Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, James Tynion IV, Jock
Death of the Family Crossover
Spoiler alert! You have been warned!
How this issue did not come with a warning label is beyond me. In fact, how this whole series has not been given a mature rating shocks me. But that’s not a complaint. It’s darker, grittier, scarier, and better than ever with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo at their respective bests. The Joker’s dialogue and fly-covered face are enough to give you nightmares, but this team of writer and artist almost make the reader smell and hear the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s stories like this that make you want to check underneath your bed at night before you go to sleep.
We start a deeply disturbing introduction scene, where Batman is entering Arkham Asylum just in time to see the guards dressed up as Batmans and Jokers, dancing the dance of death for the Joker’s amusement and Batman’s honor. After he saves them, Bats is ambushed by the inmates who have been armed and armored by Joker. After he defeats them, he witnesses the bodies of other guards and inmates and God knows who else sewn together by the Dollmaker (you know, the guy who convinced Joker to cut his own face off over a year ago?), making a tapestry of Batman’s greatest defeats at the hands of his nemesis. Then we get a neat little montage of Batman fighting Mr. Freeze, Clayface, and Scarecrow with relative ease, as per usual. But the true gem of this issue is the culmination of Joker’s recruiting and blackmailing schemes. The introduction of the “Royal Court,” as he puts it, which features Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, and of course, the Joker himself. Batman tries to save the rest of the prisoners, dressed up as his friends from the Justice League, from being killed off one by one by the Joker in some equally rigged and metaphoric “Sword in the Stone” game of chance. But he is forced to look upon the monitors showing that what Joker has done to his each of Bruce’s beloved family. Batgirl, Nightwing, Robin, Red Hood, Red Robin, and the rest of the gang look like they’ve certainly seen better days. And that’s when Joker offers Batman his ultimatum: He can save them or leave them and embrace who he really is destined to be, at least, in the Joker’s mind. Which is the epitome of a double-edged sword, because Joker is bat-shit crazy and no one really ever knows what the hell he’s talking about, including Batman.
This issue contains a cliffhanger ending in both the main feature and the backup story. The main story ends with Batman reluctantly sitting on his “throne,” which is an electric chair, which Joker of course turns on. But the backup takes place immediately following the main story. In said backup, writer James Tynion IV and artist Jock really ramp up an already excellent issue with their contributions. I’d even argue that the backup is better than the main feature, if that’s even possible. Jock’s version of the Joker might actually be my favorite interpretation of the character, well… ever. This is coming from a lifelong Batman fan. And there is an exchange between the Joker and Two-Face that shows that Tynion really gets the characters, not just as a fan, but a respectable writer. I’ve seen dialogue like this before, but it’s usually from veteran Bat writers. Not new guys. The cliffhanger ending, which we will see many variations of this month, will leave fans salivating and debating for an entire thirty days, myself included. Joker will not let Penguin, Riddler, and Two-Face go just yet, but he whets their appetite with what he calls “dinner,” which is a serving platter, the size of, oh, I don’t know, a head, dripping with blood. Which begs the question: Who did he kill this time? Buy this issue. And read it. Twice.
My Rating: 5/5