It Took the Tiny Man, The Atom, to Truly Get In The Joker's Head
The Good: For starters, this is an incredibly unusual pairing. For a bunch of his issues it seems like Straczynski just threw darts at a board with the name of every DC character and then just wrote what he was dealt. And frankly, I actually hope it was something like that, because its an interesting approach to a series like this. The Atom and The Joker? How do you even come up with a duo like that?
And this oddity is represented in the cover. It's a weird and creepy cover, I absolutely love it. The cover is what got me to pick this up on a whim. It goes even deeper than that, where The Joker is kind of the true focus of the issue, using The Atom as a framing device to guide the story, but go through some development of his own. The balance between the focus on the 2 is incredibly uneven, but oddly balanced out in bizarre ways.
The artwork starts out perfectly great, but nothing special, but when The Atom begins to see the Joker's memories, the artist does an AMAZING job at showcasing the subtleties that show the child as a complete sociopath in the making. Everything about the flashbacks are what completely made this issue. I am on record as someone who UTTERLY DESPISES any Joker origin that paints him in a sympathetic light. Joker is absolute pure evil and pure chaos. Falling in the vat of chemicals didn't transform him into a sociopathic genius, even by comic standards that's utter bullshit stupid. What it did was serve as an awakening. Before the fall, he was a sociopath, detached from the world, but too clever for it, wandering about without a purpose. What this issue does so well is create the childhood for a Joker I that synchs perfectly with that of Lovers and Madmen. Lovers and Madmen is my quintesscential Joker origin. Straczynski does a phenomenal job at writing a child who is out of snych with the world, the truest definition of a sociopath. And the artwork kicks things up another notch as The Atom starts to lose himself in the maelstrom of psychosis. This is a Joker who is pure evil, and yet shockingly realistic.
Everything leads up to an ending that's as hilarious as it is unnerving.
The Bad: Not enough people will take this at face value as a true interpretation of Joker's childhood.
In Conclusion: 5/5
For a Brave and the Bold, the 'partnership' between the 2 characters of the issue is one that is so far removed from the norm for this series. But it's weaved with such rich complexity that it works on many levels. But this issue will always have a place in my heart for its PERFECT representation of Joker's childhood, Granted, he generally works best when his past is 'multiple choice' but if this was 100% confirmed canon for him, I would nto be disappointed in the least.