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That. Rocked.

In fact, I enjoyed this issue so much that I would have to say that it’s my favorite issue of Batman since #5 with the labyrinth. I just had so much fun reading this! It’s creepy, fast-paced, action packed, shocking, funny, and disgusting. Also, whenever I would find myself thinking “Why wouldn’t Batman just  ____.” I would flip the page and low-and-behold Batman was doing exactly what I had hoped. He’s very no nonsense in this issue, which is exactly the way Batman should always operate. He knows he’s made it into Arkham ahead of Joker’s schedule and if he pushes hard he can end this before it goes any further. So what we see is page after page of Joker throwing up blockade after blockade to keep Batman away long enough so that the final tableau can be arranged.

The first three rooms Batman enters are already complete and serve as a twisted love letter to the Caped Crusader. Each is more disturbing than the last until Batman starts to push into the asylum too deeply and too quickly. The stages grow brutal, villains begin to emerge from the shadows to impede Batman’s progress, but even that proves to not be enough until the only thing between Batman and the Joker is hurriedly stacked furniture jamming a door. Or at least that’s the way things seem. It’s all terribly exciting and I’ll likely read it again and again.

All the Things I Can Overlook

Yes, there are things in here that I had a problem with so I can’t exactly call it flawless, but the elements I loved far outweighed the things that gave me pause.

First off is the continuity issue: even if you’re reading Batman and Batman alone it’s very hard to believe that the Joker could have taken care of all of Batman’s allies between issue #15 and issue #16. Besides the Joker’s omnipresence though the other continuity issue would have to be with a cameo. A villain

Spoiler
Clayface
shows up midway through the comic who was last seen very recently in another bat-title escaping from Arkham and I just don’t see them coming back for this. His appearance here was cool and all and if you disregard the other bat-titles then you won’t have a problem with this but I found it kind of noticeable. Then again, if Joker has time to take out each ally between this issue and the last I suppose he could’ve tracked down this villain and convinced him to come back for the main event as well.

My second complaint would be that although it was awesome seeing Batman take on so many classic rogues in this issue, the comic made all of them appear rather weak. Not only because of how Batman manhandles many of them in less than 3 panels each, but in the way they all shrink from the Joker in the backup. One villain

Spoiler
Two-Face
especially seemed less chaotic and rather spineless in the backup pages.

Speaking of the backup, the change in art style between Capullo and Jock was very, very jarring. Unlike how the other Batman comics featured a short story that occurred at a different place and time, this book’s backup picks up where the main story left off. It didn’t feel like a backup, it felt like I had turned the page and suddenly none of the characters were wearing the same clothes.

Spoiler
Batman punches a horse. A horse is charging at him and Batman punches it in the head, sending the rider flying. The horse is fine (for now), but…come on. I’m all for making Batman look like a bad ass. Hell, I’m even a fan of Blazing Saddles. But I don’t think Batman could halt an oncoming horse in a single punch and if he could then that horse wouldn’t be worth riding again. Ever. And why is he taking the horse? I know he wants to find the Joker quickly, but I’d think he would want to do it as stealthily as possible too and the clip-clop of hooves would take away from that. Oh well, seeing Mr. Freeze shatter the horse’s frozen head made it all okay. That was pretty “cool” and I can’t say I’ve ever seen something like that before.
Spoiler
I would have liked to have seen Batman at least hesitate for a moment before stepping into the electric chair. Sure, he saw images on TV screens of his family in peril, but the guy showing him these things is a notorious liar. Maybe it is true that going along with the Joker’s evil plan by stepping into the chair is the only way to save the bat family, but Batman shouldn’t have admitted defeat so easily. Not when we had seen him overcome so much throughout the rest of this issue.

Lettering. The second to last page has a speech bubble that forgot the word “of” when saying “Any them, ever” and that’s annoying, but then there is a line in which the word “ass” is implied but instead we get “#%^”. Really? #%^? Why is the word “ass”, one of the weakest of all curse words, omitted? It’s not even on the George Carlin list of seven dirty words you can’t say on television. In a comic about a psychotic clown with a severed rotting face we can’t say the word “ass”? People are burned, electrocuted, stitched together and hanged upside down in this issue…yet we can’t see the letter “a” followed by “ss”? Is burning, electrocution, and mutilation okay for a T rating but parents shouldn’t let their children see a funnybook in which that three letter word is used? What gives?

So Good Lookin’

Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion are going to get a lot of praise today. This comic is stunning and you can tell that Scott Snyder wrote it to Capullo’s strengths. You’re in for some sights that are outright gross and absolutely unnerving in this one, that’s for sure, but I’m amazed at the sheer variety. Capullo had to have had fun drawing this thing. Every page impresses because of the level of detail on, well, everything. The tortured guards have bloody feet and stubble on their cheeks, the desks are littered with pens and post-it notes, every guard is wearing full armor with a torch and helmet that reflects the flames, the Joker’s tapestry grows more disturbing the longer you look at it, the villains making cameos all look superb, Batman’s startled and angered expressions ring true, and there’s just so much more I would love to say but I don’t want to give anything away. Of course, I shouldn’t praise the artwork without saluting FCO Plascencia. Capullo’s detailed pencils and the Glapion’s rich shadows are great but they wouldn’t be anywhere near as impressive without FCO’s colors. Look at teh florescent glow coming from each cell in the opening pages, the faint, smokey blood in the water, how alarming the red lights are when the emergency power switches on. The colors make that scene. When Batman is fighting all those armored guards, take note at the shades of orange used to illuminate that fight and how they emanate from the torches. While Capullo gives the Joker flies to make him look more decomposed, it’s FCO who gives the once stark white face a tarnished look that makes it clear that the skin is dryer and more leathery than it was when we last saw the villain. And he must be a fan of the Arkham City games as well because if you look closely at

Spoiler
Mr. Freeze
you’ll see some of the electronics and shielding built into his uniform. Great stuff.

Overall

Just when I’m at my worst point of Joker fatigue and exhaustion from all the tie-ins, Snyder and Capullo push the plot forward and remind me that the core of this event really is something worth getting excited for. I can’t see how any bat fan could read this issue and feel that it wasn’t worth their $3.99. It’s a comic that I’ll want to read more than once as it features some amazing action and truly startling twists and turns. Snyder and the rest of team Batman are really setting the bar high for 2013 Batman comics to come.

SCORE: 10/10

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