The long awaited and much anticipated return of the the Joker in Batman #13, kicking off the crossover arc Death of the Family, turns out to be more than worth the wait.
The last time we really saw the Joker was back in Detective Comics #1 at the launch of the New 52 when he (now famously) had his face cut off. Since then he’s been MIA. The lack of any follow up was a bit puzzling and for some even a bit gimmicky (I mean, why tease us with something as striking as the Joker getting his face cut off just to never mention it again?). If this was the plan though, for Snyder and Capullo to pick up the baton a year later in Batman, and if this issue is any indication of how Death of the Family is going to be, than we might be at the begging of some epic Batman storytelling.
From the very start of this issue the tone has changed since the conclusion of the Night of the Owls. Commissioner Gordon’s parody introduction eerily foreshadows whats to come while Capullo’s art tells it’s own story of literally whats to come as the Joker makes his way towards the city. And the following scene of the Joker terrorizing Gordon in the police department taking out his officers in the dark one by one, while distinctive, is straight out of a freaking horror movie.
What makes it even more unnerving, something I didn’t notice until a repeat read, the dead bodies are directly next to Gordon when the lights come on. So the Joker must have been doing all that neck breaking right next to him.
It’s no surprise that Snyder is comfortable in the suspense and horror genre or that the Joker works so well in it, I think what stands out here is the unique handling of it all, it’s the right amount of familiarness and originality. The Joker airing a message on TV, leaving clues for Batman, targeting Gordon (something that’s always gotten me, the Joker’s attraction to torturing that poor man), the toxin, meeting Batman in the chemical factory – it all reeks of the Joker. And the scenes like the opening one, using his own arms for John Claridge in the TV broadcast, not going after the mayor, and going for Alfred is a great contrast.
And the icing on the cake of all this originality and overall disturbing ambiance is Capullo’s art. Capullo has been setting the artistic bar pretty high ever since debuting on this book but this seems to be pushing his envelope in a new direction. There aren’t any car chases or double-page spread battle scenes, instead Capullo’s strength is in his subtlety. The attention to detail, the panel layouts, gift wrapping nightmarish images of the Joker not by full on reveals (which we do get) but with slivers of him here and there, a single eye or teethy smile in the background. Despite missing the scale I usually enjoy from Capullo artistically this is one of my favorite issues of his so far.
The ending/double cliffhanger is great too.
I expected Harley to make her way into the story but not this quickly. And the backup, although really short on story, offers some great insight not just into the relationship between her and “Mr. J” or how she fits into the story but the level of extreme were seeing from the Joker right now. If Harley is scared, stands a reason that something is different.
And Alfred. This is interesting. Not only is Alfred about as sacred as it comes but it also hints at the Joker having some inside knowledge not yet discussed in the New 52. I’ve thought for some time that the Joker knows Batman’s identity and just doesn’t care, there are hints throughout their history, but this is the New 52 AND a personal attack on not just Batman but Bruce.
Which is what makes this story so
exciting horrifying so far. It seems personal.
The Joker hunts down Gordon, teases at the stalking of him and Barbara (even mentioning that he sleeps under Gordon’s bed), repeating some of his first acts as Joker, meeting Batman at the original chemical plant, dressing up Harley as the Red Hood, and attacking Alfred, calling him by name. It all seems so personal. Something the Joker usually isn’t.
The team on Batman will have everyone’s attention again because this is one heck of a single issue and beginning to a fresh event. I’m not sure if it’s my favorite of this team’s so far, Batman #5 was pretty freaking great, but this makes it pretty clear why this is one of the best selling comics right now.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|The art’s great, the story is chilling (as a good Joker one should be) and I CAN’T WAIT for the next issue. What else can a comic do?||Not what I expected really and the face reveal is a little weak – it doesn’t look THAT different from the normal Joker face – still, this is good Batman comic booking right here.|