Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke is one of the most acclaimed Batman stories ever. It’s been adapted as an animated movie and influenced other cartoons. It’s also said to be a major inspiration behind director Todd Phillips’ Joker later this year.
Despite the Joker controversially crippling Barbara Gordon in that title, it remains an acclaimed high-water mark for Batman that’s still homaged by creators today. In Detective Comics #1008, however, writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Doug Mahnke give us some major nods to the classic that stands as one the most dedicated and comprehensive homages one ever, but also, one of the most twisted.
Bruce Wayne wakes up to a viral invite to a carnival Joker’s hosting. He suits up as the Dark Knight and heads to the park by the sea to oppose the Clown Prince of Crime and as expected, by the time he gets there, it’s quite a depraved sight. He realizes all the patrons have necklaces attached to them and once they try to escape or Joker deems it fit, they’re gassed with laughing gas. The first victim, a bitter hotdog seller, actually has a look similar to the man who tried to sell Joker the Bonus Brothers Carnival and Amusement Park in Moore’s story from the ’80s, which clearly teases the tributes to come.
The entire visual aesthetic of the issue is fan service, since we see the carnival boasting a Tunnel of Love, a Hall of Mirrors and the Carousel, all iconic from Moore’s epic. There’s even a beast trapped in a cage, with Joker treating it the same way he did James Gordon after shooting Barbara and imprisoning the Commissioner. The villain delights in the sadism of his latest scheme, even joking this is “a cold dark place where jokes go to die” to a petrified kid. It’s a clear reference to The Killing Joke and when Batman decides to entertain him, he also says, “They really spruced it up since the last time we were here, huh?”