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- Comic: Batman (New 52)
- Issue: 13
- Writer: Scott Snyder
- Artist: Greg Capullo
- Publisher: DC Comcis
Batman #13 Death of the Family: Part 1 Review
Stop me if you have heard this one before…
By Joel Rickenbach
October 15, 2012
So much hype. It would be tough for any writer/artist combo, veteran or otherwise, to meet the expectations of recasting the greatest villain in the comic book lexicon. To be fair, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo contributed their share of hype. Not that they weren’t humble, but they kept the design and motivations of this New 52 Joker a tightly guarded Gotham secret, with little bits trickling out as the months went by; sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident. Either way, it worked- the level of excitement among comic fans has been more akin to a giant crossover, or the first issue of a much anticipated new character. Snyder and Capullo’s initial Batman arc, the Court of Owls, was loved by critics and readers alike, it will stand the test of time among the best of the modern era Batman tales. The question is- can this duo go two for two, or is the joke on them?
From the first page of Death of the Family part 1 (Batman #13) it already has a different feel than the previous twelve issues. It’s certainly connected visually and narratively, but there’s a pallor to the proceedings that wasn’t there before. Just the presence of the man who laughs is enough to put every character in this book on edge. That fear is earned, quickly, much to Snyder’s credit. This is not a book that promises the goods, only to deliver on the last page, making us all wait another month for what we were hoping for. No, Snyder and Capullo put Joker front and center from the get to, even if he is shrouded in darkness for much of the issue. What I find most interesting about this story is that in some ways, Joker is every bit as terrifying as promised, yet in others he is actually slightly defeated until this recent re-emergence. Surprisingly, and welcomed, this is not the first time Batman has encountered Joker. Every character knows what they’re in for, but where that comes from, and what happened previously, is a mystery to the reader. From what we are told, Dollmaker had cut off Joker’s face some time ago, and it’s been sitting in the GCPD evidence room ever since, while Joker disappeared without a trace. Robin, the ever-arrogant Damian Wayne, even calls Joker a has-been. It’s a fascinating place to begin a story, and a breath of fresh air compared to the traditional way this would normally be handled. Reading pages and pages of Batman meeting Joker for the first time would feel like treading water at this point, and Snyder seems to agree. This opens up the possibilities of what’s to come, and lets the creators fashion a tale featuring rivers running in reverse, a two headed lion cub, and perhaps the creepiest bit of dialogue the Joker has ever uttered.
There’s plenty of story ahead in the Death of the Family arc, but I can say with confidence that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have already solidified themselves in the bat pantheon. They may be the best writer/artist tandem working in comics today, and from now on, expectations will be even higher. I have no doubt they are up to the challenge.
More reviews of Death of the Family on the way as the story progresses, and as always- please let us know what you think below.
Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him on Twitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.