Monday, December 28, 2009
With unmistakable glee, and a kind of pride-by-association, the Joker got the show-stealing moment in Batman, R.I.P., the scene that set up one other scene on my ten-best list. In lines as brief and as pointed as a needle, the Joker grinned at Hurt and declared, with sure knowledge of being correct, "I'd like to bet you have no idea what you're dealing with."
The Joker summarizes elegantly his own record of futility in trying to beat Batman: "Every single time I try to think outside his toybox he builds a new box around me." And after relating how even his attempt to offer a totally meaningless clue, the Red and Black, failed to stump Batman, the Joker practically salivates as he tells the Devil himself "Now it's your turn... Now you're in his box, too." Each one of these spare sentences reaffirms the metaphysical certainty of Batman's victory, and the Joker knows that he's telling this to a force of nature -- one that had treated him as well as Batman with insufficient respect.
And so, just an hour after having offered, wryly, to shake hands with the Black Glove, the Joker asserts his own superiority over the Devil as a mere deuce, trumped by the joker. You can hear the venom in his words as he closes, "I'm saying adieu. Pleased to meet you, admire your work but don't -- don't -- call me servant." And then with menace, he promises to collect the winnings he's sure he'll be owed. Events in Morrison's Batman and Robin may eventually show us that he's begun to collect.
In contrast to this exchange between villains, the next scene involves no one but heroes. At #3, a race to stop death suddenly halts and becomes something else, with DC's past, present, and future -- in more ways than one -- all coming together.