Jason Todd’s Dark Destiny
Three Jokers #1 was plenty shocking in its own right, revealing Jason Todd’s darkest secret and ending with the former Robin brutally executing The Clown, the version of Joker responsible for (almost) killing him back in 1988’s Batman: A Death in the Family. But even with one of their number gone, The Criminal (the original Golden Age Joker) and The Comedian (the modern Killing Joker-era Joker) are still hard at work carrying out their master plan. They’ve been kidnapping and experimenting on dozens of unwitting Gothamites, all in the hope of creating a newer and even deadlier incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime.
Jason is the first to track down the two Jokers, hoping to finish the job he started with The Clown. But instead he’s captured and tortured by the Jokers, forced to relive that terrible night The Clown nearly beat him to death with a crowbar. However, the Jokers don’t kill Jason. They’re still holding out hope he’s the specimen they’ve been searching for – the man capable of becoming the perfect Joker. After all, he’s already transformed into Red Hood. Maybe all he needs is that one, final push into madness.
A New Bat-Family Romance
Batman and Batgirl arrive too late to stop the two Jokers, but they rescue the physically and psychologically battered Jason. As Batman continues his hunt for the remaining Jokers, Barbara brings Jason back to her apartment to recuperate. There he discovers a stack of self-help books and mementos from Barbara’s years of physical therapy recovering from her gunshot wound in The Killing Joke. For the first time, Jason realizes how much he and Barbara are alike and how much they both carry the lingering trauma of the Joker in their lives.
Barbara tells Jason the one thing no one in the Bat-family has been able to admit – they all wish they had done more to help him recover from his near-death experience and help him find his way back into the light. At that moment, the two throw caution to the wind and kiss.
At this point it’s unclear whether Three Jokers is setting up an ongoing romance between Batgirl and Red Hood or if this is just a case of two emotionally vulnerable people processing a very heated moment. As it is, Three Jokers’ place in current DC continuity is vague. But we do have to wonder if this surprise moment could wind up impacting the long-running Barbara Gordon/Dick Grayson relationship going forward.
Batman’s Original Enemy Returns
While Batgirl focuses more on helping Red Hood, Batman’s single-minded quest brings him to Blackgate Penitentiary, the prison that houses Gotham’s non-criminally insane felons. After examining the body of a corrupt, murdered judge, Batman discovers the fingerprints of the man who sent him down the path toward becoming a costumed vigilante in the first place – Joe Chill. But how can that be when Chill himself has been locked up in Blackgate for years?
Batman attempts to confront Chill in his cell, at which point his fearsome façade cracks and we see a glimpse of the wounded boy beneath:
Batman discovers Chill’s cell is empty, with Batgirl informing him Chill is currently dying of terminal cancer in Blackgate’s infirmary. Batman is left to return to his cave and ponder how Chill factors into The Criminal and The Comedian’s plans. Further complicating that mystery is the fact that The Comedian seems to have a twisted obsession with Chill’s family. The opening pages of this issue show him driving to a quiet suburb and enjoying dinner with a mother and son who clearly want nothing to do with him. That dinner is eventually shown to be part of The Comedian’s overactive imagination, but photos at Chill’s bedside reveal that mother and son do exist, and they’re Joe Chill’s family.
The two surviving Jokers are clearly fascinated with the criminal who created Batman, and we get a better idea of why that is in the closing moments of Three Jokers #2. The two Jokers kidnap Chill and film him, hoping to force a confession about his true reasons for murdering the Waynes.
Traditionally, the Wayne murders have always been depicted as an act of senseless violence by a desperate mugger. This issue seems to suggest a deeper motive at play. Perhaps Chill was hired as a hitman by a powerful Gothamite hoping to end Thomas Wayne’s philanthropic crusade? Or did some version of the Joker exist even then, knowing full well the deaths of the Waynes would fuel the rise of his beloved Batman? We’ll find out the truth when the third and final chapter of Three Jokers arrives on October 28.Until then, find out how the fallout of Joker War will impact DC’s flagship Batman comic and learn more about Hawkman and the Justice Society’s role in the Black Adam movie.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.