Let’s get one thing out of the way. The one thing working against this story is that, like “Doomsday Clock”, it has experienced multiple delays. Forcing it to be printed under the Black Label and it in continuity limbo. While the ongoing “Death Metal” has seemingly explained why certain stories like Doomsday Clock have been unconnected to the larger universe, Johns has also stated that if fans and the executives want it to be canon then it will be. Honestly, that is the best we can hope for right now.
But with that done, let me list everything I liked. The art is beautiful, no question about it. I also like how it honors and respects the Killing Joke’s core essence by still ultimately having most of the Joker’s (or Jokers in this case) be ambiguous and unknown. Also love the presentation of each different Joker, paying homage to the different eras of DC Comics. Golden Age criminal, Silver Age clown, and Bronze/Modern Age comedian. The use of Joe Chill in this story is also a major highlight, finally having Batman move past the death of his parents and finally forgive their murderer.
Now, the stuff most people are probably split on. While I do agree Batgirl could have been used a little more effectively, I do like using her as a contrast with Jason Todd. Showing how 2 people traumatized by the Joker have had different reactions to deal with their pain. As someone who has always preferred Jason/Red Hood as more of a genuine villain (like in the Under the Red Hood story arc), I liked his portrayal here. But yea, the kiss thing was a little weird. I get what they were going for, showing how sometimes people recovering from trauma confuse their emotions and doing something they didn’t mean to do. But that doesn’t mean I want THAT mature activity involving those 2 in my head. Still, not as bad and wrong as what the animated movie “The Killing Joke” did though.
Speaking of Jason, I get why some people are confused by the way Jason tried to deliver that note to Barbara, which she will never get. But I like to see it as Jason’s subconscious effort to not move forward with his life, despite his letter claiming that is something he wants to do. Besides, it showed he was doing it for the wrong reasons anyway. Part of him influenced the sloppy way he tried to deliver it because he knows he can never truly do that, especially for someone who clearly isn’t reciprocating the same romantic feelings.
Another interesting parallel with “Doomsday Clock”, this story seems to bring in a little light to the original Alan Moore story. That reveal at the end I thought was surprising but ultimately good. The whole Bruce knew all along thing but still not saying his name is understandably frustrating for some people. In universe, that could be explained that it is a side effect of Manhattan messing with the DC Universe. Similar to how Superboy Prime’s punches brought Jason Todd back to life. But I’m all right with that.
Ultimately, while not flawless, I found this story to be great and a lot of fun and intriguing. While not exactly breaking new ground, it does leave itself open to multiple interpretations that can enrich the Batman mythos anyway anyone sees fit. I think over time, once we decide whether or not this should be canon or standalone (like how the Killing Joke was originally intended), this story will gain more popularity and appreciation.