It’s difficult to write a story where the Joker is the main character. This is the case with many villains, but the Clown Prince of Crime’s traditional stream of consciousness approach to criminality doesn’t exactly help.
I mean, sure, James Tynion (et al.)’s The Joker is a fantastic comic — but that’s largely because it’s secretly a story about James Gordon where he hunts down the Joker, rather than a straight-up Joker story. Nevertheless, Matthew Rosenberg (What’s the Furthest Place From Here?) and Carmine Di Giandomenico (Batman: The Knight) are attempting just that: The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing really is just a book about the Joker.
And it comes with some truly stream of consciousness back up stories, drawn by Francesco Francavilla (The Joker) in which, well. Yeah. The Joker appears to be pregnant for a page or two.
What else is happening in the pages of our favorite comics? We’ll tell you. Welcome to Monday Funnies, Polygon’s weekly list of the books that our comics editor enjoyed this past week. It’s part society pages of superhero lives, part reading recommendations, part “look at this cool art.” There may be some spoilers. There may not be enough context. But there will be great comics. (And if you missed the last edition, read this.)
The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing: #4
Now, it turns out that what actually happened is that he swallowed a bunch of mud at the same time that Zatanna was cursing him and something magical probably happened and anyway he barfs up a little Joker mud duplicate — and if that sounds darkly zany, that’s very much the point.
Rosenberg has told press that The Man Who Stopped Laughing’s back up stories are his tribute to the Silver Age, an era in which superhero comics got a bit dada, with more modern, violent incarnations of the character courtesy of creators like Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Scott Snyder, and Greg Capullo. And indeed, in his backups with Francavilla, there’s plenty of bisected bodies, point blank executions, and gorilla-with-a-machine-gun carnage, and it all feels like a complete mpreg fever dream.
Scarlet Witch #1
Writer Steve Orlando sometimes favors deep continuity dives and frenetic pacing that leaves me overwhelmed, but his first issue of Scarlet Witch is a lovely one-and-done fable. If the series keeps up the framing of Wanda solving the problems of each new character who walks through her magical last resort door, I can see myself enjoying many more issues of this bantery, episodic adventure comic.
Action Comics #1050
The Superman mythos took a swerve in this New Year, by giving Superman a secret identity once again. Lex Luthor did some machinations with a psychic and, now, except for Superman’s closest friends and family, nobody knows that Superman and Clark Kent are the same person and if you try to tell them they could have a massive stroke.
In honesty, I would have liked to have hung out in the place of “everybody knows Superman is one of the world’s most trusted investigative journalists” for a while longer, but I have to admit that Luthor’s reasoning for it — “If the world needs Superman, then I will give them the best version possible... The world needs to believe you are a god. That you are above them, not one of them” — is such a direct shot across the bow of the last decade of Superman films I think I felt my hair move.
But “Susana,” you say, “this image has nothing to do with that,” and you’re correct. It’s just that this Nick Dragotta-drawn page fuckin’ rules and everyone should look at it.
Secret Invasion #3
OK so not only did Ryan North put a wordless Squirrel Girl cameo in Secret Empire, this story about Skrulls and Maria Hill and the Avengers is also a direct sequel to an Unbeatable Squirrel Girl arc? This rules.
The Sandman Universe: Dead Boy Detectives #1
Dead Boy Detectives — they’re two ghost boys from different eras, they solve crime and run from Death — is my favorite The Sandman spinoff. Like most Sandman spinoffs, DBD series don’t usually last very long, but I hope this one goes a million years because I love how writer Pornsak Pichetshote and artist Jeff Stokely staged this moment when our usual boy detectives meet some Thai ghost children.
Fantastic Four #3
I didn’t expect to read a comic about the Human Torch unionizing his minimum wage workplace this week, but I did and I enjoyed it.
Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons #3
Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons has finally reached its conclusion, which means I can officially say, for the first time, that its collected edition will be one of Polygon’s best comics of 2023.