Bruce and “Joker” share a quiet moment together that bears an offhanded resemblance to some of the other “we’re just a couple of guys” conversations they have had together over the decades.  It’s wonderfully introspective and is by far the main selling point for this particular issue.  Meanwhile, Bloom commences the destruction of Gotham and monologues till the break of day.  And you know what…his monologue is actually pretty entertaining.

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The scene between Bruce and “Joker” was phenomenal.  It was laced with all kinds of double meanings and false pretenses that kept leading you in one direction, only to shut down your expectations, as an interpretation you had not yet considered, is presented.  It continually leads you to believe that something is going on when it really isn’t….or perhaps it actually is.  At the end of it all, it’s kind of hard to say, and I think it’s the beauty of it. While one could say it is slightly noncommittal on Snyder’s part, leaving us without a clear answer, actually plays out really well.  Leaving things slightly ambiguous allows the reader to believe what they want of the scene.   It reminded me very much of the way Snyder played with the concept of immortality in EndGame, and only gave a clear answer as to whether or not the Joker was indeed immortal at the very end of the arc.  This scene does what EndGame did so well; it allows you to speculate on all the potential things that might be going on and gives one plenty to ruminate over.

So, is the “Joker” a blank slate?  Does he actually remember everything about himself, and he is merely playing a role to mess with Bruce?  Personally, I’d like to think that he is still in there, but for the first time in forever, the normal side of him has won out.  Allow me to explain.  Over the years, there have been many Joker stories, and for the most part, he is always pretty crazy to some extent or another.  But one element always tends to pop up: there is still some part of him, however small, that is just an ordinary guy.  I could cite many examples of this, but since the majority of us are most likely familiar with The Killing Joke, I’ll use it to make my case.  Toward the end of the book, after the fight scene but before the joke, there is a moment when The Joker seems almost normal.  Like he is just a regular guy chatting with another guy about his problems, albeit crazy problems, but still.  I believe this lucid part of The Joker that tends to surface on occasion, represents who he was before he took a nose dive into a vat of chemicals.  While it is an incredibly small part of his current personality, I think that the “accident” from EndGame put the dominant Joker personality in a kind of coma while the normal side of him is allowed to take the reins.  I feel like this encounter between them is a genuine request from “Joker” that they not start up this game of theirs again.  It’s as if he knows he was The Joker and realizes that if Bruce puts on the cape and cowl again, it will wake up the part of him that he now hopes will stay away.

Granted, it would be just as easy to make an argument against this theory since there is enough ambiguity to allow for it, but it’s what I choose to take away from the scene.  From a storytelling standpoint, the Joker-like comments are meant to play with us as an audience, but what is their in-world explanation?  It’s far too coincidental for him to be saying all these things without being influenced in some way.  It’s why I feel that some residual part of the Joker is left.  But since “Joker” isn’t being confrontational, it’s more like these little comments are the subdued personality trying to kick-start itself back into existence.  They flair out from time to time and the normal “Joker” tries to create “excuses” to explain them.

The only kink in my theory is that “Joker” openly says he is talking about the park and not what we and Bruce thought he was talking about.  To be honest, I don’t buy it.  I think if you didn’t want someone to be Batman, you’d do exactly what “Joker” did.  The last thing you would do would be to openly come out and tell them not to do it.  Especially if you aren’t even sure whether they know about it or not.  You have to be more subtle about it like “Joker” was.  Perhaps “Joker” really did care about the park, and his plea was two fold.  Requesting the park be saved, but also hiding his request that Bruce not take up the mantle within it.  One could even argue that he, himself, isn’t aware of what he is doing and is asking on a subconscious level.  As I said earlier, there is plenty to ruminate over, and even I, go back and forth about what I think is going on.

So, the interaction between Bruce and “Joker” was the real meat of this particular story, but it only encompasses half the issue.  The rest is allocated to Bloom and a never-ending monologue.  To be fair, while I say that with a hint of contempt, it was actually rather insightful.  The metaphor constructed by Snyder and delivered by Bloom, likens Gotham and its citizens to a garden and its flowers.  It’s rather clever actually. But I fear it will take a backseat to the “Joker”/Bruce business.  Perhaps pairing it with a less noteworthy story element would have been more prudent.  As it stands, I don’t think this issue will be remembered for its crafty word play, but the fact that Bruce and “Joker” had a conversation.  It’s a shame really, because as Bloom goes, I did think it was one of his finer speeches.

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While this was one of my favorite Bloom speeches, I think this throw-away shot of patrons enjoying a bar overshadowed it for me.  Just look at these people!  So nonchalant about the destruction of their entire city.  Gothamites have seen this kind of thing so many times before that they are completely unimpressed by it.  It’s like, “At the moment, that guy is just threatening the destruction of the entire city.  When he actually gets around to blowing it up, then let me know about it.”  I just find it hilarious.

As usual, Greg Capullo handles art for the Batman title.  The quiet moments are beautiful, the violent moments are grotesque, and the last splash page makes you want to cheer (see spoiler).

Spoiler

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WHOA!

  • What happened between the under privileged youth center scene and this?  Obviously something, since Bruce is covered in blood! But will it be something that concretely establishes for him that he is Batman or will it be an event so ghastly that he can no longer ignore the truth.  A truth that he has most likely been somewhat aware of for awhile now.  Personally, I’m thinking that he still has no memory of being Batman.  That him being here is the culmination of a series of insightful deductions on his part, spurned on by some new traumatic experience that forces him into action.

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  • Somebody help me out.  What am I looking at here?  Did Liv just explode and that is her blood?  What is that supposed to be the silhouette of?
  • Bloom mentions Potter’s Field.  Isn’t that the mass grave that was mentioned in Batman #34.  The issue where the psycho Batman captures gets put in Joker’s old cell?  I wonder if that has any significance?
  • I like the allusion that Batman and Joker confronting one another is as dangerous as atoms being smashed together by a Hadron Collider.

Interesting Facts:

  • Last month I was rereading Knightfall and I came across a passage that I felt I needed to share with you.

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  • I’m usually all about supporting Alfred, because he is typically completely awesome.  However, Snyder’s rendition of Alfred since the beginning of the SuperHeavy arc has been completely off-base from what Alfred should be.  90’s Alfred knew what was up.  90’s Alfred wouldn’t have been trying to give Bruce some fairy-tale life.  90’s Alfred would have done everything in his power to bring back Batman.  The inaction of Snyder’s Alfred has essentially killed Bruce Wayne the man.  All that was left was some stranger in his body.  I can’t wait to see what Bruce has to say to Alfred once he gets his head together.

Recommended if…

  • You want to see a nice little chat unfold between Bruce and “The Joker”.
  • Bloom monologuing is your idea of a good time.

Overall:

While Bruce might not be sporting a scalloped cape and the “Joker” isn’t wearing a purple tailcoat, you still get the same sense of interplay that these two characters have always had together.  Snyder also plays with your expectations as the story unfolds, constantly feeding you lines that make you think one thing and then revealing themselves in the very next moment to be something entirely different.  It’s equal parts entertainment and enlightenment.  And that is only half the story!  The rest is Bloom delivering a clever metaphor while engaging in acts of barbarism.  Seeing a man capable of such eloquence and thought engage in such acts of brutality is a wonderful moment of juxtaposition that hopefully won’t be overlooked in exchange for the spotlight that Bruce will no doubt, and rightly so, steal.

SCORE: 9 / 10