Friday, January 18, 2013

Death of the Family Part 13: Batman #16

This is the setup everyone needed to know about. Clearly, all the Bat-family's crossovers are coming back to one page in particular and teasing Batman #17, but before that issue comes out, Issue #16 has to set the stage.

And that's what this story does, and oh man, does it do it well.

Batman's story here starts in Arkham Asylum where he's working to find the Joker in this realm of madness, only to find all the inmates being forced to dance in Joker and Batman garb at the risk of an electrical current running through the water covering the floor.

Every single scene here works brilliantly as Batman searches for the Joker. Batman is portrayed properly - understanding the seriousness of the situation and going no-nonsense the whole time - and Joker is just teasing him with terrifying twist after terrifying twist.

I especially love the callback to the Dollmaker, showing once again that Scott Snyder knows how to utilize Tony Daniel's ideas better than Tony Daniel. It took me a few looks to fully grasp what I was seeing, but when I did I was genuinely horrified, which is the Joker's game plan here it seems.

I'm Batman. And I punch horses to
control them.
Actually, outside of the scene where Batman punches the horse (it makes sense in context) and the horse that's on fire, nothing seems like it was shoehorned in to be forced cruelty or badassery. And even the horse things aren't that bad, especially when weighed against the Dollmaker tribute.

The whole thing is a real chess match. Batman knows what to do when Joker's challenges come up and defeats them even easier than Joker would hope, but Joker stays a step ahead and Batman stays in reactionary mode.

Multiple rogues are brought back, such as Mr. Freeze (who should have gotten dialogue if he was being used at all) and Clayface (who probably shouldn't have been used at all) to varying success, but the whole thing really has the feel I think Joker has been eliciting this whole time, so I'm able to live with it.

Batman reaches his showdown with Joker, who is surrounded by Penguin, Riddler and Two-Face as kind of a royal court, as Joker proceeds to torment people dressed in... well, dressed in a way that just adds that little extra piece of emotional torment to Batman's psyche.

Besides the brilliance of that scene, then we get to a weird moment. I'm not sure why Batman would sit in the chair when he can clearly see why it would be a bad idea to sit there. Not even a token Batarang throw, really?

Also, I get the fact that Joker's face is decomposing, but I wanted to vomit a couple of times looking at this thing. After this arc ends, I don't know how but they need to re-add his skin. Much more of this and I won't be able to stomach Joker stories anymore.

The backup is really good as well, showing Joker sees Riddler as the biggest threat to his plans, as he can outthink him. This is a good way to set up the impending threat in the next arc.

Sadly, what is gained for Riddler is lost for Two-Face, who is treated like a glorified errand boy and a joke in this part of the story. It's actually really sad to see how badly Two-Face has been treated in the New 52. TDK calls him "One-Face" and puts him in stupid nonsense; Detective puts him in a just awful backup piece about getting his job back (more stupid nonsense); and here he's the idiot in a group of four major rogues.

But while it sucks to be Dent, it does not suck to be the reader, as the final pages tease what is to come in the finale. I have no idea what it will be, but I will enjoy speculating. It kind of sucks for Batman, and it really will if Alfred or a Bat-family member gets ostracized or killed here, but Snyder has a plan clearly here and I'm looking forward to the conclusion here, its aftermath (specifically the return of Harper Row) and the Riddler storyline in a few months.

But hey, one thing at a time.

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