Review by Mark Allen
D.C.'s Superman books may have run their most entertaining story yet.
In "The Reign of Emperor Joker," Mr. Mxyzptlk, Superman's impish sparring partner from the 5th dimension, decides to give the Joker, Batman's insane nemesis, 1% of his cosmic powers as a prank. Tricked by the Clown Prince of Crime into revealing his secret name, Mxyzptlk is forced to surrender 99.9% instead. Chaos ensues as the Joker remakes the world in his twisted image, and becomes "Emperor Joker." In this world, Superman is the most dangerous villain known to man, while Bizarro is Earth's greatest hero. Superman must now help the JLA (a gang of criminals in this world) to remember the real Earth, and who they truly are, in order to enlist their aid and put an end to the Joker's reign.
The artists on the Super-books have their own distinctive and entertaining takes on Superman (my personal favorite being Ed McGuinness of Superman), and the writers do a wonderful job of "fleshing out" Supes and his supporting cast; it's been years since the character was less two-dimensional. The best piece of characterization however, must be credited to writer Joe Kelly in Action Comics #770. In a stunning scene between Clark Kent (Superman), Bruce Wayne (Batman) and the Spectre, Clark realizes the trauma and horror Wayne has endured as the greatest enemy of an all-powerful Joker. Faced with the fact that the dark knight has been hopelessly broken by such violation, and believing that Batman is too badly needed to lose, Kent agrees to "adopt" those memories as his own, freeing his crime-fighting companion of any knowledge of the event. Several key events in the relationship between these two characters have transpired, but none more significant than this.
"The Reign of Emperor Joker" runs through the Emperor Joker Special, Superman #161, Adventures of Superman #583, Superman: The Man of Steel #105, and Action Comics #770, available at your local comic book store.
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About Mark Allen
Hi. I'm Mark Allen, and for the foreseeable future, I will be writing for Michael Vance's Suspended Animation review column. I've been a comic reader for 25 years, and I can honestly say the medium brings me as much joy today as it did when I was a child. As a minister and a husband (both more than full-time jobs) I still find time to indulge in a little sequential art on an almost daily basis. I hope that through this column I can share a little of that joy with you, an maybe turn you on to some books you've never tried. Thanks for reading! - Mark