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Comic Book / Joker's Last Laugh

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The Joker: This one'll really kill you!

The Joker's Last Laugh, sometimes simply called The Last Laugh, was a Crisis Crossover DC Comics published in 2001. It was written by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beaty.

In the story, the Joker is told he is dying of an inoperable brain tumor shortly after arriving at the villain prison known as The Slab. He quickly decides to go out with a bang and infects all the other inmates with an insanity virus that also puts them under his control and stages a mass breakout, tossing the prison into another dimension as he does. While the Batfamily and Justice League scramble to contain his malice, the survivors at The Slab work to return it to Earth and world governments panic in fear of the clown's wrath.

But could this really be it for the clown prince of crime?

Tropes for Joker's Last Laugh include:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Joker is outraged when he hears Robin has been killed, wanting to have done the job himself, but when he hears Robin was eaten by Killer Croc, he's amused and impressed with that fate.
    Joker: Boy wonder tartar... I actually don't think I could top that one.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The inmates of the Slab are "Jokerized" after being exposed to a regurgitant (mixed with a heavy anti-psychotic), then a metagene negator, one that had samples of all their DNA (even the Joker's, despite him not being a metahuman) added to it. Somehow, the Joker's DNA results in this mixture becoming a Psycho Serum that transforms all the inmates into twisted versions of themselves. Even non-humans, like Gorilla Grodd and a Dominator, and Metallo (a human brain hermetically sealed in a robot body) are affected.
  • Attempted Rape: Joker believes he wants to continue his own legacy by sending his mooks to kidnap Harley Quinn and bring her to him so he could have an heir by raping her (out of wedlock, by artificial insemination). Fortunately, Spoiler and Batgirl showed up to stop the mooks from capturing Harley.
  • Badass Normal: Spoiler and Batgirl can barely slow down the supervillainesses Joker sent after Harley Quinn, especially the super-speedy Dervish. They only last as long as they do because the villains want to kill them in a funny way and start fighting over how to do that long enough for Power Girl to get there.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Nightwing declares this when he loses control and tries to beat the Joker to death. The Joker got what he wanted, a member of the Batfamily nearly killed him in a fit of rage as his last laugh, his last triumph. Averted in that the Joker is stopped and captured, and Shilo puts him in a cell that monitors his biology for security but doesn't give him a camera, and thus no audience.
  • Batfamily Crossover: While villain-wise it's a Crisis, with the Joker getting dozens brainwashed, the most influential heroes in the plot are all from Gotham. The Joker even intentionally stages the final confrontation in his hometown.
  • Batman Gambit: Played by the Joker. He got a riot going and removed all the shock collars so the guards would have to use the nerve-gas, which he turned into a Psycho Serum that jokerizes all the other villains and puts them under his control. He also has the Arkham Rogues go after Robin to kill him, trying to drive Batman or at least a member of the Batfamily kill him as his real last laugh. Nightwing beats him nearly to death, and only emergency resuscitation (implied to have been from Batman himself) saves Nightwing from being a killer. Nightwing says the Joker won anyway.
  • Betrayal Insurance: When Mister Mind enters Black Mass's braindead body in an attempt to undo the singularity he pulled the slab into, Shilo Norman keeps him from simply taking the villain's body and leaving them behind by tying a piece of dental floss around him.
    Shilo: Think of it as a chicken switch. If Mister Mind tries to ditch us, I yank him out. Or he gets cut in half. Whichever comes first.
  • Blessed with Suck: Multi-Man, one of the Slab inmates whose power is to resurrect when killed and come back with a new power every time. The Joker and his group murder him over and over until they get what they want. Shilo and Dina, the only surviving guard, are forced to keep doing this to him to restore the Slab to the proper dimension, and in the end, he gets some more freedoms as thanks for this.
  • Bullying a Dragon: All of this happened because the doctor who told the Joker he had cancer lied about it to give the Joker a taste of his own medicine.
  • Came Back Strong: Doomsday returns after being rendered a skeleton by Imperiex back in Our Worlds at War, making him stronger and loading him up with new abilities. However, this is also a Came Back Wrong as he also gained intelligence and, with it, the ability to understand fear.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Warp is subjected to this by the Joker while attacking Nightwing.
    Joker: That'll do with the strong-arm stuff, Frenchie. After two world wars, everybody knows that you guys are all talk and no action.
  • Clownification: Joker's rampage begins with him Jokerizing fellow supervillains, making them follow his every command.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: After Nightwing has beaten the Joker to the point when his heart stops beating and he almost dies, Batman arrives to perform CPR on the Clown Prince of Crime in order to keep Nightwing from stooping down to Joker's level as a murderer.
  • Death Montage: There is a montage of the Joker repeatedly murdering Multi-Man—who is reborn with a different superpower every time he dies—until he develops a power useful for the Joker's escape plan.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The doctor who decided to lie and tell the Joker he has cancer really should've thought what he was about to do more before he pulled that stunt.
  • Enemy Mine: Mr. Mind helps Shilo and Dina (the last of the Slab's guards) return the Slab to reality, since he wants to get back there too.
    • Harley Quinn also teams up with the heroes to help create an antidote to the "Jokerizing" gas, as she's furious at Mistah J's attempting to rape her (via artificial insemination) to produce an heir without marrying her first.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • The Joker's response to the Aryan group in the Slab's mess hall, saying they're "just mean."
    • The Joker is disgusted when some of his gang vandalise one of the Moai on Easter Island, even asking them if they know how long it took the natives to carve them. He quickly changes his mind though.
  • Five Stages of Grief: The doctors and guards of the Slab get worried when the Joker seemingly goes through them in five minutes after being told of his tumor. This being the Joker, it's hard to tell if he faked it or not.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: While the plot moves rather quickly, we do have to contend with The Joker's plot, the Batfamily's plot, The Slab plot, and the reactions of the world to the other three.
  • Godzilla Threshold:
    • Oracle justifies bringing Huntress on board despite Batman's dislike of her because they need everyone right now.
    • Other heroes note it too.
    Black Canary: You don't understand...he's dying...inoperable tumor...
    Batman: Dying.
    Nightwing: All bets are off.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The doctor who lies to Joker about his tumor was hoping to make the Clown Prince of Crime feel regret and remorse for the first time in his life. The Joker does end up feeling sorry about something...sorry that he hasn't absolutely destroyed society. He decides to do so as his "final joke." Nice going, Doc.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: The premise of the story is that a doctor misdiagnoses the Joker with cancer, with the idea that the Clown Prince might reflect on his mortality and change his ways if he believes he has a potentially fatal disease. Instead, the Joker prepares an even bigger crime scheme than usual.
  • I Lied: The doctor who told The Joker about the tumor was playing a mean joke on Joker to see if it might make him feel remorse. Black Canary notes this lie might have doomed them all.
  • Induced Hypochondria: The whole plot kicks off because a doctor lies to the Joker and makes him think he has cancer.
  • Joker Immunity: The Joker reacts to seemingly losing his by making sure he'll leave his mark. It's still intact, the doctor lied.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The doctor who lied about the Joker having a tumor naturally had this reaction upon seeing what the Joker did.
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • Oracle, who feels this was because she let herself have one night to not compulsively watch the Joker at prison, leading to a substandard first response the clown took advantage of.
    • Nightwing, for killing the Joker when he thought Robin was dead. Even though the Joker was resuscitated, he still blames himself for the loss of control, since that was what Joker wanted.
  • Mythology Gag: A few times to DC Comics events and movies.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: A doctor decided that lying to the Joker and telling him he has cancer to give him a taste of his own medicine was a good idea. Given that this is why the Joker decides to go on his rampage, saying this move was "ill-advised" is a huge understatement.
  • Oh, Crap!: Pretty much everyone's reaction to hearing the Joker's been told he's dying.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When the Joker realizes that somehow, after all the chaos he's unleashed, he's now the straight man.
  • Power Levels: Discussed when Harley Quinn is attacked by some of the jokerized supervillains. The only heroines close enough for Oracle to send right away are Spoiler and Batgirl. Oracle is reluctant and warns the girls to be careful, and the villainesses are "out of their weight class". Sure enough the girls stay on the ropes until Power Girl shows up. It's implied that the Joker himself is considered above-level for the younger members of the Batfamily.
  • President Evil: Subverted. This took place when Lex Luthor was president, but in the story proper, he has no effect on the plot beyond authorizing a shoot to kill order for any troops who see the Joker. That said, in one of the tie-ins issues, Superman (volume 2) #175, Luthor did a few more President Evil hijinks: After the Joker unleashed a jokerized Doomsdaynote  on Superman, he almost killed Superman when he locked him in a box full of synthetic kryptonite alongside Doomsday (Black Lightning, then Luthor's Secretary of Education, revived him), and then SOLD that monster to Darkseid as the price of the New God's help against Imperiex. He also got jokerized and then proceeded to start his re-election campaign early, and almost brought nuclear megadeath to everyone if not for Superman restraining him.
  • Psycho Serum: Whatever the Joker doused the Slab inmates with. It makes them look like him and drives them mad like typical Joker venom does, but also puts them under his control somehow. He later does the same to various civilian populations with "crazy rain" and then to Arkham Asylum.
  • Red Skies Crossover: Lampshaded when the Joker wondered why the sky is clear. Additionally, while the tie-in issues of Nightwing, Robin, and Birds of Prey were important, the others were basically "Jokerizied villain vs. the hero of the title".
  • Rescue Equipment Attack: When Shilo Norman is attacked by King Shark, he uses a fire extinguisher to cover the villain's gills with foam, leaving him struggling to breathe.
  • Shout-Out: Joker quips at one point that soon he'll be "deader than Pokémon."
  • Slave to PR: Nightwing points out to Oracle that, as much as they hate the Joker, they aren't cops or soldiers. Society would stop tolerating superheroes and masked vigilantes if they started using lethal force.
  • Straight Man: While surrounded by Jokerized supervillains, the Joker realizes "I'm becoming the straight man of the act."
  • Terminally-Ill Criminal: A doctor fakes the Joker's diagnosis —about having terminal cancer— on the theory that terminal cancer might force him to confront his own mortality and re-assess his life. Instead, it inspires him to go on a cross-country rampage. His goal is either to annihilate society or make damned sure he will be forever remembered as one of history's greatest monsters. He gets very damned close to doing so, too.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Joker finally gets Nightwing to break this rule when the latter is led to believe that Tim Drake was killed in the chaos. Because Joker Immunity is very much in effect, Batman revives him with CPR.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When the riot begins, the warden of the Slab, Zimmer, believes he and his guards can convince the inmates (most of whom are powerful metahumans) to surrender by the use of rubber bullets and tasers. After the inmates are "Jokerized", Zimmer is killed off-panel.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Nightwing nearly kills Joker in a fit of rage after he thinks that Drake is dead.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Killer Frost closes Power Girl in with ice to try and make the latter panic due to her claustrophobia, which Phobia teases her over. Power Girl reveals she's had therapy about it, and can handle her fear now, busting out and flooring her opponents.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: While getting brutally beaten by Nightwing, the Joker gives one of his best lines ever.
    Joker: Oh geez. I hit Jason harder than that. His name was Jason, right?
  • You Are in Command Now: Shilo, formerly the second Mister Miracle, is promoted to head of the Slab when the Joker's first attack kills a bunch of other employees. He later becomes Warden for real at the end.