WARNING: The following contains spoilers for DC's The Joker: Year of the Villain, by John Carpenter, Anthony Burch and Phillip Tan, on sale now.
DC's The Joker: Year of the Villain certainly pushes the envelope, with John Carpenter and Anthony Burch writing a truly hellish story about the Clown Prince of Crime breaking a henchman's psyche. It's reminiscent of the 2008 graphic novel Joker, Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, in which the Batman foe befriended a lackey. However, in this one-shot, Joker's relationship with a henchman, Six of Hearts, is far more intimate.
The rogue grooms the mentally unbalanced Six as a pseudo-successor. And so, as he mentors his protege as someone he believes can be an instrument of destruction, we get a twisted version of the Dynamic Duo.
Joker breaks free from Arkham Asylum, and takes Six on an anarchy-filled tour of Gotham. It's pure chaos as they go hunting mischief, and even stop the Condiment King during his attempted robbery of a gas station. Joker then purchases Batman and Robin Halloween costumes, inspired by the 1966 television series, so he and Six continue their crusade of "justice" in appropriate fashion.
It's a warped take on Adam West and Burt Ward, with the costumes not fitting as snug but still clearly paying homage to the Caped Crusaders. Then even scale the front of a building in a nod to the recurring gag from the classic show. But this is no laughing matter, as an innocent citizen and, yes, his dog are gunned down.
Their bloody patrol gets even darker, however, as Bat-Joker riles up Gotham's men to hunt down the Enchantress in a toxic male movement.
But bit by bit, Six's sanity further erodes as he realizes Joker isn't crazy like he is; the clown is simply out to kill for the fun of it. When Six tries to escape their partnership, it culminates in Joker using information -- namely, daddy issues -- he mined from his minion, and holding Six's mother hostage. When the Robin-clad mental patient tries to save her, however, the Bat-Joker gives him the Jason Todd treatment with a crowbar in what's a demented tribute to "A Death in the Family." But rather than kill Six, it's all about making him stronger and so, Joker leaves him, so his mother can take him to the hospital.
It shows how demented Joker is, and how much he enjoys toying with the symbol of Batman. In fact, it gets a bit sexual when he and Six fight, with Joker revealing his kinks, underscoring the occasionally sexual nature of his dynamic with the Dark Knight, to say nothing of decades-old theories about Batman's relationship with Robin.
Nonetheless, this Joker gets off in a deranged manner, reminding Six his priority will always be Batman. He's way too obsessed to focus on anything else, and this bit of role-playing was a dream come true.