Batman: The Smile Killer Review

Writer – Jeff Lemire

Artist – Andrea Sorrentino, Jordie Bellaire

DC Black Label

I recently submitted my first review for Earth-9, which was the DC Black label series of Joker – Killer Smile, a series which I found myself really enjoying, so it seems only fitting that I follow that up with the one shot epilogue to that series.

First, it’s worth stating that although this is a one shot issue, this issue does not stand well on it’s own, if you haven’t read the Joker Killer Smile miniseries, it’s safe to say this book may not make a whole lot of sense.

I’d also like to say this will be a quite short review, as I don’t want to give away too much around the details from the story.

What Killer Smile did well was focus on the question of what is real and what isn’t. It focused on Ben Arnell and his descent into madness while questioning what is real and what is not.

In this book, the same question is asked of Bruce Wayne. We alternate between Bruce as a child and Bruce as an adult, while he is locked in a cell in Arkham, seemingly with Ben Arnell.

It starts us off with Bruce watching kids TV, and he’s watching Mr Smiles, which we saw in the previous series in the children’s book interludes. This is followed by Batman chasing down and fighting the Joker, before cutting to Bruce in Arkham, and at one pint even questioning what happened to Bruce’s parents.

We see scenes of Bruce with “doctor” James Gordon as both a child and adult, and we also see scenes of Batman and Joker, although these are mostly drawn to reflect clouds of gas.

The book does a good job of never really confirming what is or isn’t real leaving the reader to decide on what they are seeing. Are the gas cloud Batman / Joker scenes some kind of Joker toxin, or are they dream sequences? It is all left open for people to decide for themselves.

Overall this is a very enjoyable read and fits with the Killer Smile series very well, however, as stated at the beginning, it will only make any sense if you have read the Killer Smile series. The book follows perfectly with the themes presented in Killer Smile, and uses them in a very slightly different way. It allows the reader to decided exactly what they are seeing by making everything ambiguous and questionable, right down to it’s ending which is even presented at the end of the book as THE END ?

Definitely worth a read, and a worthy follow to the Killer Smile series.

Joker: Killer Smile Review

Writer – Jeff Lemire,

Artist – Andrea Sorrentino, Jordie Bellaire

DC Black Label

I may be a little late to the party with a book that was first published in October 2019, but hey, we’re in lockdown, so I’m catching up on some reading, and buying too many back issues on eBay.

This is the most recent complete run I’ve picked, and with it being only 3 issues it seemed like it would be a reasonably quick read.

First off, let’s just address that this is not your average Joker story with him being hunted by Batman with Harley to tow. This is very much presented a psychological horror / thriller in a similar vein to The Silence of the Lambs.

The series follows Dr Ben Arnell, who believes he can be successful in curing Joker, all the while severely underestimating how easily the Joker can get into his head and under his skin.

After interviewing Joker, Ben starts to notice bizarre things that he feels can link to Joker, including a children’s book interlude about Mr Smiles and the Happy Village, which is a bedtime story he reads to his son, until it turns bloody and violent. Ben relates this directly to Joker and begins to question his own mind, while assuring his wife all is well, while at the same time becoming jumpy and having to investigate sounds he hears at night.

In issue 2, Ben’s descent into his own madness continues as he visits a dream world that inhabited by special people, people who are insane. The dream takes him to a diner named Arkham’s where Two-Face is the manager and Harley is the waitress, and all the other Batman rogues a dotted around the place. Once Ben awakes, he is not sure if his reality of waking up in bed with his wife is real or not.

He continues his interview sessions with Joker, despite the feeling he is losing his grip on reality, when Joker throws another curveball by suggesting he knows all about Ben’s family.

It’s difficult not give too many spoilers, especially from this point onwards, so I’m going to try and wrap this up with an overall summary, although I’ve barely touched issues 2 and 3.

As I stated above, this is very much a psychological thriller, and it wasn’t what I expected going into it. While the concept of the Joker corrupting his doctors is not a new one, because the book focuses on Dr Ben Arnell, the Joker almost becomes a secondary character which makes the story feel fresh, even though a lot of the book is simply set as a doctor interviewing a patient.

The artwork is very different from what you might normally expect from a “Batman Universe” book, and if I’m honest, I wasn’t sure it was for me when I first started to read, but actually as the story moves on, with it’s twists and turns, the artwork fits really well. I’m still not sure on children’s story book interludes, but they are something different and do fit with the story well.

Killer Smile is a gritty and disturbing look into how the Joker can manipulate people and, although this is a comic book, there are definitely elements that you can believe would happen in some families in the real world, which makes then impact even harder.

Batman: Last Knight On Earth Review

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion
Color Artist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: Tom Napolitano

It’s no secret that 2019 was a great year for Batman stories. With the Dark Knight celebrating his 80th anniversary DC Comics pulled out all the stops and some great tales emerged. One of the greatest has now been released under one cover, as Batman: Last Knight On Earth – The Collected Edition.

Writer Scott Snyder has crafted a tale that’s equal part fantasy, nightmare and vintage comic-book fare. He and his collaborators, the brilliant Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion, teased lines and pages from the story for months before the first issue came out. The clever part is that these teasers only added to the mystery and anticipation. This made me happy, as I am a complete spoilerphobe.

I’ve been reading Batman comics for over forty years, so it’s rare that anything feels as new, or fresh as this tale does. I have to say that some of the previews, those showing a young Bruce locked in Arkham with everything pointing at his entire life as Batman being a lie, worried me slightly. That’s something that had been done before and talked about for decades.

Grant Morrison managed to make all the camp Batman stories of the 50s and 60s canon by explaining them as the fever dreams of a Batman driven temporarily insane, after prolonged sessions locked in a sensory deprivation tank.

British writer/artist Brian Talbot gave fans the disturbing two part tale “Mask” (in Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight vol. 1, issues #39 and #40). This story was also about a Bruce Wayne who’d been told that his entire crimefighting career as Batman never happened.

Batman: Last Knight On Earth is every bit as scary, but even more surreal, than both of its predecessors.


Waking Knightmares

This story is bonkers, and more than slightly terrifying. The whole premise is enough to worry any dyed-in-the-wool bat-fan. It’s only fitting that Scott Snyder should team up with Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion on his final bat-tale, as this is the team he started with, way back in Batman (New 52) #1 back in September 2011. The art really adds to the sense of disjointedness and the nightmare feelings we feel whilst reading.

I love Capullo/Glapion’s Batman/Bruce Wayne, and their Joker has always been a favorite. Getting 150 plus pages of them telling a brand new Batman story has been an absolute joy. Their cartooony style is a perfect fit for a tale that goes from the streets of the Gotham City of today, to a future Arkham asylum, then a post-apocalyptic nightmare world of tomorrow.

Add in the color art of FCO Plascencia, and the always spot-on lettering of Tom Napolitano, and we get a comic that borders on perfection.

The color palette changes drastically between the timelines/settings of the story, The cold antiseptic whites of Arkham completely contrast against the black bordered crime trail set out in the pages leading up to it. The atmosphere is altered yet again as soon as Batman claws his way out onto the blood red sands of a dead world.

Napolitano’s distinctive lettering is gorgeous; from Bruce’s tortured cries, to the Joker’s insane dialogue, all of it is beautifully realised. Joker is hilariously insane in this story, and that owes a great deal to Mr. Napolitano’s terrific lettering. Beautiful work.

The imagery on the opening pages is very clever. The hand holding the chalk could just as easily be that of the creators of this comic, slowly erasing the details of Batman’s life. The dead boy in the alley also resonated with me. Everyone talks about how Bruce Wayne’s parents were the ones that were killed in Crime Alley that night, but – to my mind – Bruce himself also perished, or at least his innocence did. When the boy passed, the Batman was born.

Alright On The Knight

Another great surprise was discovering that Bruce Wayne managed to perfect his cloning process (please see Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Endgame”, “Superheavy” and “Bloom” graphic novels) and, in an apocalyptic future, the Batman lives. The world is in ruins, heroes have been killed, or scattered like leaves in the wind, and the Dark Knight’s allies are few. Oh, and the Joker’s alive too… if you count existing as a decapitated head in a jar as living, that is.

This collected edition is chock-full of references to classic, and quirky DC titles of old. To see Unknown Soldier(s) and G.I. Combat’s Ghost Tank brought back some very fond childhood memories. I’ve always loved writers that honor the past, rather than just try to make a name for themselves by obliterating it. Scott Snyder is one of comics’ greatest ambassadors, because of the way he treats his fans on-line, the way his love for the medium shines and – of course – because he’s a damn fine storyteller.

Between this story, the superlative Justice League Dark, his own 100 page specials and the amazing TV show on DC Universe/Amazon (bring it back!) a certain Swamp Thing is getting a lot of exposure right now. That’s something I’ll never tire of. I loved Mr. Snyder’s take on the character, and am glad to see Swampy in this book too.

Are We There Yet?

The future versions of Bane, Scarecrow and Gotham City are nightmares worthy of any dark multiverse. I’ve never found Kansas, the Fortress Of Solitude, or Gotham – which has never been all that appealing anyway – less inviting.

There’s no doubt whatsoever that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo will be forever remembered as one of the all-time great Batman creative teams. Their work on the main Batman title, on Dark Nights: Metal, and on the collected edition I’m here to review, can be spoken about with the same levels of reverence and respect as O’Neil and Adams, Englehart and Rogers and Grant and Breyfogle, in my honest and humble opinion. They have examined Batman’s past, present and future, redefining the character and also underlining the aspects that made him great in the first place.

The beautiful part for me, though, is the fact that this saga has run through various titles, both ongoing and mini-series, each one referencing and building on the other, yet each strong enough to stand alone. Fans can enjoy “The Court Of Owls” saga, “Metal” or “Last Knight On Earth” as their own stories, but will enjoy a far richer reading experience if they’ve followed the saga in its entirety.


Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion’s Batman is legendary. Yes, I’ve used the “L” word and genuinely think that it’s deserved. Just think at how much material they’ve produced over the years, just focusing on the Dark Knight! They’ve even got two costume designs into the history books. Personally their New 52 uniform is one of the very few from that era that I like; I cannot stand Superman with a collar, nor the silver tiara and blue boots Wonder Woman looks. The purple lining cape version of Batman is awesome.

Batman: Last Knight On Earth is one of those “Possible Future” sagas that I believe will actually have a lasting effect on the character for years to come. This was a nightmarish vision which contains many of Scott Snyder’s hallmarks. Here we have a writer who’s clearly a real fan; of Batman, Joker, Nightwing, Jim Gordon, Batgirl, and the entire Bat-Family. This story has shed more light on the Batman/Joker dynamic (you will not believe Joker’s fate unless you see it with your own eyes) and Snyder’s own fascination with Batman’s mortality and eternal legacy. We’ve already seen a Batman Who Laughs, but a Batman that goes bad of his own volition could actually be scarier still.

I’ve loved this story, and have a feeling that I’m not alone. The collected edition is beautiful and contains the whole three issue series, variant covers, and more. It’s well worth picking up.

Tales From the Dark Multiverse – The Death Of Superman Review

Writer: Jeff Loveness
Penciler: Brad Walker
Inkers: Andrew Hennessy, Norm Rapmund
Colourist: John Kalisz

I love me some alternate reality stories and tales from the dark multiverse is exactly what I’m talking about, a run of 5 individual comics that have a overall connection but take well known stories and shows you what could’ve been. Spinning off from Dark Nights: Metal we now have a glimpse into this previously unknown universe, as these are stand alone stories you dont need to have read Dark Nights: Metal at all but it is helpful to know the source material.

I started with a story thats one of my favourites from Superman lore, the Death of Big Blue himself, but this comic takes what you already know and goes, yeah but what if this happened….and in this case it’s what if Lois was given Superman’s powers after he died instead of him getting them back and needless to say, it does not go well at all, well this is the dark multiverse after all!

I really enjoyed this book, it takes the beats of the Death of Superman/Return of Superman and puts them into a smaller more focused story all about Lois, but all the usual suspects from the original book are there, Batman, Justice League, Cyborg, Eradicator, Steel, Superboy and even Lex with his luscious flowing red hair, this is a great story with a great twist to it and reading it made me want to read all the other books in the series, so they’ll be coming up soon too!