Joker visits Metropolis in the first chapter of “The Sound of One Hand Clapping” from writer Max Landis and artist Jock. Sure, this is a matchup that’s been seen before, from John Byrne’s take on the Clown Prince of Crime to Mark Waid and Alex Ross using Joker as the catalyst for “Kingdom Come,” but Landis and Jock take “Adventures of Superman” #40 in a totally different direction by having the two iconic characters chat things out for a change.
There’s no acid-spraying boutonniere (at least not in the first of two parts), there’s no Dark Knight to the rescue. There’s simply Superman putting his patience on full display, hearing Joker out before he does anything to curb the chaos Joker threatens to deliver to Metropolis. Landis heaps confidence on the Man of Steel without making him pompous or arrogant. Superman is intrigued why the Joker would come to his town and think he can make the threats that he does. That patience doesn’t play well with the Joker and the conversation gets quite edgy, in a most predictable manner.
All the same, the predictability of this conversation and the pairing of these characters is what makes “Adventures of Superman” #40 so compelling. Landis’ Joker is as continuity-free as Superman in this digital-first series. Readers know enough about the characters without being browbeaten by origins. Joker is almost as familiar a character as Superman himself. The wrinkle presented here, however, comes through Jock’s artwork. With nice nods to the Joker’s appearance throughout history with homage paid to everyone from Caesar Romero to Brian Bolland, Jock delivers a Joker for every reader. I’m most inclined to celebrate the thick-haired, grandmotherly circus clown Joker of the 1970s and 1980s, rendered in homage to Jose Luis GarcÃa-LÃ³pez’s style, but found myself grinning at the subtle hint of a mustache above the smile of Romero’s Joker as well. Jock’s study of Joker’s styles occurs in eight amazing panels, but doesn’t detract from the story in the least. It adds depth to the instability of the madman, while proving all the more that Superman is steady and determined in this confrontation.
Lee Loughridge keeps the color palette sparse, and contributes an astonishing amount of Ben-Day dots to “Adventures of Superman” #40, which gives the comic as much of a timeless attribute as Jock’s homages. In addition to the dots, Loughridge gives Jock’s characters space to express themselves within and backgrounds that simplify and direct attention rather than distract with any unnecessary detail.
“Adventures of Superman” #40 is yet another enjoyable celebration of Superman in this digital edition. While Landis and Jock may not be the top combination to tackle the first meeting between these characters, the story they deliver is certainly worth a read. As unexpected as this matchup is, this comic is able to provide some surprises along the way as it sets up an explosive cliffhanger dangling from the rooftop ledge of the Daily Planet. Luckily, readers only have to wait a week to find out what happens next.