Mmmmm Mmmmm! There comes a time when you get that rare comic that totally satisfies you like a good meal. You push yourself away from the table, pat yourself on the belly and say “I’m done.” That’s what Batman #14 did for me. I read it and was so thoroughly pleased that I didn’t feel like reading any other comics…at least for a while. It gives you that perfect Batman-fix and a junkie like myself has a pretty high tolerance so that’s saying something.
Where do we begin? The cover is awesome. We’ve been teased with this image for months now so just finally getting to hold it in your hands already feels good. Then we open it up we’re right back where things left off last issue, not with Alfred mind you, where would the suspense be in that? Instead we’re with Batman, caught in a death trap and looking for a way to escape. BANG! The death trap, that’s one of the classic Batman staples that I love right there. The next page–POW! We’ve got gadgets now! ZAP! There’s the batmobile! And right when you’re seeing all these things you love about Batman you’re hit in the gut with this terrible realization upon the defeated return to Wayne Manor– Alfred is gone. This is not going to be a fun comic. At least not in the typical sense, fun for us Batman fans though. I love seeing my favorite hero in misery. That’s why I’ve stuck by him my whole life. He’s the guy who is fighting for a lost cause, knows it, and keeps fighting anyway because the lost causes are the ones most worth fighting for.
From then on the book is nothing but terror and dread as Batman warns restless and angry allies who have been targeted by the Joker. For some, Batman is too late and with Alfred gone, Batman has lost the one person he can talk to on those long quiet patrols. However, even with Alfred gone there is someone in this world who is all too eager to bend Batman’s ear, unfortunately that person is the Joker. The last half of this book is one long conversation with the Joker where he does all the talking. It’s a discussion that’s going to have you talking as well. Is the Joker lying? What exactly does he have planned and can he succeed?
As always, we have to salute the art team of Capullo, Glapion, and FCO. It’s a dark, dirty, murky looking book and that’s absolutely spot-on what it should be. It’s all so very brutal. The brightest, most colorful thing you see is the book is flesh-eating acid on the first page and from then on its rather muted and cold except for one rather clever panel in which a stereo is subtly colored to resemble the Joker. Speaking of the Joker, his colors are quite disturbing, look at the bloodshot right eye and the milky left. Glapion’s inks are perfect and they have to be because Batman’s look relies so heavily on shadow. And I know I’ve said it in countless reviews but I can’t stress enough how expressive Capullo’s pencils are. I’m running out of words to describe how much I love the energy he puts into these characters. Study every facial expression and unique posture. Gordon slouches in exhaustion, the Joker tiptoes and waves his arm in exaggeration.
And get this, that’s only the main story. There’s a whole backup tale in the rear of this book as well! I didn’t like last month’s backup. It reminded me too much of Morrison’s The Clown at Midnight and it didn’t show me anything I didn’t already gather from the main plot. This however sets up some interesting things for the main story and gives us a very rare interaction between Penguin and the Joker. It was very enjoyable and the artwork by Jock was quite good as well. For it only being 6 pages I’m surprised at just how memorable this confrontation was.
Negatives: there really aren’t any. I’m still waiting to find out why Joker cut off his face and I’m also wondering why the Joker is still dressed as a maintenance man, but other than that there was only one thing that made me raise an eyebrow and that’s easily overlooked. I’ll put it in spoiler tags. SHOW SPOILER ▼
I think that the whole issue plays out rather perfectly and you might even find yourself giving into the hype that this could very well be the next great Joker story. Every Batman fan should be reading Death of the Family and if you haven’t picked it up yet, a new printing of issue #13 came out today. Some really exciting developments are happening and if you’re waiting for a TPB, chances are you’re going to have the big revelations spoiled for you long before a collected edition ever comes to print.