Brian Azzarello

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Batman: The Killing Joke Special

The very BEST Alan Moore ending in his entire body of work. – Guillermo del Toro, filmmaker

The Killing Joke is a story about Batman and the Joker; it isn’t about anything that you’re ever going to encounter in real life, because Batman and the Joker are not like any human beings that have ever lived. So there’s no important human information being imparted … Yeah, it was something that I thought was clumsy, misjudged and had no real human importance. It was just about a couple of licensed DC characters that didn’t really relate to the real world in any way. – Alan Moore, the original writer, The Killing Joke

Wanna say that again, pussy? – Brian Azzarello, screenwriter, Batman: The Killing Joke

Out of nowhere–well, the questionably sincere loins of 2016 DC Animation–comes Batman: The Killing Joke, the animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s seminal 1988 comic book one-shot, starring Tara Strong as Batgirl, Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill in his much-anticipated return as The Joker. Matthew Hurwitz and I thought it might be nice to sit down and hash over the film, much like we did for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Little did we know Killing Joke wouldn’t just turn out to be terrible, it would find astoundingly terrible ways to be terrible.

So join us now, as we gaze long into Batman: The Killing Joke and peel back each layer of superhero comics, animation and movie history that lead from the original book to a movie that did virtually everything wrong. Yeah, you knew we were the only ones up to the task. While everyone else is ranting about the instantly-infamous Batman / Batgirl hookup sex scene, only The Comics Fondle Podcast gives equal time to discussing the idiocy of this version having The Joker use circus freaks as a gang of deadly goons.

(We do actually get to discuss some good things, like “Batman: The Animated Series” and some comics. It’s not all doom and gloom. There’s whimsy)

Right-click and save as MP3

Brother Lono 8 (April 2014)

297110 20140226111004 largeAs finishes go, Lono doesn’t have a bad one. It’s not great. It’s good enough. Azzarello seems to be showing a lot of restraint, like he didn’t want to do too for a finish. Like he didn’t want turn make Lono into too much of an action hero.

Instead, Azzarello focuses on the bad guy. He’s comical at this point, just because no one’s scared of him anymore and he’s got the whole twin aquarium thing going on. It’s humor. Very, very black humor, but still humor.

But the story isn’t a humorous one. The stuff with the priest and the nun isn’t funny at all. The issue doesn’t have a tone. Azzarello doesn’t commit to any of the ones he toys with.

It’s a shame Azzarello couldn’t maintain the level of intricate plotting he had at the beginning of the series. Like I said, though, the issue’s not bad.

B 

CREDITS

¡El Perro Loco!; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Trish Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Gregory Lockard and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.

Brother Lono 7 (February 2014)

292998 20140108155859 largeFor the first time, I’m very unimpressed with Brother Lono. Azzarello is dragging things out–Lono’s getting tortured, the priest is trying to patch things up with the drug lords (or something, Azzarello is iffy on his actual motives), and the sister is going to get the sheriff. These subplots don’t come together. Azzarello races through each of them, with Lono’s being the worst because it’s a torture scene. Not particularly amusing. Or even engaging.

Even if Risso can draw some gross things.

It’s not exactly a bridging issue; it’s more like being stuck in the middle of a bridge you could see across before you started. It’s a dragging out issue and one with all big events. All that flavor Azzarello and Risso previously brought to Lono is gone.

The issue isn’t bad by any means, it’s just lacking and pointless. One could easily skip it, which is unfortunate.

B- 

CREDITS

¡El Inferno Llega a Casa!; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Trish Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Gregory Lockard and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.

Brother Lono 6 (January 2014)

289533 20131120101852 largeI hate the moments where the writer makes a big revelation his protagonist is actually the biggest badass in the world. At best, they’re hollow, at worst… well, they’re hollow and bad. Except Azzarello pulls it off here. And he pulls it off because of how he’s structured this series so far.

With Lono, Azzarello has done a somewhat gentle structure–the lives of the people in this town, in their particular situations, all brought together. When he reveals the “truth” about Lono, he does it through the characters he’s established. He throws a lot at the good guys this issue and their characters react and develop wondrously. Azzarello writes the heck out of the characters here.

And then there’s Risso’s art. Risso gets to do a huge action sequence after a couple lengthily paced sequences. He does great work.

It’s an outstanding comic; raises my hopes for the series.

CREDITS

¡La Canción de Los Torturados!; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Trish Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Sara Miller and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.

Brother Lono 5 (December 2013)

Lono 5The hard cliffhanger suggests Azzarello is finally getting to the inevitable bloody showdown in Brother Lono. He’s been setting it up, foreshadowing it with corpses mostly; it sort of had to happen, otherwise there wouldn’t be an epical plot line… but it’s also unfortunate.

So far, Brother Lono has been Azzarello and Risso delicately, intricately laying out scenes and connections. Azzarello manages to make it worthwhile in singles, but obviously more connected in the eventual trade. Giving it a big finish won’t undo the good work they’ve done, but it will suggest there’s a limit to how far mainstream comic can go. Of course, if they didn’t have eight issues for Lono, there would have had to be a lot more action.

Most of the stuff this issue’s character work. Azzarello plays the characters off one another–but not necessarily nefariously. Risso does great with those scenes.

Again, good stuff.

CREDITS

¡Los Hijos de la Sangre!; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Trish Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Sara Miller and Will Dennis; publisher, Vertigo.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 6 (June 2013)

BW COMED Cv6 solicitI’ve got to give Azzarello credit. He doesn’t just let Comedian get a little loose. He runs it entirely off the rails; with integrity, though. Definitely with integrity. Even when Rorschach and Nite Owl show up, Azzarello never lets the comic become a cheap tie-in.

Jones, on the other hand, probably never has a worse moment than those two guest stars. He does a terrible, terrible job with the scene. He does bad work throughout the issue–the end’s particularly confusing–but the guest star scene is inept beyond words.

It’s too bad Azzarello didn’t pull Comedian off. He got way too ambitious… if, by ambitious, one thinks of “Quantum Leap” as ambitious. In other words, his plotting is cheap, easy, predictable. But his writing of the scenes is so strong, one can almost forgive him.

But not with this finish. It’s just too damn slight. It’s a shame.

CREDITS

Eighties; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorists, Alex Sinclair and Lee Loughridge; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 5 (March 2013)

897847Azzarello finally pushes too hard with the political history lesson and loses control of the series. It’s not a bad issue, just mediocre. Jones can’t draw Nixon, which is a problem.

Eddie barely figures into the comic at all. He’s trying to get through the jungle, fighting some Viet Cong–there are flashbacks to atrocities–but Azzarello sets it all against a report about his activities in Vietnam. It’s a familiar comic book device, maybe even one natural to the medium, but it changes the series’s natural progression. Just when Eddie was becoming a real character–or showing signs of being one–Azzarello removes his agency.

There’s barely anything to talk about with the issue, as Azzarello hinges it all on the big revelation Nixon is somehow involved. The issue might have worked better set against a history book than a CIA report.

Still, it’s not bad, just rather disappointing.

CREDITS

Kicks; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 4 (December 2012)

884588And another good one. Azzarello likes doing war comics; he should stick to them. Even though there are some confusing parts to the narrative–Azzarello fractures it without establishing the bookends–and the song lyric excerpts don’t work, it’s a successful issue.

Towards the end, Eddie and his gang drop acid before going on patrol. If Azzarello had structured the whole comic around the trip, it would have integrated much better. Instead, it feels like Azzarello’s just explaining a series of events. That approach is good since the writing’s good, but the fracture structure feels too forced.

And there are some changes to Eddie. Azzarello never goes into how the changes really effect him, but some are very obvious. There’s no judgment in Comedian. Following his movie inspirations, Azzarello just lets Eddie and company personify the insanity of the Vietnam War.

It’s not original at all, just darn good writing.

CREDITS

Conquistador; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Six; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 3 (November 2012)

876500It’s another surprisingly good issue.

Eddie’s on leave in Hawaii after he aggravated a riot while on leave in L.A. Azzarello structures the whole issue around him telling Bobby Kennedy (his strongest government supporter) about it.

Going between race riots and war protests, Azzarello manages to look do a nice little history issue. There’s not a lot of facts, but he definitely investigates the complications behind these things. And Eddie even gets a little character.

Eddie can’t have too much character, however, as Azzarello is moving him through the series as the reader’s guide through history. The other Watchmen superheroes haven’t shown up yet–and the brief mention of them this issue is a surprise–because they don’t work with what Azzarello’s doing.

This Comedian series is half done; it’ll be interesting to see if Azzarello can stay so gleefully disentangled from the original series in the second half.

CREDITS

Play With Fire; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorists, Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Five; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 2 (September 2012)

872690Yeah, Azzarello definitely enjoys writing Comedian. There’s a lot of Vietnam War history here, a little American political history and almost no Watchmen connection. The Comedian could just be anyone. Azzarello never gives him anything superhero specific.

So, as a comic, it’s good, but–and I can’t believe I’m saying it–it fails as a Before Watchmen title. Eddie’s a corrupt, kill-happy advisor. Azzarello gives him no special personality, not even a real character moment in the entire issue. There’s a little with him hanging out with Bobby Kennedy, but not enough to make an impression.

It’s a war history comic. Jones’s art isn’t great for the subject, but he handles it better than superhero stuff I guess. There’s definitely a morose tone to it.

I’m hoping Azzarello doesn’t even try tying into the original series.

The pirate backup, shockingly, has a plot point. I didn’t they even bothered.

CREDITS

I Get Around; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Eight; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Scroll to Top