Review: JOKER: KILLER SMILE #1 – A Beautifully Disturbing Mind


The Joker cannot be stopped, you just have to hope he gets bored with you.
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Dr. Ben Arnell tries a new approach at a cure with Joker: Killer Smile #1, from DC Comics Black Label this week.

Jeff Lemire is writing this new haunting horror. Andrea Sorrentino treats us to some exquisite Joker panels. Jordie Bellaire has the task of coloring those beautiful panels while Steve Wands handles the letters.

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Lemire and Sorrentino are a dream team and finally getting to read a Joker story from them is something I’ve been looking forward to since this title was announced. Sorrentino uses unique paneling and layouts in so many of the books he works on, and I can’t get enough of it. Gideon Falls has some of the best paneling in comics and this team takes that with them to whatever title they treat the world with. In Joker: Killer Smile #1 he uses teeth shaped panels and illustrates inside Wands’s lettering. It is always amazing to see when teams work so well together in the creative process.

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Sorrentino has the perfect style for dark and haunting stories like this one. The shadows appear to have a mind of their own, like something from Little Nemo‘s nightmares. Anything could be hiding among them waiting for the right moment to strike. He can easily build suspense with just his art. It is a remarkably useful talent to have for the horror genre.

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Bellaire’s colors give Sorrentino’s art a different feel than what we’re used to seeing from him. A softer and brighter palette gives a more hopeful outlook than other Sorrentino artwork. Joker: Killer Smile #1 instantly reminded me of the Ice Cream Man series from Image comics. The artwork seems almost cheerful until the evil is realized.

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Wands does a fantastic job with the lettering. I always love huge letters filled with story art. It gives the impression that the sound is the most prominent aspect of the panel. Visually seeing the impact takes the back seat to the brutal noise it makes during the beat-down. We’ve all seen those World Star videos with smacks heard ’round the world, and Batman gives the Joker one of those.

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Joker: Killer Smile #1 follows Dr. Ben Arnell as he tries to fix the Joker. He claims he’s working towards this so he can use what he learns to help other people. His boss gives him something to think about by mentioning he might be doing this for his own ego, and this is obviously something that sticks with him.

Lemire uses children’s stories within the main plot to drive the narrative in a few of his stories. I actually love this tactic he uses as it is always a nice change of pace. Most of Lemire’s work is sad AF, so any moment of happiness, even for a brief moment, is a relief to the senses. It’s like he sits down to write a children’s version of every story he does, so he can use it at any time. Here we meet Mr. Smiles and he is about as evil as it gets when it comes to cuddly creatures.

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This is a supernatural horror in the same vein of The Shining. A man is unraveling, he’s losing time, and his memory is failing him. Dr. Ben thinks he can shut out the Joker’s attempts to corrupt his mind, and he’s very confident in that fact. He is very wrong, oh so very, very wrong.

What did you think of Joker: Killer Smile #1? Let us know in the comments below.

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Cody Walker
Cody Walker
Working in the subscription department at the world's largest comic shop. Lover of horror, Jeff Lemire, Tom Petty, hip-hop, kitties, playing bass, screaming loudly, mountains, and great food. Living my best life with no car, riding the rails, reading great stories. If any European readers would like to send me some blood pudding, I'd be ok with that.


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