Will Romine reads Batman #13 before he heads out for New York Comic Con;
I have friends. One of those friends was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Batman #13. That friend was also kind enough to let me read it, which means that I no longer have claim over my first born. Oh well, my loss is your gain!
Batman #13 is a landmark issue which ends the year-long absence of the Joker and begins the "Death of the Family" event.
As this issue has not hit stands yet, I will keep this review spoiler free and follow up with more analysis after you've all had a chance to read.
In several interviews and panel appearances, Scott Snyder compares Gotham to a medieval kingdom, Batman to its king, and the Joker to his court jester. However, Mr. Snyder vests more significance to the role of the court jester than that of a dancing monkey. Instead, he explains that "a jester reminds the king of sad news, of the tragedy of his realm, and challenges him with this reality, rather than letting him ignore it." If this analogy will guide this next Bat-Title crossover, I'm curious to see the news tragic enough to draw the Joker back to Gotham City, especially given the year Batman has had with the Court of Owls.
Batman #13 doesn't give any indication of tragic news, but does give us an idea of the tragedy Joker hopes to create. Joker has always targeted members of the Bat-Family as a means to rattle Batman. "Death of the Family" looks at what happens when the Joker attacks the Bat-Family as an end unto itself. In some ways, this feels like an origin story: we are seeing the birth of a new Joker, who may not necessarily play by the rules of the old. As impossible as it sounds, Snyder's Joker is more unsettling and unpredictable than any iteration thus far.
Greg Capullo does an outstanding job on this book's artwork. What struck me most was the way he articulated a special kind of fear into the faces of various characters. I've always believed that nearly every Bat-character is a study of different ways we utilize fear: Batman polices with it, the Scarecrow manufactures it, but only the Joker truly owns it. Any good Batman artist needs to be able to draw distinguishable gradients of fear in character faces. Mr. Capullo is up to the task. When Jim Gordon sees the Joker, it's not the fear he shows for just any old Victor Zsasz or Killer Croc. Instead, it's like the smile a girl saves for that certain, special suitor. Mr. Capullo knows this and doesn't cheapen the Joker's place in Gotham with one-size-fits-all expressions of terror.
My only complaint is that the story would have been better suited for an Annual sized issue. While I'm always glad to get as much plot progression for my $2.99 as possible, I feel that some of the story beats needed room to breathe.
Additionally, I'm curious as to how Snyder plans to link the Joker's role as the bearer of sad tidings with the harm Mr. J intends to inflict on Batman's supporting cast.
I understand that this is the first issue of a multi-title arc. I expect that I will have questions unanswered and even more posed. However, Mr. Snyder does a wonderful job at setting the groundwork for what promises to be a game-changing storyline. Overall, I'd say that this issue is a worthwhile read and will likely lead to a story arc worthy enough to stand beside Death in the Family, Batman: Year One, and other perennial favorites.
I'd like to end this review with these panel from Infinite Crisis.
Now that the Joker has returned, it's his time to play. I can only imagine the games he has in store.