Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Joker: Last Laugh (Secret Files and Origins) #1

Joker: Last Laugh (Secret Files and Origins) #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 10, 2001

Cover date: December 2001

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (

"A Clown At Midnight"

Writer: Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Pete Woods
Inker: Cameron Stewart

At the slab, an annoying song is sung by an assumed insane inmate... who is promptly yelled at by another inmate to shut up. Closing in on the prison, it is revealed that the screamer and the quieter are both the same man: The Joker. He is tied to a gurney, being brain-scanned.

The technological goons contemplate his brain, how irredeemable the man is. Then it comes to their attention that there is something else in Joker's brain: A tumor.

Meanwhile, Nightwing pleads with Oracle to leave her computers, leave her constant vigil watching the Joker behind, and live for once. She reluctantly agrees, and they leave in a hurry.

At The Slab, Shilo Norman, a former Mister Miracle, is called from repairing King Shark's cell under the water by technicians. They suggest that since Joker knows that he is going to die, that Norman, the head of security, should humor him with the advice to allow the Joker into the general populace of the prison. They think that the Joker will pose no threat, subdued as he will be once he gets the news about his impending doom. Shilo will not grant such advice. He cites other Class J criminals... like Mammoth, The Psycho Pirate, and Mr. Mind. Nonetheless, Joker is allowed with the general populace.

Immediately the Joker begins scheming. He meets Chiller, a villain who can change his face into a whitened version of whomever he pleases. Joker cons him into going back to his cell for him, then moves on.

Driving into the woods, Nightwing throws Barbara's cell phone out the window, shattering it. She's angry until the view comes into play. Then she's pleased.

A computer viewscreen indicates an anomaly, since Joker is in his cell and the dining area at the same time. Nobody notices the warning.

Continuing about, Joker finds a cook who can charge himself with kinetic energy, (someone Joker calls, "Moondoggie", more than likely short for another name I do not personally know (Neal)) along with a pair of Neo-Nazis that even the Joker is not evil enough to associate with.

Joker slaps around a few inmates for laughs, then sits for a meal with the enlarged cranium types.

Dina Bell, in the meanwhile, subdues a giant humanoid Mantis. Shilo stops by, complements her, and accepts an invitation for coffee.

Joker talks with the cranium-types with regard to the gas metagene inhibitors overhead. A guard gets him to a doctor, who tells him that he is dying, then sends him out among the general populace of the prison again, where the meal is still going on.

A clown tells Joker that he's an admirer, and Joker tells another inmate that the clown said something about his mother. The inmate attacks the clown, and a riot starts.

Shilo is alerted, and takes off for his riot gear. Joker sits down for soup.

2Story - 2: This was almost an episode of the campy Batman from the sixties. Not knocking the show, but it was definitely not today's Joker. Allow me to explain myself.

First off, there is no way that this plot, as it stands now, could occur, given the technology available and the expertise of the people around, provided everyone was not completely inept. It is obvious that if these people can keep Psycho Pirate, Joker, and countless hundreds of other villains at bay, then they have some degree of expertise. They showed none in this comic. I saw many technical flaws, even before critically going over this story.

First, Joker is positively identified by a computer to be in two places at once. You're telling me, writers, that they have a computer sophisticated enough to detect such a complicated anomaly that we ourselves in this modern era barely have the ability to duplicate, and yet no one in the design department put an automatic alarm on the anomaly indicator? Anomaly, anomaly, anomaly. No guard watching it, and the computer is not going to blare a warning? Right. [To be fair, this to me appeared to be the computer system inside Oracle's apartment, and not at The Slab... which would explain everything... Editor].

Second: They allow all of these guys with the ability to give Superman a good fight to eat together? Get real!

Third: This story takes place over a long period of time. During this long period of time, the first time Joker has been allowed in jail to mix with the populace, no one is watching him? Not even the guards!? He is able to manipulate a prisoner into imitating him, and no one sees or says anything in the most maximum security prison it seems the world has to offer? In real life we have prisons that are more careful with federal offenders! They can't even have paper, in some cases!

Sure. This is a comic book. I get that. But the general feel was that this was a very campy escape. I expected more. It reminds me of an old Batman episode where Joker escapes by blasting off of a pitchers mound in the middle of a prison baseball game. Like no one would have seen him setting that up. It's cool, it's funny, but it's also almost an insult to the collective intelligence of the DC readers.

I give this a two because of the attempts at humor that worked... like the Jack Nicholson Joker on the face changer and the fact that Joker was talking to himself, telling himself to shut up.

But overall, this madman acted like a cool, calculating, premeditating escapee, not the Joker we know and love.

4Art - 4: Great art. The art was able to convey the story, such as it was, rather well. It also labored to make the plethora of characters around in this story readily available and visible to the reader with the depth of history with DC to know who they all were. I have to say I abhorred the spread on 20, noting how seemingly unneeded at that point in the story it was, thus one point gone, but otherwise, top-dog, great art.


Plot: Dan Curtis Johnson and J.H. Williams III
Script: Dan Curtis Johnson
Penciller: J.H. Williams III
Inker: Mick Gray

An agent named Hansen and his partner go across the country talking to people who have been victimized by the Joker. They end up talking to Oracle, who relates a need to get over an attack and do something positive with one's life. They also talk briefly with Harley Quinn, who, after reliving an encounter, as did the other victims, runs off. Hansen's partner encourages him to confront his inability to control madness, citing an incident with Gorilla Grodd a few years ago. Batman appears in a tree and tells Agent Hansen that dealing with the past is never easy, sometimes even impossible, but he suggests that you can either dwell on that or do something positive. Batman recalls Robin 2.

3Story - 3: Fairly average, and we've seen this before, many times. Mostly, it's the supporting Batman characters lamenting something the Joker did to them, and one of the other supporting Batman characters reassures that character, and the never-ending battle goes on. The fact that this was an outsider allowed for the story to be one-shot, and anonymous. The fact that it was with characters that we haven't encountered before is the only thing that saved this one from a 2.

NOTE FROM REVIEWER: It has been brought to my attention since originally publishing this review that the characters in this story have been seen before in other comics that I have not read... I apologise for my incorrect statement above.

2Art - 2: The art was truly gruesome. While this conveyed the brutality rather well, the jolty angles with the rigid structure made the art hard to read. Everything also looked out of character. Joker looked like an old woman. Batman looked like Catman. Not really that great. I gave it an extra point because it had enough gall to include the gore that I also was disturbed by.

"The Joker's Hard Sell"

Writer: Scott Beatty
Penciller: Leonard Kirk
Inker: Al Williamson

A short comedy piece has the Joker threatening to kill a man in a dog suit if the reader doesn't buy the book. A comic geek steps out from off panel, complains, and becomes the Joker's new scapegoat.

1Story - 1: Pretty darn tired attempt at humor. First off, the gag was spoiled in the first page of this issue. Second, I already paid six dollars for this issue, so I was practically insulted by having a character taken completely out of context asking me to do so again. What a space filler.

3Art - 3: It got the point across, but there was no real background, so to speak of. Also, Joker looked like Wolverine in clown makeup and a Joker suit.

"Worm Food"

Writer: Jerry Ordway
Penciller: Pete Krause
Inker: Dick Giordiano

At a University, Professor Bibbowski lauds the Marvels, not present, for ridding them of the dilemma of Mister Mind. Further, the drone worm is no longer a threat. He points to the worm, trapped in a beaker. He laments having to dispose of it, and one of his students offers to take it off his hands.

That student instead takes it home, and tries to sell it on an auction site. Failing to, he grows more and more frustrated. The worm, meanwhile, escapes and feeds. He tries to command the boy, and fails, so tries to take him over the traditional way, crawling in his ear. The boy, jilted, is preparing to blow up the lab because he got no credit for helping to stop Mister Mind. The worm gets stuck, and as the boy prepares to blow up the lab, Marvel girl comes in and stops him. The worm takes him over, and asks Marvel Girl to solve his problem. He ends up at The Slab, getting fed nutrients until The Slab figures out what to do with him/them.

1Story - 1: Another lame story. This story tries to be funny and serious at the same time, and it's neither funny nor serious. There's a brain worm, fer crying out loud, trying to be funny!? Am I missing some out of context gag here? Maybe I'd get it more if I read Shazam, but going in cold, this was boring to exhaustion. Tell me a kid you know who will go to school and blow up a lab because someone takes credit from him for a task he didn't really even collaborate in perpetrating. Sure. Kip Kinkle. I get that. But is that really the kind of situation we're dealing with here? No! This is a comedic worm and a jilted techno-geek, remember? I can't say it's in poor taste, because I don't buy into such claptrap, but it's lame, stereotypical, and boring. It's a sad excuse for another character set-up, and another waste of three more pages.

"Joker Fun Facts"

Writer: Jai Nitz
Penciller: Amanda Conner
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti

A scientist, playing to a crowd of all the DC villains, tries to explain the Joker syrum, but is censored and then killed by his assistant, who reveals himself to be the Joker.

2Story - 2: Another interlude to kill space trying to be funny. There is a good part, though, when an alien asks Darkseid, "S'cuse me, Ma'am, but could you please take off your chapeau?", then Darkseid waxes him with his Omega Beams. Funny, in context. Otherwise, it's pretty annoying, devoting a whole page to censoring an annoying looking scientist and the other to a shot of a bunch of villains who don't interact at all.

3Art - 3: The characters looked decent. The scientist was annoying, and the backgrounds were sparse, mostly only black and purple, with no sense of space.

"Joker's Personal Effects"

Writer: Scott Beatty

A page of The Joker's personal effects when he was taken into prison.

5Story - 5: This was enjoyable. It referenced things typically forgotton or ignored, like the Jokermobile and a tarot card deck filled with all-Jokers. I also like the signature. J. Omaha. Nice.

Profile Pages

Shilo Norman and Dina Bell (Text: Scott Beatty, Pencils: Ron Randall, Inks: Al Williamson)

Black Mass (Text: Scott Beatty, Pencils: Javier Saltares, Inks: Keith Champagne)

Multi-Man (Text: Scott Beatty, Art: Peter Doherty)

Leather (Text: Chuck Dixon, Pencils: Damion Scott, Inks: Robert Campanella)

Meathead (Text: Chuck Dixon, Pencils: Staz Johnson, Inks: Dan Davis)

Carnivora (Text: Chuck Dixon, Art: Marcos Martin)

Rancor (Text: Chuck Dixon, Pencils: Todd Nauck, Inks: Robin Riggs)

2Story - 2: I always tend to gloss over these when reading a secret files and origins, because they're wordy with an emphasis on editorial rather than pertinent character origin. They say what the character is liable to do, rather than where he came from. These villains, especially, though, are kind of boring and easy to see through, with the some exception being Multi-Man. Where the heck has he been? He sound neat.

4Art - 4: The villains were depicted in interesting poses, and I can't say I have any complaints here.

2Overall Story - 2: There was one story with any substance, and even that was polluted with impossibilities and character cameos. The setup, as I've said, was very cartoonish and non-based in our current Joker's MO, which is random, unassigned chaos. The plot twist with his death is interesting, but remains unresolved in this issue, so I can't address it as of yet.

The rest of the stories I get the distinct feeling were filler. I hate filler in a six dollar comic. First off...explain to me why 64 pages, twice the price of your average comic book, costs three times as much as your average comic book, with so many artists attached that the story is worth half that of an average book. This is why I didn't like this. Very contrived. Lacking initiative. Anyone got three bucks? I'll sell it to you.

And what is the deal with the first page? TOO MUCH FILLER! That first page sets the mood, all right. It tells you, this thing's going to be pressing for space.

3Overall Art - 3: Varied and chaotic at times, definite and structured at others. It's a mixed bag at best, and that too throws the reader off. See individual reviews for particular thoughts. Nothing really big overall to say here.

2Cover Art - 2: Yep. That's the Joker. What's he swinging? What's that circle? Where's the background? It's eye catching, but in an annoying, My Little Pony kind of way. So pink as to make a die-hard Barbie fan nauseous. And words! Lots of words! Words that make no sense even after you've read the issue. Honestly... tell me. What story is this:



What happened



You don't know either? Surprise to no one. Bleah.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic was on sale.

January 2001

February 2001 March 2001 April 2001 May 2001 June 2001 July 2001 August 2001 September 2001 October 2001 November 2001 December 2001 Annuals

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Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2001.