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New 52 Joker

DC Direct
by yo go re

We've said before that the strength of Batman as a character is that versions as wildly divergent as Frank Miller and Adam West not only exist, they're equally valid. But the crazy thing is, the same thing applies to his greatest enemy, as well.

Cesar Romero played the Joker as a normal criminal with a warped sense of humor; Jack Nicholson as a sadist given free rein; Heath Ledger made him a sociopath who hid his meticulous planning behind a false veneer of chaos. In the comics, he's been all these things and more, and they all worked (except for Grant Morrison's "Clown at Midnight" garbage - that couldn't be retconned out of existence fast enough).

Following the "New 52" reboot, the writers tried something new with Joker: absence. In the first issue of the rebooted Detective Comics #1, Joker was caught and taken to Arkham Asylum (again). While there, he had the villain Dollmaker (a skilled surgeon) remove his face, and then he escaped. The face went into a GCPD evidence room, and the Joker disappeared from the books entirely for an entire year. And then, when he came back? He came back in a big way, in the awesome "Death of the Family" story.

His first order of business? Break into police headquarters to steal his face back. Since this isn't the Cage/Travolta magnum opus Face/Off, the face didn't magically attach itself back to his head - it's held on with a belt and baling wire. It's sculpted to look like a separate layer over the head beneath it, which is exactly what it is.

For "Death of the Family," Joker has foregone his usual classy purple suit and opted instead for a workingman's garb. He's wearing a short-sleeved blue jumpsuit, purportedly from "Joe's Garage" (with a nametag on the front pocket identifying him as "Joe"), thick work gloves, and shoes that are more casual than he normally has.

The sculpt is by Phil Ramirez, which already tells you it's going to be good. The wrinkles on the jumpsuit make it look like an appropriately starchy cotton, and the pantlegs are short enough that we can just see the knit pattern of his socks. His posture is purposefully off-kilter, with one shoulder higher than the other - after all, why would a man as twisted as the Joker stand up straight? Even his toolbelt, its back pockets jammed with various implements, hangs at a jaunty angle around his waist.

Most of the tools are just sculpted in place (which makes it all the more impressive that they look like separate pieces), but he does have four accessories that can be removed: a keyhole saw, a pipe wrench, a pair of needle nose pliers, and a ball-peen hammer. Both pockets in the back of the belt and the two loops near the hips allow you to place the items as you like. I really wish more of the tools could come out of the belt, but then, I'm greedy. And it's not like you can put more than two at a time in his hands anyway.

Joker's articulation is pretty good. His head is balljointed, but it doesn't raise up very far, so he's perpetually looking downward. There are swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, a waist, T-crotch, hinged knees, and swivel ankles. That may not be as many joints as a Mattel figure, but it's not that many fewer joints, either. It's missing, what, swivel thighs and hinged ankles? Nothing too major. The fact that Joker has a waist overshadows those shortcomings.

Greg Capullo's redesign of the Joker is incredibly creepy, a bold new take on the character that manages to not shit all over everything that's came before (contrast that to, again, Morrison's "Clown at Midnight"). And "Death of the Family" was an amazing return to the character's roots - literally. With the way Mattel has choked on the DC license recently, the odds of them ever making a "New 52" Joker are almost non-existant (keeping in mind that I said the same thing about Jonah Hex and Atrocitus). This figure was first revealed at Toy Fair this year, and after a long wait, he's turned out very well!

-- 10/10/13

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