Robin II: The Joker’s Wild! #1 (1991)

Robin II: The Joker’s Wild! #1 (October, 1991)
“The Funniest Thing Happened…”
Writer – Chuck Dixon
Penciller – Tom Lyle
Inker – Bob Smith
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Letterer – Tim Harkins
Assistant Editor – Kelley Puckett
Editor – Denny O’Neil
Cover Price: $1.50

Happy Fourth of July!

I was originally planning on covering a more “patriotic” issue… had my eye on an issue of Fighting American from the early 90’s, however, the state of my library is… well, not search-friendly at the moment.

So, instead of covering a book that reminds me of America… we’re going to look at a book that reminds me of the Fourth of July itself!

It was about two-years ago, during a Fourth of July sale at a local shop where I came across the “Collector’s Set” of this very issue in a dollar bin.  The set, which I’ll include pictures of below, included all five or six versions of this issue… including an “exclusive” hologram trading card… which is just a card version of the same (difficult to photograph) hologram that we see on the cover.

Anyhoo, sorry this one ain’t a bit more Red, White, and Blue… but best Independence Day to all my fellow Americans.  International friends, I hope you all have a great day too!

We open at Arkham Asylum, and it’s the Joker’s Birthday!  He’d like nothing more than to have a visit from his dear mother… who, herself would love the opportunity to set right all of the abuse she put him through as a child.  The… uh, Warden (I guess) is arguing against this… proving to be the only person in the room with a modicum of sense.  Dr. Strenstrom, a Psychiatrist, flanked by a lawyer is arguing for the event to occur… and he gets his way!

During the visit, Joker’s mother hands her Son a Bible… which is, naturally, booby-trapped with gas, and the Joker gets away.

As the Joker hops into a waiting (paid-for) taxi, he instructs the driver to deliver him to Gotham City.  Oh, and also… get this, it wasn’t really his “mother”… just some dude in a dress.  At the very same time, new-ish Robin, Tim Drake is on his first solo patrol.  Turns out Batman’s outta town.

He laments how nothing seems to be going down… just then, the Bat-Signal illuminates the night sky.  He reports in to Commissioner Gordon who… is a bit tentative.  He’s not convinced that this kid can handle what he’s about to tell him… and, with good reason.

The Joker is dropped off at his old base of operations… an abandoned circus, or novelty shop.  Inside he reunites with his old gang… and learns that they’re now answering to, of all people, Mr. Freeze?!

Joker makes quick work of the jerk, soaking him with a pair of water guns… then shocking him with a joy-buzzer.

We shift scenes to Gotham Heights High School the following morning, where a sleepy Tim Drake is approached both by the popular kids and the… not-so-popular kids about hanging out later on that evening.  He turns down both invites, citing having “a lot going on at home”.

What he really has planned is… visiting Arkham Asylum to comb the Joker’s cell for clues.  What he finds there is… a bunch of computer magazines.  But why?

Back at the Batcave, Robin gives the magazines a closer look… deducing that most of them are either by or about one Dr. Osgood Pellinger… a noted fella in information circles, who writes about the potential danger of over-reliance on computers.  Tim decides it might be in his best interest to pay the Doc a visit.

After staking out Pellinger’s house for a time, the Doc heads out for a drive.  Just then, a snow plow rumbles down the street… and nabs the Doc, car and all!  The Joker pops his head out the driver’s side window to make a “funny, ha-ha” before taking off.

Robin catches all of this, and hops onto the hood of the plow.  This leads to a really good scene… as this is the first time since A Death in the Family, that the Joker has seen a Robin!

The Joker starts swerving the plow and throws Robin into the snow… all the while ranting about how he’d already killed the boy.  Moments later Alfred pulls up in a van to pick Tim up.

Back at the Joker Compound, the man himself introduces Dr. Pellinger to the gang.  Looks like the Joker might be interested in a digital crime spree?

We wrap up back at the Batcave, where Tim is taking his “failure” pretty hard.  He realizes that Batman himself is the only thing the Joker seems to fear… and as such, he needs to figure out a way to convince the clown that the Bat is still in town!

Man, it must be… yikes, a quarter-century since I last read this.  It was a nice revisit… I really enjoyed it!

I definitely miss a Joker that isn’t so “O.P.”  Its fun to see him just on a caper, rather than engaging in Earth-shattering shenanigans.  And I gotta say, it was really cool to see how he reacted to seeing a new kid in the Robin togs.  I’d forgotten that this was the first time he’s seen a Boy Decoy since killing Jason Todd in A Death in the Family.

It was neat seeing Tim get into the “boy detective” mode here.  During A Lonely Place of Dying (available in Collected Editions), he just seemed to “know” things… and came across as a real irritating so-and-so.  Here, everything feels a bit more natural… and he’s far less of an annoying know-it-all.

The story, so far, is pretty fun… if not a tad on the convenient side.  I mean, really now… who is going to advocate for the Joker to have a visitor at Arkham Asylum?  And, even then… who’s not going to strip-search/wand said visitor?  No wonder Arkham has such a rotten reputation!

The art is really good, though I must say… Tim’s “pineapple head” is a bit off-putting.  Everything else though, right on the money.

Overall, I’d say this is definitely worth a peek.  If you’re like I am, and miss the days of a non-overpowered Joker, this is as good an issue to check out as any.  This issue is available digitally, and has been collected (along with Robin III: Cry of the Huntress) in the Robin, Volume 2: Triumphant trade paperback.

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