Now that we know who is behind A-day and everyone has arrived in Texas, it’s surely time for some answers regarding everything that’s been going on in Joker up until this point right? Right?
In the fashion typical of Joker this issue does not pick up on Bane, Jim, or any of the characters it left off with previously. Instead, issue #13 chooses to jump over to the Sampson family estate and focus on their celebration of having captured the Joker and their preparations for eating him as revenge.
It jumps mostly between the Sampsons dealing with Vengeance –who has arrived to kill Joker– and Joker himself goading the cook who is grilling. The majority of these scenes are filled with violence, from the cook throwing coals at Joker to Vengeance going all out on anyone who gets in her way. It reads in a flash, with little time spent on introspection or character motivations, and you’ll be done reading before you realize it.
My first qualm is with the Sampsons themselves, they’re shown as living in decadence and able to enjoy being cannibals with a freedom that few others have. This is depicted in the book’s opening pages with panels featuring fingers, eyes, tongues, and even people’s heads laid out across a table as the whole family feasts. The whole scene visually feels very overdone.
Normally Giuseppe Camuncoli does a great job capturing the horror tones that this book often leans into. And while it feels unsettling looking at just eyeballs and hands on a page, the way it’s done here feels less creepy and more comical. I have to pause and ask would these people just be eating someone’s nose? Or fingers? Or eyeballs on skewers? There is almost nothing visually done to most of this food to 1. Make it look appealing or 2. Make it look like someone bothered to prepare some of it. Not that I want human bodies to look appealing as food, but the super rich Sampson family can pay for a cook to make their fancy dinner look good. Instead, it feels like the art is trying really hard to prove that they’re cannibals and that this is a cool feast, and it just doesn’t’ work for me.
The family themselves also kind of fall apart in this issue. Sawyer Sampson declares they’re fierce, that they are compelled to hunt people, and once Vengeance crashes the party calls them all to action. But they don’t feel scary or even threatening the same way they’ve felt before. They’re a bunch of rich people, dressed for a party, who’ve taken up steak knives to fight off someone who decimated their heavily armed security. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe they’ve been a whole lot of hot air through the entire book, but then why go to the effort to build them up through this series? Individually Buddy and the redheaded Sampson felt pretty threatening through the series, they captured Joker and almost killed Jim. But here, Vengeance wipes the floor with anyone she comes across.
Which brings me to my next point: how cartoonishly violent Vengeance’s scenes feel. She is quite literally a wrecking ball in this issue as she demolishes almost the entire Sampson family. Limbs are strewn across panels, people are tossed onto the grill, and in my least favorite moment of the whole issue, she punches Buddy’s head clean off his body. It’s quite simply, too much. That, added with the literal body parts the Sampsons were just shown eating takes this book from being interesting to just campy. It’s not scary, and it’s not even really exciting to look at, it’s just outrageous.
The problem with this feeling, is just how serious the series generally tries to be. I’ve talked often about the horror vibe it gives off, and for the most part this series has a dark and grim tone to it. Which makes the over the top nature of this issue feel jarring compared to the rest of them. Yes, we have had some overt violence from Vengeance before like her tearing off a man’s arm, but there the narrative also slowed down to give exposition. This issue is essentially just her coming in and wrecking the place. So it both feels empty and unrealistic and takes you out of the story. I can suspend my disbelief for a lot of things, but this issue certainly pushed me past that limit.
I could talk about all the things I wanted this issue to be, but honestly I’m just ready for this series to end. I was hopeful that we’d stop getting issues of filler content now that it’s nearing the end of its first season. While I don’t mind that Tynion has shown Vengeance arriving at the Sampson’s home and dealing with them, I don’t think we needed a full issue for it either. This could have easily been folded between the plane scenes of the previous issue. Or done as scenes while Bane and Jim talk. Instead, I’m left feeling like a lot of this is padding to get to the end instead of necessary storytelling.
The best thing I can say about this installment of the backup is that it actually moves the plot forward quite a bit. We’re at last at Punchline’s trial, and the whole thing goes by rather quickly. Despite the build up of the whole backup to this trial, the event is started and completed right here.
What I didn’t like was just the trial in general. We only get to see part of it, focused just on Punchline’s defense team. Her lawyer makes a big deal out of the stuff that happened in the prison, never really talking about the actual crimes Punchline’s on trial for at all. We also hear from Punchline herself, who again says she’s totally innocent, and tries to make it seem like finding her guilty would pave the way to do the same to innocent Gothamites. Cullen also takes the stand, the lawyer trying to get him to pin the blame for the prison incident on Harper–again an event that has nothing to do with why they’re even at the trial.
That’s probably my biggest issue with this, what we see has nothing to do with why they’re even in this trial for the most part. It’s all about events in the book we’ve seen, events that aren’t Joker’s war or the crimes Punchline’s been accused of. But the story makes it seem like this prison fight is the big problem, like it can somehow prove Punchline’s innocence. It’s lazy, and doesn’t bother actually trying to find any other ways of getting the jury to declare Punchline not guilty for her Joker War crimes. It makes no sense and mostly acts as a smokescreen to just get us to the end and the verdict.
- Violence is your thing
- You want to see a guy get his head punched off
- …I really cannot recommend this issue
This issue takes a lot of what I was enjoying about this series and makes it so over the top it’s no longer fun. It tries too hard to paint the Sampson family in a threatening light, and highlight their cannibalistic lifestyles. Equally it goes too far with the violence and instead of giving us an engaging standoff between the Sampsons and Vengeance turns it into more of a bloodbath than anything. If you want an issue that’s jam packed with violence this is the issue for you, if you were hoping for something else you’ll be disappointed.
Overall Score: 3/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.