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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Batman #17


Honestly, I wasn't digging Death of the Family overall. It was the inverse of Court of Owls; I loved Court all the way through but the ending and shocking twist left me cold. With Death of the Family, despite the great horror opening of the Joker stalking and killing though Gotham Police headquarters and some cool high points (yes, Batman punching a horse), I wasn't as enamored with the story. Scott Snyder's take on The Joker, a cross between Mark Hamill's manic, animated clown and the weirdly homosexually-fixated Frank Miller Dark Knight Returns version with all his talk of "darling" and "you love meeee the mosssst, Batssss" grated on me. Just not a take on Joker I enjoy.

However, in reverse of how I felt about Court of Owls, I thought Snyder stuck the landing. Batman #17, the conclusion to the saga, was gangbusters good. Snyder pulled it all together, with some nifty slight of hand on the Bat Family and on the readers. Snyder and Greg Capullo delivered, by my count, FOUR huge, gasp-worthy moments. They really had me going with each veritable slap to the face. There's one page in particular with what may well be the sickest visual ever depicted in Batman that honestly made me wonder, "How the fuck did DC allow this? And how can they fix it?!?"

Spoiler Below: Highlight text to read

The Joker cut off Damian, Batgirl, Nightwing, Red Hood and Tim Drake's faces just like he cut off his own. Snyder and Capullo throw you for a loop, thinking this is for real until the big relief reveal that he did no such thing. But then Joker gasses the Bat Family with Smylex and they all become Jokerized and fight each other.

The endgame showdown between Batman and Joker is where Snyder reveals his cards and we see he not only fully understands the dynamic between those two arch enemies, but he provided some new insight that is thoroughly satisfying and makes perfect sense.

Spoiler Below: Highlight text to read

Bruce Wayne visited Joker in Arkham Asylum years ago and outed himself as Batman to him. And Joker didn't care. Didn't acknowledge it. Settling the idea: Regardless of whether Joker knows who Batman is, he simply doesn't care who the man is behind the mask. He only cares about waging war with Batman. Awesome.

Batman #17 is a stunning, magnificent conclusion to what will go down as a landmark Joker story. Even after 70+ years of Joker stories, Scott Snyder found something new to say about Batman and Joker that honors their epic rivalry and allows you to see the ties that bind them in a new way. Just when you think you've read it all about The Joker, Batman #17 grips you with a joy buzzer. It never ceases to shock and awe.

I need to reread the entire Death of the Family story in one sitting to take it all in as a whole, now that I fully understand what Joker was doing and what it all meant. Bravo, Mr. Snyder and Mr. Capullo.