This comic-book issue by Grant Morrison is quite different to other comics. It’s not really a comic, but rather a thrity page prose-short story. The poetic allegories make it very hard to understand what’s going on, that’s why Batman # 663 tore the fanbase apart. The pictures, which look like taken from a Playstation One game, are there to help the reader understanding the story.
At a cemetary in a cold autumn’s/ winter’s day, the funeral for Bozo, one of the Joker’s best henchman, takes place. Bozo’s colleagues, eight clowns, all priorly have been working for the Joker, carry the coffin that’s covered in red and black roses, when suddenly the Joker venom spreads out, killing everybody. Batman immediately suspects the Joker of the deed, who is still recovering in Arkham since the fake- Batman has shot him in the face (The story takes place three months after this event). The Joker is unable to speak (despite having had a spech therapist for three months), and only gives a morse-code with his fingers: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Because of her name (Wisakedjak) the speech therapist is unmasked as Harley Quinn. Meanwhile, another of the Joker’s henchmen, a midget called Solomon, also gets killed. Again, red and black roses are involved. His fiancè, Sheba, also a midget (you may remember them as the midgets the Joker used to taunt in “The Killing Joke“) is kidnapped by Harley Quinn.
The Joker meanwhile prepares for his metamorphosis. Morrison suggests, that the Joker has no definite personality, and changes throughout time. That’s the best characterisation the character has got in his 70 years-history. It explains his every motivation, his every being. So, now it’s time for the Joker’s next metamorphosis. He is like a larve. To become what he wants to become, he wants to kill his previous henchmen. The red and black roses spread the Joker venom. Red and Black… Get it?
The Joker breaks out of his cell in Arkham and wants to kill Harley, who doesn’t understand. Then the Batman arrives, confronting his arch nemesis. The rebirth is almost complete, The Joker is almost fully the “Thin White Duke of Death” (a reference to David Bowie’s thin White Duke)
Despite the Joker having wanted to kill her right before, and is now dealing with the Batman rather then with her, Harley is still madly in love with the clownprince of crime, but hinders him of leaving Arkham by shooting him (love hurts...). The story ends with Batman putting the Joker back in his cell.
Despite the ongoing poetry, which makes it difficult to understand the story, the “comic” is pretty straight forward. We not only get one of the best Joker characterisations of all time, but also get to know Sheba’s name. The little midgeon only had two/ three appearences prior to this, but she has been very memorable to fans.
The fake name Harley has been using during her sessions with the Joker, Wisakedjak, is the name of one of the gods of the Cree-Indians. He is the god of tricks and betrayal.
Red and black, symbols for life and death, incorporated in Harley Quinn’s costume, are going to be a recurrent theme in Morrison’s run.