WTF, DC? What the fresh hell is Joker’s Daughter #1 supposed to be?

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A few eBay sellers have the balls to be asking for upwards of $130 (shipping included) for the 3D variant cover of Batman: The Dark Knight #23.4, a.k.a. Joker’s Daughter #1. I guess it’s rare. And it should be – it is seriously one of the most abominably terrible books ever written.

I’m not overly familiar with Ann Nocenti’s work, but judging by this issue, I’m not sure comic book writing is really the career for her. It’s baffling how someone at the top of their game (writing for DC or Marvel) can put out something this abysmal. If you ascend to the ranks of scripting for a Big Two book, you should be at a Gail Simone level of skill, not Felicia Henderson. And if a company is going to ask people to fork over $3 or $4 for one of their products, those products should, decidedly, not be complete flaming piles of shit.

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Simply put: there is no excuse for this. DC, there are a whopping TWO big-time comics companies in the world and you’re one of them. Stop peddling garbage. Hook Jeff Lemire up to a machine, feed him intravenously, keep him awake using artificial light and have him write 24 hours a day if necessary (though I partially suspect this might already be happening). I get that taste is subjective, but Joker’s Daughter #1 is objectively awful in every way.

Before I get into Nocenti’s script, let me discuss what I’d like to call The New 52 Approach to Characters, which involves inventing a completely new superhero or villain and slapping a familiar name on them: skinny, sexy Amanda Waller, non-Hank Henshaw Cyborg Superman, and whatever the hell anyone who’s ever appeared in Teen Titans is supposed to be post-Flashpoint.

Joker’s Daughter, a.k.a. Harlequin, a.k.a. Duela Dent was never a beloved character, as far as I can tell, but she was an enduring one. Appearing, in the past decade, as a member of Deathstroke’s Titans East, and as the corpse whose pointless death kickstarted the equally-pointless Countdown to Final Crisis. When she started she was a teenage girl version of the Joker with a single personality trait: she claimed everyone from Joker to Two-Face to Wildebeest was her father (despite her name, the Harvey-Dent-as-father thing never quite stuck).

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Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, Joker’s Daughter occupied that same bizarre space Bette Kane/Flamebird occupied: a remnant of a bygone era in comics history that inexplicably continued to exist in the present. Editorial intervention prevented her from making Team Titans an interesting read in the early ’90s, around the same time Harley Quinn crossed over from cartoons into mainstream comics continuity, rendering Joker’s Daughter redundant in addition to irrelevant.

And while this Joker’s Daughter appears to be named Duela, she bears little resemblence to her predecessors.

Joker’s Daughter #1 concerns a world beneath Gotham City called The Nethers, the remains of a town flooded to create the Gotham Reservoir. The idea of The Nethers existing beneath Gotham is an intriguing idea Nocenti completely wastes by making it a society filled with rat-eating alpha males and their abused wives.

Here are the many ways in which the story doesn’t work:

1. Revenge plots only work when someone’s actually getting revenge – Joker’s Daughter arrived literally seconds before seeking vengeance on a bunch of complete strangers.

2. How long does a severed face last, exactly? How long could it survive in water without marine life or the environment tearing it to shreds? I skipped much of Death of the Family, but was there an explanation provided that the Joker’s face was injected/covered in some sort of sealant? Is it mostly plastic now?

3. And if one of the character’s most important traits is that we never see the face behind the mask, why does literally every flashback show the face behind the mask? What’s the point of keeping it hidden in the present?

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4. Sure, Joker ran things in Arkham, but certainly when someone shoves a searing hot iron scythe in your face for the purpose of mutilating you, a basic human aversion to pain would make you slightly more resistant than this:

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5. And does every evil male in The Nethers happen to just be standing next to a collection of hot coals, or is Joker’s Daughter’s makeshift cow brand just really really good at retaining heat?

6. A society of men built on dominance over women instantly, without a second thought, throws their hands up and lets a woman take over? It’s just that easy?

7. Flashbacks showing that crazy people are crazy is repetitive and unnecessary and comes off as the padding that it quite clearly was meant to be.

8. Who the hell are these people supposed to be? Even the art makes no sense.

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9. The ugliness-versus-beauty schtick doesn’t really work since there is no genuine beauty in The Nethers (the cards being stacked so heavily against the men means even the tribe’s leader, despite his handsomeness, is already fundamentally “ugly.”)

10. If this was meant to be a spin on the oft-quoted Lysistrata – why, even after the men have submitted to Joker’s Daughter’s rule, are the women still portrayed as sad-eyed weaklings?

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In summary: Joker’s Daughter #1 is the worst comic I have ever read. And I have read Rob Liefeld.

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11 Responses to WTF, DC? What the fresh hell is Joker’s Daughter #1 supposed to be?

  1. Thiago Figueiredo says:

    I wonder which one was the worst comic you have ever read before this one. =) Anyway, great read as usual. Thanks!

  2. While I agree that this is book is awful from cover to cover, not knowing who Ann Nocenti is rather damages your credentials as she has been writing comics for over 30 years.

  3. Roman says:

    How can you expect people to take your New 52 reviews seriously when you haven’t even read “Death of the Family” aka the biggest bat event so far??? I’m not elitist and I usually hate elitists, but if you’re going to be reviewing DC comics and especially the Gotham-verse you need to actually know what the hell is going on. Saying you didn’t read “death of the family”…..even though it has almost nothing to do with Joker’s Daughter #1 completely negates your review, even if it is “purely objective”, which I really don’t see here. Not knowing Nocenti is pretty pathetic too. I’ve only been reading comics for like 3 years and even though you’re right about her mediocrity you should still know who the hell she is, or at least research a little before you try to put a review out there about one of her books that you want people to take seriously. I don’t even care if the comic is good or bad (and it is pretty bad), but get your reviewing sh!t together, b/c people will never take u seriously.

    • Allow me to address your concerns one-by-one:

      How can you expect people to take your New 52 reviews seriously when you haven’t even read “Death of the Family” aka the biggest bat event so far???

      I should’ve been clearer: I read some of Death of the Family and was puzzled as to why a storyline that amounted to little more than “Joker knows Batman’s secret identity” would take 23 money-grabbing issues to unfold. I just didn’t read the whole thing.

      I’m not elitist and I usually hate elitists, but if you’re going to be reviewing DC comics and especially the Gotham-verse you need to actually know what the hell is going on.

      Let’s see…Batman is Batman, Jason Todd is Red Hood, Nightwing is Dick Grayson, Damian’s Robin and now dead, Batgirl used to be in a wheelchair but now she’s not anymore, Tim Drake is Red Robin, at one point all the Robins existed as Robins but the New 52’s five-year timeline negated that possibility so there’s been some heavy editorial back-pedalling in that regard, the Batwoman and Batman Incorporated titles carried forth pre-New 52 continuity and that sort of messed stuff up, and, ah…Court of Owls. Am I missing anything?

      Saying you didn’t read “death of the family”…..even though it has almost nothing to do with Joker’s Daughter #1 completely negates your review, even if it is “purely objective”, which I really don’t see here.

      If it has almost nothing to do with Joker’s Daughter #1, I’m not sure how it negates my review. If Joker’s Daughter #1 has anything to do with Death of the Family, there should be a Marvel-style recap on the first page so that readers will know they might need to consult an external text to comprehend the complexity of Nocenti’s nuanced script. Otherwise I’ll evaluate it as a singular work.

      Not knowing Nocenti is pretty pathetic too. I’ve only been reading comics for like 3 years and even though you’re right about her mediocrity you should still know who the hell she is, or at least research a little before you try to put a review out there about one of her books that you want people to take seriously.

      I’ve been reading comics for 24 years and, again, I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of shitty writers whose names I don’t know. Not sure how “research” plays into it: knowing Nocenti wrote Daredevil doesn’t prevent Joker’s Daughter #1 from sucking any less.

      I don’t even care if the comic is good or bad (and it is pretty bad), but get your reviewing sh!t together, b/c people will never take u seriously.

      I would actively discourage people from taking me seriously.

  4. I ….. I’m not …. Your review is accurate, I’m just not sure what to say about what DC is shoveling onto it’s fans now.

    As far as Ann Noncenti goes……. I hate to say this, but you are not being too harsh. You compared her to Gail Simone, and once, those two might have stood of the same ground as far as character building, story telling, and inventiveness were concerned. I was excited when I found out she was doing regular work on Green Arrow… then I read it.

    Ann was one of my favourites a long time ago, she was like the Gail Simone of her day (a real compliment) but I don’t see any of what made her stories great then anymore. GA is bad, and this… I don’t know what to say.

    Oh, and the Batman books are crap. I said it, I mean it. They are not detective stories, they are barely super hero stories. They are horror comics where Bruce punches the villain in the last act. The Joker is not the Joker, he’s Leatherface or Freddy Kruger. Batman is one of those characters that is good for adults and kids alike, but I can’t find a single Bat comic that I can read with children in my family.

    WTF DC indeed.

  5. Tom says:

    I wish I didn’t know who Ann Nocenti was. Universally horrible writer who tries to shoehorn “issues” in and immediately dates the books she writes.

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