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Batman: Three Jokers is a comic-book limited series written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson. The series follows Batman, Batgirl and Red Hood as the come into conflict with three different incarnations of the Joker. Originally intended for released during DC Rebirth, the series was finally released from August to October 2020, coinciding with the Joker's 80th anniversary.

Synopsis

After an encounter with the Penguin, an heavily injured Batman returns to the Batcave to receive treatment from Alfred. Whilst patching up, he is reminded of three different encounters with the Joker by the scars, though his thoughts turn to the murder of his parents at Joe Chill's hands. Elsewhere, Barbara Gordon and Jason Todd both recall her crippling and his murder at the Joker's hands.

Called to Ace Chemicals by the GCPD, Batman discovers multiple bodies dressed as the Red Hood and exposed to chemicals solution created the Joker. Batman notes that the crime scene is simply a distraction: the true purpose being to steal the chemicals. Arriving shortly after him, Batgirl reveals that two other crimes that took place: an ambush on the Moxon crime family and the murder of a popular comedian. The three crimes were all purported by the Joker. As a survivor is discovered, they escort him to the hospital and prevent Jason from torturing them.

At an undisclosed location, the three meet for together, each referring to each other by the codenames "the Clown", "the Comedian" and "the Criminal". The three discuss the chemicals they stole and the solution they are going to create, planning to create more "Jokers". Using evidence gathered from the Joker victim, the Bat-Family investigate the Gotham Aquarium, where the Clown has set up an ambush for them. Defeating him and his henchmen, Batman leaves to organize transport back to Arkham Asylum whilst they capture the others. Left alone, the Clown goads Jason with memories of murdering him, causing Jason to shoot him. Though Barbara attempts to stop him, Jason reasons she let him kill him and leaves to find the other Jokers.

Learning of "the Clown's" death, the Comedian and the Criminal both decide to accelerate their plans. Whilst Batman investigates another scene, Batgirl arrives to inform him of Jason's actions and asks him to help stop him. The two discover evidence linking Chill to the murder and visit him in Blackgate Penitentiary, where they learn Chill is dying from Stage 4 cancer and has only weeks to live. Believing it to be a dead end, they continue the search for Jason.

Meanwhile, Jason traces the Jokers to the Gotham City Athletic Association, where he discovers they have recreated the chemical baths on a mass scale. Ambushed by the Jokers, they capture and begin assaulting him with the crowbar, mirroring how he was originally captured and tortured before "they" killed him. Batman and Batgirl arrive to discover the aftermath, though Jason is alive but emotionally damaged from the repeated experience. After Barbara clams him, they take him to her apartment to recover whilst Batman continues the search alone. Contemplating their similarities, Jason and Barbara kiss, though she is breaks it in shock.

Returning to the Batcave, Bruce begins identifying the victims of the Jokers' chemical baths. He quickly realizes that they are capturing people to create more versions of themselves, each mirroring a profession the Joker has mimicked in his crimes. Bringing Barbara and Jason to consult the scene, the three deduce that the original Joker created two copies to disguise himself and cause more chaos. Jason suspects that "the Criminal" is the original Joker and that he intends to create the "Perfect Joker" with the others' help, due to words he mentioned whilst he tortured Jason. Meanwhile, the Jokers break into Blackgate and kidnap Chill, forcing him to confess the reason why he murdered Thomas and Martha Wayne on camera. Responding to the situation, Batman discovers unsent letters addressed to Bruce Wayne, all of which attempt to apologize for murdering his parents and were written before his diagnosis.

Discovering a Monarch Theatre ticket hidden in one of them, the three head to the location to apprehend the Jokers. Whilst Batgirl and Red Hood confront "the Comedian", Batman discovers "the Criminal" preparing to drop Joe Chill into the chemical mix. The Criminal plans to turn Chill into the "Perfect Joker", due to his actions creating Batman and causing him the most pain. As he drops Chill, Batman saves his parents' murderer from falling into the vat. During it, Chill acknowledges him to be Bruce Wayne and apologizes for the years of trauma. As the Criminal prepares to detonate explosives, "the Comedian" shoots him dead and turns himself in. As they watch Batman take him away, Jason tries to talk about their kiss with Barbara, though she refuses and tells him to leave, mulling over their relationship with her father.

As he transports the Comedian back to Arkham, Batman learns that he is the original Joker and fully aware of his identity, though will never reveal it as would mean the end of their careers. The Joker created the others through the chemical baths, telling them memories and details to create uncertainty. "The Clown" wanted to laugh at the suffering of others while "the Criminal" sought only to create "the Perfect Joker". Using both their motives, Joker had created the scheme so that Batman would forgive Chill, thus allowing him to become his worst pain.

After the Joker's return to Arkham, Jason writes a letter to Barbara confessing his feelings for her and his desires to leave the Red Hood identity if he can be with her. However, the message is lost before she can receive it. Meanwhile, Bruce visits Chill before he dies and forgives him personally, staying with him in his final moments. After his funeral, he discusses the Joker's identity with Alfred and explains he has known it since their first encounter, having connected it to his encounter with the Red Hood years ago. It is revealed (to the reader) that Joker's wife, Jeannie, is alive, having gone into witness protection for fear her husband would become abusive. Bruce visits her and their son in Alaska briefly before returning to Gotham. It is implied Batman has never revealed the Joker's identity for their safety.

Issues

     
Issue 1
Issue 1
     
Issue 2
Issue 2
     
Issue 3
Issue 3

Publication History

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Canonicity

When Three Jokers was conceived, it was planned to take place within the main DC canon and coincide with DC's Doomsday Clock story. However, there are a number of discrepancies between it and the-then current run on Batman, such as James Gordon being the Police Commissioner (he being at the time absent from the role) and Alfred Pennyworth being alive (the character had been murdered by Bane in Batman (Vol. 3) #77. Jason Todd had also developed feelings for Artemis of Bana-Mighdall, who had been appearing alongside him in Red Hood and The Outlaws (Vol. 2). In Batman (Vol. 2) #17, the Dark Knight had claimed to have learned Joker's identity, though his record had listed it as "Unknown". Three Jokers claims he has always been aware of Joker's identity, though it's possible he'd not recorded it to prevent the Batman Family from learning it.

Justice League (Vol. 2) #50 set up the storyline by Batman consulting the Morbius Chair on the Joker's identity and is shocked by the answer. In DCU: Rebirth, he reveals the chair's answer was that there were "Three Jokers", with there being evidence to suggest their existence.

Creators within DC have given contradictory statements about the story's canonicity, with series writer Geoff Johns claiming it to be taking place within "Prime Earth's" canon. However, its artist Jason Fabok has claimed this not to be the case. James Tynion IV, the then-current writer of the main Batman title, has also stated that it would not affect his run on the series.

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