The Three Jokers: What We Know So Far
It was way back in 2015's Justice League: The Darkseid Warthat Batman first learned the truth about Joker. After temporarily bonding with Metron's Mobius Chair and gaining cosmic omniscience, Batman attempted to solve the one mystery he's never been able to crack. What is the Joker's true identity? To his surprise, the chair couldn't answer that question, because there are actually three Jokers.
That mystery continued into the pages of DC Universe Rebirth #1, as Batman began to piece together the evidence that he's actually been battling three Jokers all this time. Unfortunately, that investigation got put on the back burner in favor ofBatman and Flash's hunt for the elusive Doctor Manhattan. In the four years since, no DC books have really picked up the loose end that is the three Jokers. Until now, anyway.
The first issue establishes the personalities and group dynamics of these three different Jokers. There's "The Criminal," the original, more sinister Joker featured in early Golden Age stories like 1940's Batman #1, and the one who considers himself the ringleader of the trio. There's "The Clown," the campier Joker of DC's Silver Age Batman comics and the one responsible for killing Jason Todd in 1988's Batman: A Death in the Family. And finally, there's "The Comedian," the modern incarnation of Joker and the one who shot Barbara Gordon in 1988's Batman: The Killing Joke.
While the series has yet to definitively reveal how these Jokers came to be and who they might have been originally, there are hints regarding their ultimate plan. The Clown reveals his desire to "make a better Joker," with all three Jokers kidnapping criminals from halfway houses across the city and dosing them with Joker toxin. The implication is that there may be even more than three Jokers. Joker himself may be bigger than any one person - more of a self-replicating and self-improving virus that infects newer and more terrible hosts.
Jason Todd's Darkest Secret
Three Jokers is ultimately a story about surviving trauma. Batman, Red Hood, and Batgirl are positioned as the main three protagonists because each carries the physical and emotional scars of their encounters with the Jokers. The opening sequence lingers on the many scars covering Bruce Wayne's battered and battle-worn body, many of which came from one Joker or another.
We also see the scar on Barbara's back, a terrible reminder of her ordeal in The Killing Joke. And while Jason has physically healed from his near-death experience, the psychological scars remain as fresh as ever. Having caught on to the fact that there are three Jokers, Jason is all the more determined to finally end the Clown Prince of Crime's reign of terror.
In the climax of issue #1, Batgirl and Red Hood guard a captive Clown while Batman leaves to hunt down the Comedian. The Clown taunts Jason with memories of their fateful encounter before finally revealing Jason's darkest and most humiliating secret - he begged for his life while Joker was beating him to death with a crowbar. He even offered to switch allegiances and become Joker's Robin instead. The Clown also reveals he intended for Jason to survive that attack, knowing it would only cause more pain for both Batman and Robin down the road.
The Death of a Joker
This taunting proves too much for Jason, who finally snaps and unloads his gun on the Clown. Batgirl tries to deflect the gun with a Batarang, but she misses. Red Hood finally succeeds in doing what Batman could never quite bring himself to do, shooting Joker through the head.
Jason is satisfied that there's one less Joker around to terrorize Gotham, while Barbara is disgusted with him for losing control. But as he leaves, Jason taunts Barbara with the reminder that she usually never misses her Batarang throws. Did she subconsciously allow Joker to die?
We'll have to wait until issue #2 to learn what the remaining two Jokers have planned and how Batman will react to Red Hood's act of murder. But if this opening chapter is anything to go by, there may be plenty more Jokers to replace the one Jason just killed.