All dogs are good dogs…but what if they work for Batman’s scheming arch-nemesis, the Joker?

Yep. Still good dogs.

Barkham Asylum, written and illustrated by Yehudi Mercado, introduces middle-grade readers to the henchpets of Gotham City’s most notorious super-villains. From Bane’s bulldog to Two-Face’s cat to Scarecrow’s, well, crow, each pet is perfectly paired with their person. But then there’s Jester, the Joker’s dog. They share a love of making others laugh, but the similarities end there. Is Jester meant to be part of another pack?

This hilarious graphic novel is all about finding out where you belong, even if it takes a few tries to get it right. Kids will love the action-packed panels and animal antics, and older DC fans will get a kick out of the amusing inside jokes Mercado sprinkles throughout the book. Let’s take a quick tour of Barkham Asylum!

A watchdog for the Joker and his colorful gang, Jester believes Joker is a comedian, not a criminal, and he’s happy to be part of his pack. The naïve pupper passes the time during a lookout one night by telling his own groanworthy jokes. He overhears actual laughter and follows the sound to meet Penny, a streetwise and crabby cat.

When Batman and the Gotham City PD foil the Joker’s big plans, Jester and Penny get caught up in the cleanup. They’re both sent to the maximum-security pound for super-villain pets, Barkham Asylum. (Of course, the pets have their own version of Arkham. It only makes sense.) But when they get there, the good-natured Jester discovers there’s something sinister going on behind the scenes. Cats and dogs usually get along together like, well, Batman and the Joker, but can Jester and Penny put aside their differences to uncover the dark secrets of Barkham Asylum?

There’s more than just a mystery to be found inside this colorful new graphic novel. Jester meets the beloved companions of Batman’s rogue’s gallery and each one of them is a delight. Mercado has a talent for puns and comedy, reflected in the henchpets’ clever names. There’s Flip, Two-Face’s cat; Flora, Poison Ivy’s dog; and Diamond, Harley Quinn’s hyena.

And then there’s the shadowy scientist, Dr. Hugo Mange, whose name alone made me giggle. Keep an eye out for other DC cameos, from the Flying Graysons, to one of the rocket-wielding penguins from Batman Returns, to Bruce Wayne himself. And may I just say, Bruce’s appreciation for a pet talent show feels completely in-character for the broody bachelor.

Over time, Jester finds a sense of belonging with Flora, Diamond and the other good boys and girls of Barkham Asylum that he never quite felt with his old gang. These henchpets might look tough, but they want nothing more than the chance to visit their persons. (Super-villains give their pets good scritches, too.) Even Penny, a cranky loner, starts to feel like part of Jester’s pack. It’s a heartwarming lesson for young readers that a found family can be found anywhere—sometimes where you least expect it.

Barkham Asylum is a lighthearted look at life in Gotham City from a pet’s perspective. Jester and Penny are playful, charming and entertaining, and I hope we get to see them in action again soon. If your kids were big fans of 2022’s DC League of Super-Pets, you’ve just found their new favorite book!

Barkham Asylum by Yehudi Mercado is now available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and digital retailers.

Kelly Knox writes about all-ages comics and animation for, and is the author of several nonfiction books about some of your favorite film franchises. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk superheroes, comics and pop culture.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Kelly Knox and do not necessarily reflect those of DC or Warner Bros. Discovery, nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.