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"Batman: The Smile Killer" Comic Review

Written by James Ferguson

Published by DC Black Label

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Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Steve Wands
2020, 34 Pages, $5.99
Comic released on June 24th, 2020

Review:

After scaring the crap out of me with Joker: Killer Smile, writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino are back with a follow-up one-shot, Batman: The Smile Killer. We know the story of the Dark Knight and his fiercest foe. These two have orbited each other for ages and you may think you've seen every take on this twisted relationship, but you'd be wrong. This book presents a new angle and it's the most terrifying one yet.

We've seen stories where Bruce Wayne is insane. It's an interesting idea, positing that all these colorful villains are all in his mind, which was shattered the day his parents were killed. But what if there's more to this? What if there was some mental illness early in Bruce's life that could have contributed to the death of his parents? This is just the tip of the iceberg for where Lemire takes this.

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Unsurprisingly, Sorrentino steals the show in Batman: The Smile Killer. I have never seen anyone use the medium the way he can, creating new and unparalleled ways to scare you with the images on the page. This comic builds up tension in such a nail-biting fashion that I literally had to look away at certain moments because it was just too much. That isn't to say it's full of blood and gore. It's more just that you can see where this is going at times and I'm so very frightened as to what that destination may hold.

There's one sequence in particular that stands out and I'm sure if you read this book you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Just thinking about it now is freaking me out. It also encapsulates the feeling I outlined above. I just looked at it again and holy crap, is it creepy.

Sorrentino plays with the panel layouts to add to the tone of a scene. When things get more hectic, the images become eschewed, like they were in a neat stack on a table that someone just bumped into. This gets even trippier as we dig into Bruce's mind as an adult and he's forced to question reality around him. The panels swirl around the page, like a mist that you're trying to see through.

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Batman: The Smile Killer bounces between the past and the present. Colorist Jordie Bellaire differentiates each time period with a unique palette. The pages featuring a young Bruce Wayne are bright and shiny, as if the world around him is perfect and nothing could tarnish it. Meanwhile, Batman's scenes are dark and brooding, with darkness creating ominous shadows all around. The difference is so drastic that I had to check to make sure there wasn't more than one artist on the comic.

Letterer Steve Wands uses proper case for the dialogue and narration in Batman: The Smile Killer and that somehow adds to the terror. There's something so matter of fact about its presentation, especially with the smaller exchanges of words, that just feels eerie.

I was already a fan of Joker: Killer Smile, but this one-shot epilogue amplified that by a thousand percent. This is not just a great take on Batman and the Clown Prince of Crime that presents a fascinating look at these two decades-old characters. It is also a chilling read that will absolutely haunt you. This is top-tier horror and it should not be missed. You don't need to have read Killer Smile to dig into this. Do yourself a favor and seek it out.

Grades:

Story: fivestars Cover
Buy from Amazon US
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Buy from Amazon US
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Art: fivestars
Overall: 5 Star Rating

About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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