This week from DC Comics we continue to follow former Commissioner Gordon and his quest that will inevitably lead him to a showdown with Gotham’s worst criminal, The Joker. The clash seems unavoidable, yet Joker 5 takes in a bit of a different direction. Instead of pushing forward, it takes a step back. Even the Joker had a beginning and here we see very early in his criminal career when he was just introducing himself to Gotham.

From the very beginning, we see Joker did not care for money, death, destruction. These were merely tools to build his little funhouse. For Joker the fun lay in the game itself. manipulating his opponents out of position. Joker’s pleasures came from watching his adversaries either run in circles or cross lines they normally would not. This issue does a wonderful job with this, albeit subtlety. The Joker means no harm. He just wants a slice of the pie.

Joker 5 – Oh Captain, My Captain

This issue goes back in time to Jim Gordon’s early days. These days he still held hope Gotham could change for the better. It simply required the right men and actions to achieve it. He was young, brash, and naïve, everything the Joker looks for. Jim was one of the few who saw Joker’s evil for what it was early on, but this began an obsession that dominated his life. We get a nice little scene with Jim and his wife Barbara. Their marriage is in trouble because even when Jim is home, his mind is at work. He knows the threat the Joker poses and no one is listening.

This also gives us a nice glimpse into the early days of Arkham Asylum and its creators. Sure Jeremiah Arkham founded it, but the true power lies with the money. Sawyer Sampson. Arkham holds his brother in the secure wing of the facility, but as it turns out he is the ONLY person in the secure wing. Essentially, there is no secure wing in Arkham. True, Jim’s actions would later convince Sawyer to help fund its expansion, but it kind of shows Arkham was never meant to be the insane capital of the world. Hence it’s a terrible record for actually hanging on to said insane inmates.

Joker 5 – I Just Wanted My Pie

The thing this issue does is show us from very early on, Joker played his little mind games with Gordon. While I’m sure neither could foretell how deep it would run, the relationship and mental manipulations were there all along. Joker is a good guy. He just wants his slice of pie; However, while Gordon and the workers at Gotham focus on his lust for desert, Harvey Dent walks into a trap that kills everyone he’s with. Gordon completely misses set up because he is too busy obsessing over Joker. So much so that he camped outside of Joker’s room all night.

While in the room, Joker has a – conversation – with James. In this little monologue, Joker actually spells out the underpinning of everything he will do Gotham and why. In fact, Joker tells Gordon the absolute truth except for Gordon still believes he can stop the change. “Something is coming to your city, Jim. Something bad. I’m not the hurricane. I’m just the first cloud on the horizon.” In an era pre-super-villain and in the early days of Batman. Joker explains exactly where Gotham is headed.

By the end Gordon sees exactly how badly Joker played him. Joker teased Gordon with the truth, leading Gordon everywhere Joker wanted him to go, and the whole time Joker slipped clues of his true plan. Clues that always lead to the aftermath, not crime prevention.

Joker 5 – Time to Visit Daddy, Bluebird’s Story

I love how this title continues Punchline’s story as well. After being in prison for a short time she already controls the population and wrapped them around her little finger. All but one. An old friend, Kelly Ness, also resides in Blackgate. I am not sure what threat she poses to Punchline, but Punchline is determined to take care of her.

Meanwhile, Harper continues her quest to stop Punchline. Even though she might be in Blackgate, Harper knows there’s more to come from Punchline. She seeks out the last person she wants to see, her father. Harper needs info and she doesn’t know who else to turn to. He doesn’t really help much, but he does give her one piece of advice. If Harper wants to deal with Punchline, she will need her masked alter ego to do so.

In a lot of ways, this story parallels Gordon’s story. Gordon obsessed over Joker and now Harper is obsessing over Punchline. While I doubt they will, it should be interesting if these two stories either meet up or follow similar patterns.

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