Thursday, November 15, 2012

Death of the Family Part 3: Batman #14

I think it's safe to say that all three of these books will be nearly sold out of most stores by the time they all open tomorrow morning.

Heck, I had to go to multiple stores to find Suicide Squad, and that one is of the least consequence in the crossover this week.

The proper reading order for these three issues is Batgirl, Batman and Suicide Squad, but I'll review Batman first since that is the one I know you're opening this page to see.

Batman #14

Really, what the hell else can I say that isn't already plastered on a million other sites? I'm glad I saved this book for last because I had my fill of reading material after reading this one; nothing was topping it.

It's like when Shawn Michaels had his WrestleMania match with Bret Hart and he yelled "Top that!" to his wrestling brethren when he went to the back, only to remember that he was the main event.

Yes, Scott Snyder is the Shawn Michaels of Batman writers right now. If you thought that the hype of this being the next great Batman-Joker story was overblown, you are really hoping for an awful payoff now because this was a home run in every sense of the term.

The book opens with Batman trying to make a daring escape from the clutches of Harley Quinn, only to lead to a chilling scene where Bruce is wandering his mansion, getting progressively unsettled every second that he can't find Alfred.

The audio tape and the art around it really captures the pathos Snyder was going for and Greg Capullo should be given a freaking medal for his work on this one.

Every scene hit. The attack on Gordon, the dialogue with Nightwing, and especially the rehashing of the first Joker-Dynamic Duo clash ever were brilliantly executed. I especially love how Joker pointed out he knew how the first mission went so well that he just skipped to the end of the clash ahead of time.

But what I think really hits the mark in this book is that Snyder truly understands the Batman-Joker relationship. Joker's relationship with Batman is that of a jester to a king. Batman wants to achieve perfect order in his society and Joker is trying to show him how pathetically wrong he is.

It's a misstep that even Jim Gordon in this book can't pinpoint. It's not that Joker is chaos or even that he desires to spread it - both Batman movies with Joker missed this as well. Those are all fun side plots in his ultimate goal: To corrupt the Bat.

The two are extremes that exist because of each other. Each wants to break the other's will; Batman won't kill, so he just hopes that Joker just breaks down mentally, while Joker will kill or do anything to make Batman break his code or just recognize the futility of his struggle.

I've only encountered three stories that ever truly understood this: The Killing Joke, The Dark Knight Returns and A Death in the Family. In the first, Joker tried to break Batman by breaking the will of his closest ally, Commissioner Gordon; the third showed him trying to break Batman by killing his partner in hopes of driving him to homicidal rage; and the second showed the Joker literally ceasing to function until Batman was available to fight again.

Snyder has the understanding of this character down, and Capullo is doing amazing at conveying both emotion as well as how grotesque Joker's face is now that it's back on him.

The back-up story is a great escalation as well, as Joker brings Penguin in to set up another element of his plan. It's a great scene, and although I've seen some who love this back-up and others who are lukewarm to it, let me say that I'm in the camp that loves it and wants to see where it goes.

Overall, the next three issues of Batman should be amazing. If you can get involved with this book, I'd seek out Batman #13 (which just released a second print with an equally awesome cover) and this one. Waiting for a trade paperback will be a disservice to you.

This is a must-buy for anyone who ever enjoyed a Batman vs. Joker story.

Batgirl and Suicide Squad reviews are next up. Stay tuned! And follow me at my page at

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