Review: BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #23.4: THE JOKER’S DAUGHTER

BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #23.4: THE JOKER’S DAUGHTER
Written by Ann Nocenti
Art by Georges Jeanty
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: September 25, 2013

Batman-The-Dark-Knight-23.4-Jokers-Daughter-1-Forever-Evil-1Well, isn’t this a pickle?

So, I have to say upfront that I had very low expectations for this title going in. I am a huge fan of the classic Duela Dent Joker’s Daughter character. I have all of her appearances, however few and far between they were, and avidly followed her antics in and out of the DC Universe over the last thirty-some years. But I haven’t been a fan of the current Catwoman series, so much so that my heart plummeted when I heard that’s where Duela’s New 52 reintroduction would be occurring. Therefore, it was a genuine surprise for me to open this issue and read what I consider a really interesting and well-constructed introduction for the character.

That is not to say I think the story works well as a whole in Dark Knight #23.4. Ann Nocenti absolutely nails the chaotic, maddened personality of the Joker’s spiritual (and facial) progeny. Here we have yet another force of nature to some extent, smart but not ruled by intellect, open to sick whimsy and where the currents will take her. Her back story tells of a child who just isn’t “right” by comparison to social standards, but unlike other stories of the sort — The Omen, for instance — there’s no simple explanation for why. And that’s even scarier to me. Call it sociopathy, an emotional vacuum, or just plain evil, but the idea that a child could be BORN like the Joker frightens the pants off me. Any further explanation only serves to dull that concept down, much like attempts to explain the Clown Prince’s own origin. Duela is like The Bad Seed (to resuscitate one of my other favorite films) for an even more maniacal 21st century, and her energy is something that I think could terrorize a goodly portion of the DC Universe if allowed.

Where Nocenti falls short, unfortunately, is everywhere else in the narrative. The inhabitants of the Underground seem simple in the head by comparison to the admittedly chaotic Duela, with even their leader coming off as a bit hazy. They are implied to be former residents of Arkham Asylum, so perhaps they were of the heavily medicated type, but one would think Lithium has a half life. While I should never underestimate the ability of society to regress under extreme circumstances, the extreme patriarchy of the Underground group seems shallow, as is its immediate reversal to a matriarchy, when no explanation for the mini-culture’s roots are proffered. Is this like a bunker style Jim Jones situation? Or some sort of Biblical extremist cult? We’re never really told. And it leaves the plot feeling underwritten.

The art by Georges Jenty, while stylized, is a perfect fit for the lead character, and covers the gamut of her Underground adventure all the way back to images of Duela’s childhood. Close-ups on Duela’s (the Joker’s?) face are insanely creepy and well-done — with mask and perhaps even more so without. The brand she institutes across the faces of her victims is well-rendered, a new twist on how to perfect that Joker smile without actually forcing a grin, and overall, Jeanty delivers a tale that gave me the shivers more than once from a cut or a scar across the page.

Far from a perfect package, Batman: The Dark Knight #23.4: The Joker’s Daughter may not be an excellent example of a short story, but as a character study it succeeds in introducing to us a new type of evil. Reflecting a whole lot of the anger and oppression that young women still feel to this day — abstracting it to a degree that eliminates any smell of an after-school special — the Joker’s Daughter is definitely of a different flavor than the Joker himself, but manages to capture that real sense of chaos. Whether I will continue on with Catwoman is a question to ponder for the following month, but for now, I am well pleased with the introduction this character got for the DCU. It seems like the potential to generate real fear and confusion is living up to her name.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

 

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10 Comments

  1. Joe Kierre said:

    Ya must be outta yer mind to give this super hyped dimwitted book the rating it doesn’t deserve at all. Ign, bleeding cool, and many others with their minds and senses intact after reading this exposition into garbage gave this a deserving 2/10. Pitiful that I myself will punch in 1 for effort in making a comic book that spiralled downward from the beginning. Good thing I didn’t get the 3D or else I’ll toss it to the microwave and let it melt til Joker finds his face 🙁

  2. Matt SantoriGriffith said:

    I’ll be very honest, I read all the other reviews available before I wrote this one (which I normally never do) because I had a hard time understanding why their scores were so universally low. Chalk it up to a variety of factors, I suppose, including personal taste, a tolerance for character study over plot, and a general dismissal of the overall hype for the book to begin with. I think some (not all) scores out in the market were explained as low because the expectation was so high to begin with, which I don’t really think is a fair way of rating an individual issue. I graded on its own merits in my view, regardless of any publicity it had going in.

    Was it genius or anywhere near best of the week? Clearly not. A 7.5 for me is pretty much just “OK.” But was it retched or unreadable and did the terrible plot detract from what I thought was a clever character construction and enjoyable art? No, I don’t think so.

    Alas, these disagreements happen sometimes. 🙂

  3. Arnoldoaad said:

    but the book wasnt hyped because of its content or because of the character, it was hyped because of some weird turn of the speculation market make it into a rare comic.
    having an expectation over this book shouldnt increase the score over having no expectations over it.

    But if you want to score this issue as only a character analysis, I think you are giving Nocenti way too much credit over it.

    The narrative intends to be chaotic just to reflect Duela’s pov, but it still fails at that too.

    for example, in the scene where she is born she mentions that her father was happy, but the art shows him unhappy for some reason, then she mentions that she was born flawless, and the art shows her, pretty normal.

    so the first line contradicts the art, but that is done on purpose, but the second one doesnt, so what is the point?

    because if her father was upset that she wasnt flawless, interpreting everything that duela says as the opposite, then Why was he upset?, unless we take the art as being wrong, then his father was happy and she was perfect, then the art loses complete purpose.

    that confusion is not the result of good writing, and the book is full of stuff like this.
    it is full of contradictions, but those are not smart contradictions.

    a 3.0 is too high for something like this, a 7.5 is completely insane

  4. Matt SantoriGriffith said:

    Keep in mind that, like all my reviews, the score is half for Nocenti’s writing (where I found the character study much better than the plot) and half for Jeanty’s art (which had higher marks than any other factor). But at the end of the day, it is what it is. Throughout four pre-review reads, I never changed my mind on the score. It won’t happen now. Onwards to next week and thanks for reading! 🙂

  5. jpooch said:

    I love how when a book is given a score in the 7 range that you can never win. It is the one number where you will be accused of liking a book too much by those who hate it, and accused of hating a book by those who enjoyed it. Why can’t a book be just okay?!?

  6. Jordan Richards said:

    Hello. I’m one of the reviewers who gave the issue a 2.0 (I’m from Adventures in Poor Taste). I’m like you in that I grade comics on their own merits (frankly was not paying any attention to the hype if there was any) and it technical aspect, as in writing, dialogue, characterization, all that jazz. I’m also the kind of character who really like characters and interesting backgrounds.

    My problem extended from the fact that was an extremely poorly written book. The dialogue was horrendous and unbelievable (for example, the scene where Duela finds the face), the comic constantly rises more questions than answers (the whole background of the underground tribes existing and little knowing about them is frustrating), the motivation seems questionable (as in why the character does any of this), and more.

    The writing is just so awful and I found the art to be so average looking (as in, it’s perfectly fine, but there’s nothing special that makes it stand out), that’s why I rated as I did. It has nothing to do with hype or character over plot (I can like a character study if I actually like the character). It was just a bad book.

  7. Matt SantoriGriffith said:

    Jordan, thanks for reaching out. Frankly, though, I wish it were for a reason other than arguing over THIS book. I find it so silly that we’re spending so much energy and time on a title neither one of us loved, and are now alternately debating the merits of why you hated it so much, and why I didn’t hate it as much. We’re not talking about a potential 10/10 book here.

    If you felt my comment above implicated you, feel free to accept my apology and know that I did not feel every review other than mine was wrong — simply that I couldn’t understand some of where SOME of them were coming from. I respect every reviewer’s opinion, even when different than mine, and feel as strongly about them sticking to their guns as I do about sticking to mine. If, in weighing all aspects of writing equally with the art, you felt a 2/10 is the right score, great!

    I posted this on twitter, but I’ll reiterate here: I felt Nocenti’s plot (the underground set-up and background, how the story develops) was a 3.5/10. Unlike a lot of the villains month issues, it actually has a progression from point A to point B, setting up a new status quo by the end, but yes, the very idea of the culture she was developing made no sense. I thought her handling of the character study and introduction of the Joker’s Daughter (which is, in fact, the core aspect of these Villains Month issues) was intriguing, disturbing (in a good way) and well-constructed. I gave Ann an 8.5/10 for putting together a character that I REALLY want to see more of, and I openly admit that personal taste is a huge factor here. I am a big fan of films like The Omen and The Bad Seed, as well as previous DCU characters like Junior and the current Ventriloguist. The new Joker’s Daughter falls into those types of sociopathic, ruined from birth, type figures.

    So, for writing, this story averaged out to a 6.0/10, higher than most others for the specific reasons I just proffered. Then there’s the art, which for my taste, I felt was specifically above average, although not, again, perfect. I gave Jeanty an 8.5/10 especially for the way he made me feel with his facial close-ups of Duela’s face, with Joker mask and without, as well as for the panel construction in the flashbacks. Also, the cover was very cool, and that lent to a slight boost in the overall art score, although I think Jeanty deserves the kudos all on his own.

    Since I feel an obligation in all my reviews to treat writing and art as absolutely equal for scoring purposes, which I do not believe every reviewer does (I have no idea whether you do or not), an 8.5 and a 6.0 average to a 7.25. I rounded up rather than down because I’m just a nice guy. And clearly, had I given this book a 7.0, we’d probably be having this same discussion anyway, so why not?

    At any rate, there are two ways commenters can go from here. You can pick apart the legitimacy of each and every one of my individual scores ad nauseum, or you can just shrug and take reviews for what they are: well-thought out opinions that may differ across a spectrum. I pride myself in not inflating my scores, and genuinely putting a lot of time and thought into the numbers I give (I read this particular book four times before reviewing), although at the end of the day, I feel the review itself should stand for more than a single number. Earlier in the month, I gave Solomon Grundy a 4.0/10, and two months before that gave the same writer a 10/10 for Mind MGMT. Eclipso got a 6.0/10 for art that was nearly perfect but writing that was cliched and boring. Every number gets individual consideration and extensive rationalizing before it ever hits the screen. But that doesn’t mean everyone will agree or should. Thankfully, there are plenty of other comics to love and focus on going forward. A whole new batch arrives in three days!

  8. Jordan Richards said:

    The reason I responded was the statement you said about why critics weren’t liking it, like hype. I was just explaining why I didn’t like it and it didn’t have anything to do with expectations (I didn’t have high expectations going into it, but I was interested in seeing what the writer could do since the concept has potential). I wasn’t trying to debate you or criticize your score at all. I’m sorry if what I said came out wrong and I didn’t mean to possibly offend you.

  9. Matt SantoriGriffith said:

    No worries, Jordan! My comment about the hype was more pondering out loud than anything that I could pin to a particular review, so I probably should have chosen my words more carefully in the first place! 🙂

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