I have been reading some issues of J. Michael Strawhateverthefuck’s run of The Brave and the Bold and man, it’s way more awesome than something like this should be.
For those of you who don’t know, The Brave and the Bold is DC’s “team-up” book, where two seemingly disparate characters get together to have an adventure or solve a mystery or whatever. Strazippity seems to have a gift for choosing interesting characters to pair up, and for establishing interesting connections between them. What possible situation could cause, for example, Aquaman and Etrigan the Demon to have a playdate? This dude comes up with one, and it’s pretty awesome. The Flash and Blackhawk. Batman and Brother Power the Geek. It all sounds absolutely retarded, but somehow, it all works really well. Today, I’m going to tell you about one of my favorite issues so far.
This story begins when The Atom is summoned to Arkham Asylum. Arkham doctors explain that The Joker is suffering from some kind of… something, and that the only cure is for a tiny man to go inside his body and fix it.
I wonder if doctors in the DCU call The Atom every time something like this happens? Why does anybody ever suffer from any brain disorders if Ray Palmer can just zap into their heads and kick their synapses’ asses? Wouldn’t he just be a tiny one-man cure for mental illness? I don’t know.
Anyway, The Atom has some ethical reservations about going out of his way to save The Joker’s life, but superhero that he is, he decides to give it a shot anyway even though he’s secretly hoping it won’t work. The doctors warn him that there is a chance that while he’s in there, The Joker’s memories and behavioral patterns might spill over into The Atom’s own mind. The Atom is like “Fuck it, that’s stupid, let’s do this shit” because I guess he doesn’t realize he’s in a comic book.
Obviously, once he’s inside The Joker’s brain, The Atom is almost immediately zapped by synapselightning and begins experiencing The Joker’s memories, beginning with his childhood.
Joker’s childhood memories are the part of the story I was the most “meh” about. He was a problem child! He acted up at school and lashed out violently at his classmates! He killed neighborhood cats and dogs! It’s all pretty cliché and whatever. This culminates in a teenage Joker burning down his house with his parents in it and running away from home. I dunno. The Joker’s past is tricky ground for any Batman writer, and can so easily become corny and boring even in the most capable hands. I personally think the best treatments of the character’s pre-Joker life are the ones that follow the Killing Joke model: he was a relatively normal and sane guy until one bad experience completely turned his mind upside down. I feel like that’s the origin that drives and legitimizes The Joker’s motivations. But anyway, J. Michael Starwarsky gave it a shot, and that alone makes him pretty bold. And brave.
Once we get to the memories of The Joker “proper,” this shit picks up big time. We are treated to a medley of Joker moments, my favorite of which is this:
I love it!! Is this the first case of an incident from a movie being inserted into the DCU proper? I would love to see an entire comic adaptation of The Dark Knight that is presented in the art style of the comics! That’d be so rad.
But anyway, J. Michael Stratocaster’s characterization of the character here is really really good. There’s a great scene where The Joker uses a metaphor to explain how he allows himself to commit murder, and it’s a really great look into how he perceives and deals with the horrible things he does. It involves a plank. I don’t want to spoil it.
So The Atom is experiencing all these memories, and they’re fucking him up, and he considers taking a page from The Joker’s book and just letting him die. BUT NO, BECAUSE THEN HE’D BE NO BETTER THAN THE JOKER and blablabla. He does whatever he’s supposed to do to the brain, and then gets the hell out of there.
It ends with a great post-op conversation between The Atom and The Joker.
It is awesome not just because of how goddamn adorable they look sitting together like that, but also because The Atom seems to be all Jokerized now. The Joker is all like “Happy dreams!” and then the book ends with him maniacally laughing while The Atom sits with his hand over his mouth in comic-book-style disbelief. It’s totally Tales From the Crypt-y, and it’s totally awesome. It just goes to show you, kiddies! Don’t shrink down to a subatomic size and prance amongst a madman’s brain synapses, or you might go mad yourself! That’s the lesson we should all take away from this.
So that’s The Brave and the Bold #31, my second favorite issue of the run so far. Stay tuned for my next entry, where I’ll tell you all about my first favorite! You wait with bated breath.