The Joker has been released from Arkham Asylum--released, not escape. No one is sure how the Joker managed such a thing, and he's unwilling to divulge his secret. This story is told from the POV of a hood with lofty goals named Jonny Frost. He volunteers to pick Joker up the day that he's released and follows him down a dizzying spiral of destruction as Joker begins a madcap scramble to reclaim what he considers his.
While the Joker is a dark figure in the DC universe, there's always this aspect of him that seems to be morosely gleeful no matter the situation. You don't often see him outside of that "clown" mode. In this book, there's something deadly serious about the Joker. For sure he's still the smiling murderer, but there are more moments where he's just not amused in such a serious way, and it shows all over his demeanor. I know there are moments in the past where he isn't amused with his current surroundings, but he's always managed to hide that behind murderous glee as he meted out his punishment.
In this comic, readers can catch glimpses of him where he appears to be angry and bitter with no smile in sight. There's even a scene where we catch the Joker in a very vulnerable moment with Harley. It's almost like a slip of the mask, very human moments from a character that doesn't show many other human emotions. Part of this different view on the Joker might be colored by the fact that story is told from Frost's point-of-view. So, Joker may be acting in the ways the reader normally sees him, but Frost's perception of Joker and the situation may temper this view.
Joker's sanity or insanity is never really directed addressed. This books allows the reader to speculate on this throughout. It's a topic that's actively avoided by the Joker with him saying only a few words about his release. I think that Riddler has the most interesting things to say about the Joker and his sanity/insanity when I wasn't being distracted by his belly tattoo and the fact that he looked like he was a rejected extra from The Fast and the Furious.
Another thing that was different was the Joker's reaction to Batman. Joker is not Batman's number one fan in this book. He's very antagonistic toward him when they finally encounter one another late in the book. So many writers tend to write Joker as a sort of twisted admirer of Batman who seems to cause all this mayhem as some of orchestrated play that involves only the two of them. While I liked this alternate view of Batman and Joker's "relationship," their confrontation felt a bit overdramatic and pulpy when it happened.
Even with me being a little ambivalent about the ending, I thought this was a great read. It's one of those comics that provide an alternative perspective of the Joker.(less)
I'm not sure if I mentioned this in my review of the last book, but I really enjoy when authors explore theological themes and make old religious idea...moreI'm not sure if I mentioned this in my review of the last book, but I really enjoy when authors explore theological themes and make old religious ideas feel fresh and exciting in their books. I think my interest in theology and religious themes stem from my background. It also may have a little something with me being a history geek as well. When writing heavy religious themes, especially when adding many unique elements, I often find that I think the writer is either trying too hard or not trying hard enough. I can be very particular about this, and for that reason, that's why I'm pleased that this series has continued to entertain me.
I Am Satan is the continuation of Michael's journey through Hell, the second book in Tim Hawken's Hellbound trilogy. After the events of the last book, Michael is now Hell's new caretaker, and he is not pleased. This displeasure doesn't just come from his new role as Satan, even though it is part of the reason. In the last book, Michael learned some harrowing truths about God, Satan, and how he fit into this master plan. These new truths, along with his primary motivation (love) compel him to vow that he'll get his revenge by building an army.
This book was more of a slow burn for me than the last one. In the first book, there was so much being introduced and so much going on as Michael and Satan traveled around Hell. There was much more mirth in the beginning of that book mostly because of Satan (the old Satan, I should say). The last part of the first book sort mellowed more into introspection, and that same feeling continues in this book. Now, that's not to say that there isn't any action or that this book is only thought-provoking prose. There's plenty of action to be had, but in a way, it feels like the story ripens as Michael matures in his journey.
Even with all the knowledge Michael gained in the last book, this book reinforces that there is still more for him to learn. There was more emphasis on Michael's learning process and exploring the idea of things like time, destiny (which I really liked Hawken's take on that) and emotions, which is spun in refreshing ways that can give a reader pause to think about these things. I appreciated that Michael didn't suddenly become this super being with all this unfathomable power just because he's the new Satan.
Michael is set to rebel against his fate and create his own by amassing knowledge. In the last book, he'd made great strides with learning how to control things such as the elements. There are still many things he has to learn in order to challenge what he's expected to do and take the fight to heaven, however. Then, there's the added fact that Michael's thirst for revenge, the fact that he's holding hard and fast to hatred, is starting to shape him physically into something sinister, a demon. In Hellbound,going to Heaven is presented as a choice for Hell's denizens which is a twist on the universal reconciliation idea. For some people, though, they decide to wallow in their sins, and they eventually become the avatar of the sin they hold to firmly.
Michael is starting down that path, but feels it will be worth it to save his love and forge his own destiny.As I stated in my last review, destiny is seen as something that isn't linear. There could be many possible ways for a person to achieve their ending fate. This second book took that a step further and played with the idea that there are many final outcomes that could be achieved in a innumerable amount of ways with some outcomes being more likely than others. It doesn't state that destiny doesn't exist more so than it's tempered with many external and internal factors.
With that in mind, Michael does have a clear goal for what he wants to achieve, how he wants to challenge his "fate," but the road to achieving this is full of funny twists and turns.
Michael isn't the only person who keeps this story running. There's a colorful cast of characters that you'll love and hate who help to round out Michael's journey. Hawken added a few of The Bible's more infamous characters to the story, and he even toyed around with some elements of The Divine Comedy, which I think I was expecting this to be some take on that poem originally and it turned out to be much more than that.
Hawken's writing can invoke very vivid imagery, especially if you're a highly visual person who can easily get lost in descriptions and ideas. The prose definitely pops. There were parts of the story that felt a bit too convenient and tidy in the midst of what was going on, but that didn't dampen my enjoyment of the book. I think this was a strong follow-up to the first book, and I'll be bumping the last book, Deicide, higher on TBR pile because I have to see how this all ends.(less)