Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials
Joker: Last Laugh #5Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 31, 2001
Cover date: December 2001
Writer: Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty
Penciller: Ron Randall
Inker: Ron Randall
"Mad, Mad World"
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey (Earth1Superman@aol.com)
Harley Quinn attempts to take Dr. Kirk Langstrom hostage so she can get back to the Joker but is surprised into surrendering when he reverts to his Man-Bat persona. The soldiers guarding S.T.A.R. Labs take quick action by restraining Quinn and hitting Langstrom with the antidote to return him to human form. As Harley is taken off to a strip search Langstrom gets himself back together and continues work on the antidote to the Joker's poisoned rain that is turning normal people into Jokers.
At Arkham Asylum the Huntress asks Oracle why she had called her. Oracle replies that Huntress is the only hero available. Before Huntress can get inside a Jokerized Ventriloquist and Scarface, his dummy, appears and Huntress quickly hits him with an antidote dart. After conferring with Oracle again, the Huntress continues into the Asylum by scaling the building. She is there to check in on Robin who hasn't reported in since he had entered the building.
Inside Robin is bound by the hands and hanging above the Jokerized inmates. They are fighting over who gets to break the young hero and Joe Gardner wins out. "Joltin'" Joe takes a swing and Robin suddenly rises up. The villains look to see what had happen and see that Killer Croc had grabbed him. Before running off the Croc informs his compatriots that the Boy Cadaver owes him big time.
Somewhere else in the existence that the Slab is resting with Dina sitting safely in a jail cell, Shilo and Mr. Mind are busy trying to figure out a way to take down King Shark. After he finishes off one meal Shark breaks into where they were hiding for another. Shilo drops an electrical wire on to the wet floor shocking King Shark and then hits him with a fire extinguisher to clog his gills. With Mr. Mind staring in shock and surprise Shilo lets Dina out of the cell. Dina asks if Shilo had kept her in the cage to protect her. Shilo tells her that her cell was a shark cage and she was chum. Not believing him, she knocks him down, telling him that if he ever tries to act chivalrous again she'll beat him silly. The three run off to figure out how they are going to get out of the dimension Black Mass sent them to.
Under the unmoving form of Black Mass, Multi-Man comes back to life.
Blowing past soldiers on her motorcycle, Black Canary tells Oracle that the doctor who had given the Joker the news about his brain tumor had lied. The Joker had cheesed the doctor off and the doctor decided to get back at him by altering his C.A.T. scan. Oracle asks what they should do with the information and Black Canary suggests that they get the information to the Joker and get him to call off this madness. Oracle tells her that it might work with anyone else but the Joker. Canary says that Oracle knows him best.
Meanwhile on Easter Island Batman, Plastic Man and Martian Manhunter teleport in and try to find the Joker who has already left the island. Batman quickly finds a to do list written by the Joker with the final entry on the list being written as, "Last Laugh."
At Blackgate prison, Azrael and Nightwing try to figure out the best way to enter the penitentiary. Suddenly Nightwing is grabbed through a whole in reality and finds half of himself surrounded by a Jokerized Mammoth and Warp. Nightwing tries to convince the two that the Joker serum is killing them. The Joker appears and after insulting Warp's heritage produces a staple gun and note. He informs Nightwing that he has a message to deliver. On the other side of the warp Azrael clings to Nightwing's legs but is kicked back and falls to the ground. Nightwing drops out of the warp. Seeing a note stapled to his chest Azrael tells Oracle that Nightwing is down.
Back at Arkham Huntress manages to clip the villain Julie Caesar with an arrow. She questions the villain about Robin's whereabouts and Caesar replies that Croc has probably already killed him. Suddenly the other inmates find her and Huntress makes a run for it. With the villains breathing down her neck the Huntress asks Oracle for some help. Oracle supplies her with directions around the Asylum. With Joe Gardner about to grab her Huntress finally manages to lose him and the crowd by activating and jumping under and emergency hydraulic door, which crushes Joe's arm. With that the Huntress continues her search for Robin.
Meanwhile, at the Slab, Dina stares at Killer Shark through a glass cage. Shilo breaks her out of her trance and asks for her gun. Dina asks why and Shilo and Mr. Mind explain what Multi-Man's power is. Multi-Man refuses to help telling them that it isn't what they think. He goes on to babble that Shilo thinks his multiple deaths will entail him eventually get the power of manipulate Quantum fields. Before telling them what Dina thinks Dina shoots him dead. Shilo tells Dina to let him do this and Dina says that he doesn't need the blood on his hands.
At an unnamed Church the Joker prays for forgiveness. Rancor walks in to tell him that they are almost ready and Joker chides him for interrupting his prayer. Rancor says that he didn't figure the Joker for the praying type which Joker retorts by asking why Rancor thinks that he can't be religious because he kills people. Rancor comes back by saying yes and goes on to list to the Joker's atrocities. Rancor than says that he is really glad that they are finally going after the Batman. He asks if all of the other things they have done have been just for kicks and the Joker tells him that he's wrong. It's always been about Batman.
Back at Arkham the Huntress continues her search. Using the information Julie Caesar gave her Huntress finds herself in the lower depths of the Asylum that lead to the river. Killer Croc leaps out of the water and is greeted by Huntress with a solid front kick. Croc recovers quickly and tackles her into the river. Seeing a tattered piece of Robin's uniform surrounded by bones momentarily distracts when they hit bottom the Huntress. The Croc uses her distraction to bind her arms to pipes and then leaves her to die. With her wrists bleeding Huntress finally breaks free and gets to the surface. Using the pipe she was tied to Huntress savagely beats Croc down. After he falls the Huntress informs Oracle that he is dead. Oracle asks if she killed the Croc and the Huntress replies that it isn't Croc that is dead. It's Robin.
Story - 3: Well, this was certainly the most frantic issue of the series thus far. A lot happened in a relatively short period of time. Despite this the story felt like it was the lag issue because while there was a lot of action not a whole lot happened.
That's not to say that this was a bad issue. Dixon and Beatty's characterization made the whole thing very palatable. Dixon is one of the few people, outside of Greg Rucka, who really has a handle on the Huntress. Here scenes were the best of the issue with her "parent" issues with Batman coming though nicely. Her proposal that Oracle and her team-up for their own "baby-sitters club" without Batman's approval certainly drive this point home. Her final battle with Croc also brought up how she is much more violent and willing to use lethal force than the other "bat" people. Still and all I have this feeling that through all of the bile that she has for Batman that Huntress still wants to be part of the team, just on her own terms. This is a theme that Dixon has set up for her for some time and it continues here.
Shilo and Dina came into their own with this issue. The addition of Mr. Mind to that particular group of characters was interesting and made for some light comedy moments, especially with Mr. Mind's insistence that Dina would have been made a queen on his world. Dina and Shilo had some nice moments. Dina threatening to beat Shilo silly and slap him stupid if he ever tries to act chivalrous again speaks volumes for both characters and their motivations. The differences were brought up when it came time to who would actually pull the trigger on Multi-Man. While Shilo was willing to do it Dina knew that she was the one who was trained for it. This illustrated that Dina is the soldier and Shilo is the hero, which can be a major distinction in the world of comics.
I am very interested in seeing what Multi-Man was talking about when he told Shilo and Dina that they didn't know what would happen if they kept killing him to get at new powers.
Another of my favorite moments was the discovery of Joker's to-do list, which was originally a Last Will and Testament. If you haven't taken the time to actually read the list I recommend that you do so. One of the highlights was Number 6, which had the Joker calling the Vatican and asking whether or not that whole selling his soul to Neron thing was legit or not. This was a nice bit for the fanboys. That and Number 9 which had him killing that nosy Lois Lane so Supes would freak. It's the little thing sometimes that makes it all worthwhile.
There were problems with the story, though. One of the things that Dixon and Beatty (and other comic writers) tend to do is have their characters see clearly underwater. This may be an art problem but it tends to happen a lot in Dixon's work. While it was dramatic to have the Huntress see a tattered piece of Robin's uniforms surrounded by bones it doesn't jibe with how things work in real life. I know, I know. This is a comic and everything shouldn't have to jibe with reality. My point is that Dixon is a very talented writer who has a knack for making the world that Batman and crew inhabit seems like real life but there are these occasional lapses that are a bit distracting.
The frantic pace this issue had was very distracting. The pacing of this issue was off. So much happened that while it served to move the story along it also separated itself in terms of quality from previous issues. The jumping around didn't work because once you were set on one place and got used to where you were the scene changed and you were suddenly somewhere else. This made the issue less enjoyable and was slightly disappointing.
I was also a little saddened about the plot point of the doctor at the Slab fudging the Joker's C.A.T. scan to get back at him for cheesing him off. It seems like a serious cop out on the part of DC Comics. Not that I want them to kill off longtime characters. Far from it but if you are going to invest this much time and energy into a crossover you should be able to pull the trigger in terms of story. I understand that DC has a lot invested in the Joker in terms of merchandising, especially with the upcoming Justice League animated series. My problem is that by saying the Joker is going to die and then having it all be a big joke on the part of the doctor, while ironic, is also a let down in terms of story.
Overall this was an okay issue. I'm hoping for a very strong conclusion next week.
Art - 4: I really enjoyed the art in this issue. Ron Randall has a very fluid style and a good sense of page layout. He did a nice job in making the characters look different in terms of size and facial features. His ability to go against the cookie cutter approach to comic art makes his art very nice to look at.
The action sequences were nicely done. The Huntress' battle with Croc in particular had a solid feel to it.
There were a few panels that really stood out for me. The Joker standing in his boxer get up was very detailed. The Arkham villain group shot was nice as well. I liked the Jokerized Mammoth and Warp. Then there was the Jokerized Ventriloquist and Scarface, which were very creepy. I wanted to see more of his Man-Bat but it was nice to see Langstrom in his altered form. I also liked Killer Croc. This may not have been the best Killer Croc ever produced but he certainly conveyed a good sense of malice.
There were some problems. I found the early scenes where Harley was pushing her breasts and butt out a bit distracting. I like the female form as much as the next guy, but it really didn't fit in as far as they story goes. I also have a hard time believing that they would have strip-searched Harley right there in front of everyone. Maybe Marvel's SHIELD would do this to She-Hulk, but I have hard time believing that the DC US military would have.
Again I really liked the art this time out. It was much better than last week's issue.
Cover Art - 4: Sing with me now, "I'm singin' in the rain. Just singin' in the rain. What a glorious feeling I'm happy again. I'm dancing above a crowd who are laughing out loud. Just singin' and killin' in the rain."
Thus ends the musical portion of this review. If Buffy can do it so can I.
I liked this cover. It had a nice design and was busy without being distracting, unlike the story inside. It was violent and funny at the same time with all the destruction and carnage going on with the Joker just laughing above it all. The Joker was a good rendition of the figure and I liked the bow tie, which separated this Joker from the norm.
While it doesn't beat issue one's cover it certainly ranks up there with it. This was a really solid cover.
Mild Mannered Reviews
2001Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic was on sale.
-  Superman #164
-  Lex 2000
-  Adventures of Superman #586
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #108
-  Action Comics #773
- JLA #49
- JLA: A League of One
- JLA: Act of God #1
-  Superman #165
-  Adventures of Superman #587
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #109
-  Action Comics #774
- JLA #50
- JLA: Seven Caskets
- JLA versus Predator
- Justice Leagues: JL? #1
- JLA: Act of God #2
-  Superman #166
-  Adventures of Superman #588
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #110
-  Action Comics #775
- President Luthor: Secret Files and Origins #1
- JLA: Act of God #3
- Justice Leagues: Justice League of Aliens #1
- Justice Leagues: JLA #1
-  Superman #167
-  Adventures of Superman #589
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #111
-  Action Comics #776
- JLA #51
- Legends of the DC Universe #39
- Superboy's Legion #1
-  Superman #168
-  Adventures of Superman #590
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #112
-  Action Comics #777
- Superman Adventures #55
- JLA #52
- Superboy's Legion #2
- JLA: Black Baptism #1
- Batman: Gotham Adventures #36
-  Superman #169
-  Adventures of Superman #591
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #113
-  Action Comics #778
- Superman Adventures #56
- JLA #53
-  Superman #170
-  Adventures of Superman #592
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #114
-  Action Comics #779
- Superman Adventures #57
- JLA #54
- JLA: Incarnations #1
- Super Friends! Trade Paperback
- Superman: Where Is Thy Sting?
-  Superman #171
- Green Lantern: Our Worlds At War #1
-  Adventures of Superman #593
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #115
-  Action Comics #780
- Superman: Our Worlds At War: Secret Files and Origins #1
- Superman Adventures #58
- JLA #55
- JLA: Incarnations #2
-  Superman #172
-  Adventures of Superman #594
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #116
-  Action Comics #781
- JLA: Our Worlds At War #1
- JSA: Our Worlds At War #1
- Superman Adventures #59
- JLA #56
- JLA: Incarnations #3
-  Superman #173
-  Adventures of Superman #595
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #117
-  Action Comics #782
- World's Finest: Our Worlds At War #1
- Superman Adventures #60
- JLA #57
- Superman & Batman: Generations II #1
- JLA: Incarnations #4
-  Superman #174
-  Adventures of Superman #596
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #118
-  Action Comics #783
- Superman Adventures #61
- JLA #58
- Superman & Batman: Generations II #2
- JLA: Incarnations #5
- Joker: Last Laugh #1
- Joker: Last Laugh (Secret Files & Origins) #1
- Joker: Last Laugh #2
-  Superman #175
- Joker: Last Laugh #3
-  Adventures of Superman #597
- Joker: Last Laugh #4
-  Superman: The Man of Steel #119
- Joker: Last Laugh #5
-  Action Comics #784
- Superman Adventures #62
- JLA #59
- JLA: Gatekeeper #1
- Superman & Batman: Generations II #3
- JLA: Incarnations #6
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Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2001.