Betty Kane, she later became Barbara Gordon in 1967. Gordon debuted in Detective Comics #359 in January 1967 by writer Gardner Fox and artist Carmine Infantino. Others have donned the cape and cowl including Huntress Helena Bertinelli, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown.

Ava DuVernay’s New Gods and Games Wan’s The Trench Not Moving Forward

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The Hollywood Reporter has the scoop that Warner Bros. has shelved two of its upcoming, and high-profile, films based on DC properties. Ava DuVernay‘s New Gods and James Wan‘s The Trench are not going forward at this time.

In a statment, Warner Bros. and DC said:

As part of our DC slate, some legacy development titles including New Gods and The Trench will not be moving forward. We thank our partners Ava DuVernay, Tom King, James Wan and Peter Safran for their time and collaboration during this process and look forward to our continued partnership with them on other DC stories. The projects will remain in their skillful hands if they were to move forward in the future.

New Gods was a take on the classic Jack Kirby characters with DuVernay directing and working with comic writer Tom King. The film has been in development since 2018. DuVernay is working on the television series Naomi based on the DC character which will air on The CW.

The Trench was a spin-off from the blockbuster Aquaman. The horror-tinged film featured Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald on the script with Wan developing as producer with Peter Safran. Wan is still working on Aquaman 2 which will begin shooting later this year.

While these two projects have been shelved for now, they may happen down the road. It is believed the issue is there was no “natural” place to release the films in the current upcoming plans.

DC is currently focused on a multi-platform approach with films like The Suicide Squad and The Batman bleeding over into television with the HBO Max series Peacemaker and a show focused on the Gotham police department.

DC is still focused on creating a film universe with The Flash, tackling the DC multiverse, being key to what comes next. Upcoming films include Black Adam, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and projects featuring Blue Beetle, Batgirl, Supergirl, Static Shock, and Green Lantern Corps. There’s also the third Wonder Woman film, newly announced Zatanna, and Superman film produced by J.J. Abrams and written by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Around the Tubes

Ragna Crimson Vol. 1 TP

It’s one of two new comic book days! What are you all getting? What are you excited about? Sound off in the comments. We’re kicking off the day with a packed amount of news and reviews from around the web.

The Comichron – November 2020 through February 2021 DC charts now online – For those interested in the race.

Book Riot – A Beginner’s Guide to Seinen Manga – If you’re interested in learning.

The Beat – A Year of Free Comics: It’s more than just creepy living in STAGTOWN – Free comics!

Reviews

Collected Editions – Batgirl Vol. 8: The Joker War
ICv2 – Ragna Crimson Vol. 1 TP
The Beat – Riverdale: The Ties That Bind

Preview: Batgirl #50

Batgirl #50

Written by: Cecil Castellucci
Art by: Aneke, Marguerite Sauvage, Emanuela Lupacchino

Series finale! All good things must come to an end, as we wrap up this run of Batgirl with one final oversized celebratory issue! In the aftermath of “The Joker War,” Gotham is left in pieces that need to be picked up by Barbara and Alejo’s team…but is Gotham a city worth saving anymore, and how much longer does our girl have it in her to keeping fighting for it as Batgirl? Then, if Barbara is to ever give her relationship with Jason a chance, she knows she has to face him and finally make amends with the act that crippled him.

Batgirl #50

The New Batwoman Makes Her DC Debut in Batgirl #50

One thing ends, another begins. It’s hard to think of a better example of that old maxim than next week’s Batgirl #50the extra-sized final chapter of Barbara Gordon’s ongoing series. Kicking off in 2016 as a part of DC’s line-wide “Rebirth,” Batgirl has seen its hero leapfrog from the high-tech, click-savvy world of Burnside (home of Barbara’s now-iconic purple and gold costume) back to the mean streets of Gotham proper, where she’s tangled with the likes of the Terrible Trio, KGBeast and her own former identity, Oracle. However, it’s been Batgirl’s two most recent confrontations that have been her most shocking. Having narrowly survived a second brutal attack by the Joker in the midst of his war on Gotham, Babs found herself once again at odds with her not-quite-rehabilitated brother—a confrontation that led to James Gordon, Jr’s death, seemingly at Batgirl’s hands.

We won’t know whether Barbara’s story ends happily until next week, but while hers nears its finish, another young hero’s story is just beginning. Ryan Wilder, an all-new DC character played by Javicia Leslie, will soon make her live-action debut on The CW’s Batwoman as she takes on the title role after original Batwoman Kate Kane goes missing. However, if you’re curious when you might be seeing Wilder in the comics, the answer is…pretty much right now. You can catch the scrappy hero-to-be’s first comic book appearance in Batgirl #50—and in a first look at the issue.

Drawn by the amazing Emanuela Lupacchino, Wilder comes out kicking—figuratively—as she lets Barbara know exactly what she thinks of her boss, Congresswoman Alejo. It’s a powerful moment reminding us that even though Batgirl may be stepping out of the spotlight for a while, there are plenty of would-be heroes more than ready to meet this moment standing in the wings.

The extra-sized Batgirl #50 by Cecil Castellucci, Emanuela Lupacchino, Marguerite Sauvage, and Aneke is in stores and available digitally on Tuesday, October 27.

Batgirl #50

Preview: Batgirl #49

Batgirl #49

(W) Cecil Castellucci (A) Robbi Rodriguez
In Shops: Sep 22, 2020
SRP: $3.99

“The Last Joke” part two: in the finale of this killer two-part tale, Babs traces the Batgirl-obsessed redhead murders back to their source and realizes the real culprit is…closer than she expected! Will James Gordon Jr. step up to the plate and prove his new loyalty to his sister by taking out the killer?

Batgirl #49

Preview: Batgirl #48

Batgirl #48

(W) Cecil Castellucci (A) Robbi Rodriguez (CA) Giuseppe Camuncoli
In Shops: Aug 25, 2020
SRP: $3.99

“The Last Joke” part one! Spinning out of the catastrophic history of the Gordon family, Babs is forced to relive the most traumatic events of her life. James Gordon Jr. is back, and he’s on a mission to run the Gordons out of Gotham City-and as we all know, anything involving James Jr. is bad news for Babs and the commissioner. But is her brother capable of tormenting his family on his own? Or has he teamed up with a certain Clown Prince of Crime?

Batgirl #48

Numerous DC Titles Wrap Up their Runs in November including Teen Titans, Young Justice, Suicide Squad, John Constantine: Hellblazer, and Hawkman

DC logo

DC‘s Dark Nights: Death Metal has been hinted at changes for the DC line once the event wraps up and we may be seeing the likely steps for whatever launches after with numerous titles ending in November.

Already announced ending in October are Batgirl, Batman and the Outsiders, and Justice League Odyssey. In November Teen Titans, Young Justice, Suicide Squad, Hawkman, and John Constantine: Hellblazer will all end. A few other mini-series will end as well. Teen Titans is the longest-running of the bunch while Suicide Squad had only recently seen a relaunch. I’d also expect a merging of Young Justice and Teen Titans into a new series down the line as well based on some recent issues and what has been said within.

Aquaman will see writer Kelly Sue DeConnick wrap up her run on the series with Aquaman #65 but the series will not be ending.

The decision to end these titles is not related to recent shakeups at the publisher as these decisions are usually made well in advance of solicitations. Further, whatever DC’s focus in the future, most likely digital and original graphic novels, is still being laid out and worked on and we won’t see the fruit from that labor for many more months.

What is likely happening is the shift to whatever is launching after Dark Nights: Death Metal ends. The event has DC’s superheroes dealing with their latest “crisis” and now in all three issues statement about recreating the multiverse have been made. It’s likely numerous new titles will spin out of the event when it wraps up in January(ish).

We won’t likely know exactly what that is though for a few more months and plans can change quickly.

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