SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #48, by Tom King, Mikel Janin, June Chung and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
The Bat and the Cat are poised to tie the knot in just one short month, and everyone in the DC Universe is eagerly awaiting the big day, but perhaps nobody more than the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker.
This isn’t just any old Joker, though. This is a Joker who seems far more unhinged than we’ve seen in recent years. In fact, one might even say the last time we’ve seen The Joker in this particular state of mind (or lack thereof) was in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s acclaimed 1988 one-shot graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke.
Batman #48 begins with a man kneeling down in prayer inside of a church, which – in and of itself – is hardly out of the ordinary. However, as he recites his prayers and beads of sweat drip down his face, others scream in terror in the background while gunshots echo through the chapel. Finally, we see the barrel of a revolver, clutched in the pale white hand of The Joker, approach the back of the man’s head before one more emphatic “BANG” rings throughout Gotham.
Naturally, it doesn’t take long for Joker’s deadly antics to attract the attention of Batman, who bursts through a stained-glass window like the winged creature from which he took his namesake. Then, after playing a few mind games (and the claiming of yet another victim), the Clown Prince of Crime finally decides to elaborate on the method to his madness.
“Now, you’re wondering why I wanted to talk to you,” Joker says. “Well, it’s just I heard you were getting married. And I couldn’t help thinking of something my mother once said to me. I was telling her I loved her, and she looked at me with her beautiful eyes and said… ‘Don’t kill me! Please! Please! AAAAAA! It hurts so much!’”
Joker begins firing off shots at the Dark Knight’s Kevlar-lined suit, but then, he suddenly pauses, aiming the smoking barrel of his gun in the air as a puzzled look comes across his face.
“Wait. No,” he says. “That wasn’t my mother. I cut out Mommy’s tongue. Very early in the process. No… she couldn’t have – but then whose mother was it? I swear, after a while… you try to give everyone a unique experience. But they really start to blend.”
If this sounds somewhat familiar to you, it’s likely because the theme of The Joker being portrayed as an unreliable narrator was explored heavily in the aforementioned graphic novel The Killing Joke.