This is the best of the three DC Super Villains titles I’ve looked at from Capstone’s new illustrated chapter series.
Joker, in a typically wacky but lethal scheme, tricks sailors on board a Wayne Enterprises ship into “rescuing” him. He promptly repays the favor by pirating their ship. Joker enjoys his new acquisition, and makes sure he’s dressed for the part, complete with eye-patch and robotic parrot. But he soon returns to his diabolical scheme – using the ship’s cargo of firecrackers and explosives to destroy Batman! Batman and Robin initially avoid injury, but Joker manages to trap them both – Batman in the hold and Robin dangling from a cargo hook. Joker forces Robin to walk the plank then hurries back to the locked cargo hold to gloat over Batman…who has disappeared! Batman reappears after his escape and he and Joker have a spirited battle until Robin turns the tables on Joker. In the end, Joker escapes – but the Dynamic Duo are safe and the people of Gotham still get their firework display!
The artwork is colorful and exciting and, best of all, fits in smoothly with the text. I’ve noticed in several other titles in Capstone’s DC Super Heroes books that the art is badly aligned – showing events that haven’t happened yet in the text or don’t match the text. This artwork is laid out perfectly, either accompanying or following the action so it doesn’t give anything away. The pictures focus on Joker of course, but there are appearances of Batman and Robin as well and all the pictures have interesting details and lots of action.
As in the other titles, the book contains a profile of the villain, discussion questions, and writing prompts. I do think it’s a bit odd to ask students “What could Joker have done differently to change the book’s outcome? What mistakes did he make?” so in essence you’re asking kids to, uh, kill Batman and Robin…but most kids will enjoy coming up with diabolical schemes for Joker to test on the Dynamic Duo.
Although this is a beginning chapter book with limited vocabulary and sentence structure, it does a great job of putting across Joker’s insane personality and keeps his scheme a mystery until the finale. Joker is so well done he’s rather creepy, as he should be and his wild changes of mood and action show off his maniacal energy.
If you want to test out this series on the kids at your library, start with this one. Popular characters, good writing, and interesting illustrations should make it a hit with kids who like superheroes – and villains.
DC Super Villains: Joker on the High Seas
by J. E. Bright
Art by Shawn McManus
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12