Things get twisted in Batman #16, which is what you’d expect with the Joker at the controls of Arkham Asylum.
It feels like were finally seeing what Scott Snyder meant when he said this series would be “the biggest, craziest, most twisted Joker story I could possibly tell” and that it was something he’d “been building in my head ever since I started working in Gotham.” When the Court of Owls ran Batman through their gauntlet it was creative, original, and twisted (literally, and I loved it) but here Snyder has raised the stakes even higher. It’s haunting. It’s warped. And most of all, it’s personal. The Joker calls Arkham Batman’s “castle” but it feels more like a temple, this weird perverted temple the Joker has built for Batman.
This is Snyder and Capullo at the top of their game.
A meeting between Batman and the Joker in Arkham isn’t exactly original, but it works perfectly here. If Snyder is going to play up the Joker as having some misplaced fixation with Batman, considering him a king and him his jester, than any other place for a Bat-castle would seem to make less sense. Batman even reminds himself, “You know this place, inside and out.” Because again, it’s personal.
Of course if there is any place the Joker also knows well, it’s Arkham.
Just how the Joker was able to keep it under his control for so long without anyone noticing will probably remain a mystery and really becomes a moot point compared to what he has waiting for Bats inside. The dancing guards, the horse on fire, the “royal knights,” the human quilt – this is about as nuthouse as you can get. And it gives Capullo and the rest of the art team a chance to flex their creative muscles. In fact, this might be the artistic height of the whole series. If Snyder’s script wasn’t enough it’s visual interpretation is like icing on the top of a really good tasting cake.
And to see Snyder tapping into a really angry Batman is just fun.
I mean, he punches a freaking horse.
Then rides it.
So in one issue we get a horse completely on fire and another one completely frozen.
The rest of the art is like flipping through a Batman candy catalog. Capullo and the rest of the art team give us their Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, Clayface, Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, and a fake hostage Justice League (I guess Green Lantern and Aquaman just run off? Did you see Joker snap Wonder Woman’s neck?). The attention to detail is impressive too, especially the decay of Joker’s face getting worse with each issue, this time attracting flies.
Death of the Family concludes with the next issue of Batman and to Snyder’s credit this is about as good of a build up to a grand finale as there can be. I honestly don’t know what’s next. The DC solicits seem to hint at a death but we know it’s not Dick, Barbara, Damian, or Jason, so no one in the videos the Joker shows Batman, but come on…were smart enough to know the answer won’t be that easy. Maybe Alfred does bite the dust, what a way that would be to reveal you know Batman’s secret. Maybe it’s Thomas Wayne Jr. Maybe it’s Bruce’s parents dug up. Maybe it’s Titus, Damian’s dog. That would be pretty sick. Whatever it is, or whatever is on that silver platter the Joker has, it’s going to be creepy.
Perhaps the only downside to the whole issue is the backup. It’s always a curious decision to me when a backup continues the issue’s story but switches creators, seems to stunt a bit of the momentum. Especially here when the timing doesn’t entirely add up. I guess there is about a minute or two that passes because the gate is lifted and Batman’s face is covered. So much for wondering what happens to Batman at the end – he gets covered and the bad guys talk for a bit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great read and leads to a stunning cliffhanger, it just made for a jolt in the reading.
Batman #16 delivers. When I first heard the Joker was returning and that Snyder and Capullo were taking a shot at him this was the level of crazy I’m sure everyone expected. If your going to play with Arkham it should be dark and terrifying. And this was just that. I’m not sure what were in for with the next issue but count me in as very, very, excited.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|An issue worth of the hype that Joker’s return generated. Great script, great art, great cliffhanger, and Batman punches a horse.||If the backup continues the story is it really a backup?|