Batman # 38 Review – Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

batman38Since I started writing for The Comics Herald I’ve learned a lot about comics, both in the way the proverbial sausage is made and how I tackle reviewing them. I’d like to think that I have grown into my own voice, and have moved away from simply stating the story beats, and actually delving into what they actually mean.

Writing anything is always a work in progress, and writing for comics – admittedly an area which I have only truly begun to embrace in my formative years of being an adult – has taught me a lot about what I should and shouldn’t do. This week I discovered I have a tendency to make definitive statements that veer too much into the dramatic – see my final line of my Batman #13 review. Or the way I structured my review of the “Death of a Family” arc, and how I claimed that it was the greatest event ever to grace our shelves in modern comics (and that no one could tell me other wise goddammit!). I’ve learned to pare back such statements. I can’t tell you if this or that comic is a classic – it’s too soon after the fact to make bold remarks.

But there is a problem when something so good rolls around. The monthly release schedule means that often I completely forget what happened in previous issues, and sometimes the weekly releases feel like a chore more than anything. But not Batman. I have never forgotten what has happened between issues, nor have I looked at the release once and gone “Maybe I can skip it this time.” Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have constructed such a fantastic story, time and time again, that it is very hard not making big claims. And “Endgame”? You bet I’m going to burst a blood vessel trying not to.

“Endgame” is dealing with something that hasn’t really been dealt with in recent memory – what would happen if the Joker stopped playing around? No longer seen as some kind of twisted friendship, Batman has finally become something that the Joker can no longer stand – someone he finally hates. This arc becomes somewhat of a second act to “Death of the Family”, where the Joker was acting out of some form of love by removing the things he viewed as making Batman weak. He is now plainly trying to remove Batman out of the equation forever. This Joker has become truly terrifying.

Snyder and Capulo have capitalised on the fear people have for the Joker before, but not like this. This issue highlights how this arc has become a city wide horror story, where a legion of Joker zombies are hunting down Batman thanks to an airborne version of the Joker gas. The scenes echo classic zombie movie tropes and it is always fun to see Batman move through a story that feels more at home in the horror genre.

Enough about mood and themes, lets talk about the two big developments this issue. Firstly, Batman’s investigation into the Joker suggests that he may belong to the same kind of villainy that Vandal Savage and Ra’s Al Ghul inhabit, and there may be historical evidence to back it up. This is a fascinating development, as it ties in brilliantly with the Joker over the years who should have died, but keeps bouncing back. The best part of this revelation is that in true Joker fashion, there really isn’t any definitive answer to that allegation – at least not yet. It echoes the multi-choice origin from the Killing Joke, and I think it would certainly add layers to the character if it was never substantiated.

Secondly, and this is the big one, Batman turns to the Court of Owls for help in an incredible cliffhanger. This is brilliant as it ties together their run on Batman nicely. Too many comics seem to have an amnesia for whatever small events that preceded it, so it is refreshing for Snyder and Capullo to really make this story seem like it was built from the beginning. “Court of the Owls” was a fantastic visual showcase for Capullo, and I look forward to seeing what else he brings to the table in the remaining issues of “Endgame”.

Like I said, I’m having a hard time trying not to gush over these turn of events. Really, all I can say is that I cannot wait for what happens next. February 25th cannot come soon enough.

Batman Eternal #21 – James Tynion IV and Jason Fabok

batman-eternalThis review contains spoilers for the issue

Batman Eternal has been a series that has been ticking along nicely in one corner of the DC universe. The weekly format lends itself more towards a television show, rather than the standard monthly fare, as the fast release schedule has allowed for a series that has been happily dropping major cliffhangers left  and right. The Bat universe suits this format easily, as the large ensemble cast ensures that not one character is going to hog the spotlight for too long – well aside from the titular Batman of course. The team of writers and artists, led by the always excellent Scott Snyder, have manged to find a suitably epic groove in which to explore the Bat family, and issue #21, while beginning a little slowly, manages to solidify this series place as some of the best Batman stories to come from the New 52 – and with the current lineup, that’s saying something.

James Tynion IV picks up the scripting reins of issue 21 and he maintains a steady hold of the events barreling out of issue 20. Batman believes he has got Jim Gordon out of prison after evidence comes to light regarding the train crash back in issue one, and the newly appointed Commissioner Bard isn’t quite who he seems. But the real star of the show is Alfred this week, finally being able to show off his skills that his daughter has consistently bemoaned him for apparently losing in previous issues. Bad-ass Alfred is always a treat when he pops up, and his speech when he lets the intruder know that while Bruce may have an aversion to guns, he certainly doesn’t, makes me hope that Alfred’s back story gets it’s own series.

But enough about the awesome Alfred sequence – lets talk about the reveals. Firstly, Hush makes his big entrance into the New 52, and it seems his original back-story is going to remain intact. Hush is an interesting choice, as he is inevitably going to draw parallels to Lincoln March who was brought up in Court of the Owls, both men vying for the position that Bruce Wayne holds. It will be interesting to see how differently this story will develop moving forward, as the especially muddy events surrounding anything pre-New 52 may alter how much Batman has come to blows with this villain.

The next large development this week is Bard being revealed as one of the big bads for the series. Now this I like – Bard in previous issues had read as a slightly more pessimistic Jim Gordon, willing to do some of the “tough choices” eschewed by the larger superhero community. This is fine, as this can create some pretty decent morality issues – especially due Batman’s work ethic – but this had been done to death. Having Bard taking on a more sinister role is a welcomed approach, and it seems to come out of nowhere.

Jason Fabok is as suited to a Batman story as he has ever been. His detailed and realistic pencils make for a fantastic full page spread with Hush and Alfred (even if it does look like Alfred is being stabbed more than he seems in later panels), and his character work is full of dark and foreboding frowns – always a plus for a Batman comic. Brad Anderson’s colours don’t do heaps to stand out, but it does lend a nice dark and bleak atmosphere to the proceedings.

Batman Eternal is a blast, and shouldn’t work as well as it does on a week-to-week basis. Faring much better than its DC counterpart Futures End, Snyder and Co. have crafted a beast of a story that continues to impress as it closes out its latest arc. But lets be honest – I’m just thankful to see a badass Alfred once again.

Ever Wonder Why Batman Doesn’t Smile?

It’s all makes so much sense now.

Coming via the brilliant Kerry Callen:


I have a whole new perception of The Dark Knight now, that I’m not sure I’m going to be able to shake!

Why Ben Affleck is Good for Batman (and Superman)


Silver Linings Superhero is a regular column from Sean Robinson, which tries to show the more positive aspects of current comic events, and remind you that things aren’t all that bad. If you would like to suggest something for a future column, drop us a line!

I think I am one of the few who actually quite enjoyed Man of Steel. No, it was not a good Superman film, and yes, the film certainly had its problems with script and directing, but I thought it was a stylistic and exciting science-fiction film. So when Batman/Superman (or whatever they decide to call it) was announced, I got interested. Maybe the gang over at Warner Brothers and DC could turn the ship from brooding, post Dark Knight Superman, by contrasting him with the only one who could conceivably be actually darker, Batman himself.

Then Ben Affleck was announced, and I became more excited than I thought I could be. No, he’s not John Hamm or Karl Urban, two of the more inspired choices for the role.

He’s something better:


Let me begin by dealing with the elephant in the room. Affleck’s last superhero film, 2003’s Daredevil, was not good. In fact, it was bad. But that’s just it – it was ten years ago. The films being thrown around for the argument against the man are all from around the same point in time when Affleck was a gossip magazine hot-topic – and he has most definitely moved past that to become a decent actor and one hell of a director. It’d be the same if we judged Joss Whedon on his writing in Alien: Resurrection – it’s just not fair.

Now, I did use the word “decent” when I described Ben Affleck as an actor, because its an apt description of where he stands right now. To echo Matt Damon in regard to the role, it’s not some kind of Oscar-worthy performance – it’s Batman. Affleck has enough range that he can portray the billionaire-playboy Bruce Wayne, and also the dark and broken Batman, and he has done a similar role in Hollywoodland as Superman actor George Reeves. In that film he dances between depression and acting the complete opposite to an audience. Sounds like someone else we know, doesn’t it?

Returning to his directorial abilities, back around this time last year rumors circulated that Affleck was offered the Justice League film to direct – but he would only accept it if he could star in a main role. Fast forward a year, and we now we have Affleck cast as Batman, and no one set for the Justice League director’s chair. Could this mean that he has changed his mind? Is an Affleck directed Justice League around the corner? I sure hope so.

In regards to the Man of Steel universe, and this new darker and edgier version of Superman, we get an older Batman who “bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter”. We are already aware of Batman and his back-story – his last outing only finished last year – so the audiences don’t really need a retread of the story of Bruce Wayne. Does this mean that we see a Batman who has already mostly worked through the problems surrounding his parents’ deaths, and could in fact bring the levity back to what we want to see from Superman? If anyone could pull off a slightly lighter, and older Batman than we are used to, then it would be Affleck.

This could change up the relationship between the two – Batman is there to remind Superman about his humanity – Superman could be molded by Batman to the man he always wanted to be, but never could. It would be a fresh take on the mythos, without pulling too much away from what we already know, and it could act as damage control from the problems people had with Man of Steel’s script, returning us to the Superman we know and love.

I am not saying that Batman/Superman won’t have problems. David S. Goyer is back writing the script, and while he is a great writer,  he never quite grasped the character of Superman in Man of Steel. Snyder is also a point of worry for some people, with his eclectic directing style a polarizing aspect. But in regard to Affleck – give the man a chance. He may just surprise you.

Want to tell Sean he’s right or wrong? Flick him a tweet, or leave a comment! He loves talking about the things he likes.

Review: Batman & Superman #1 Greg Pak, Jae Lee & Ben Oliver

batman-superman1I am in complete agreement with a whole lot of sentiments being thrown around the Internet. We need another Batman or Superman comic just as much as we need another X-Men title – they just keep coming, and there’s going to be a point of over-saturation. So when Batman\Superman #1 dropped into stores, I merely bought it because I felt I should check it out – and I’m glad I did. Greg Pak and Jae Lee (with Ben Oliver on art duties for the last few pages) have begun something that while it  doesn’t entirely break the mold in the written sense, is still a good story in among some of the most unique and impressive art I have seen in a while.

Firmly rooted in New52 continuity, Batman/Superman #1 sets up the first time the  two met. While it doesn’t initially address the continuity issue of their apparent first time meeting back in Justice League #1, Pak decides to instead have Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne first meet as Clark investigates the murders of Wayne Enterprise employees. Their initial meeting is great, as it reaffirms each of their own personal philosophies, while also pointing out the flaws as well. It’s not new ground whatsoever, but it does help to highlight that this pairing comes from two very different people.

Pak also brings back the signature double narrators that was made popular during the initial run. I’ve always been a huge fan of this form of storytelling – if it’s used correctly. Too often it can appear cluttered and noisy, but Pak doesn’t fall into this trap and manages to control this aspect well. He makes sure each character gets their due, before moving onto the next one. It works really well.

The real star of this issue is Lee’s art though. Each panel is absolutely beautiful – a soft watercolour effect mixed with a muted colour palette making the work look stunning. It’s a shame that he doesn’t do the entire issue however, as Ben Oliver steps up for the final few pages. Oliver isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination and his work manages to hold his own against Lee, but it does feel a bit jarring when we move to a more pencil drawn approach. Just give Oliver his own title to truly show off his work and that’ll make everyone happy.

With the introduction of a more magical based villain, drawing on the back-ups of Batman in recent months, Batman/Superman is off to a great start. While it doesn’t appear to be breaking any new ground story-wise – just a standard buddy story for two of DC’s biggest hitters – the choice of artist really makes it stand out. If Pak and Lee can keep this momentum going, those qualms of over-saturation will be soon forgotten.

Review: Batman #21 – Snyder and Capullo

batman21Batman perhaps more than any other comic book character has had his origin examined and scrutinized, most notably by Frank Miller in his masterfully written Year One. So when Zero Year was announced I was cautiously optimistic. The fact that Scott Snyder, who has just amazed and impressed us with Court of the Owls and Death of the Family eased many of the doubts that persistently crept into my mind. Like legions of comic book readers out there, Batman is and has been since childhood my favorite character and his origin is like gospel, a subject not to be taken lightly. Admittedly most of my concerns stemmed from the continuity discrepancies that arose from the birth of the New 52. That being said, Batman was the least impacted by these sometimes drastic changes. His origin is not so much changed as it is more fully explained and some of the blanks are filled in by Zero Year. There are years in Bruce’s past that have yet to be addressed, formative years in the Batman mythos. Scott Snyder does an excellent job here of driving away the shadows that remain and linger around some of those years.

The story begins six years ago – Gotham City is in utter disarray, looking more like the Savage Land than a major municipality. Scott Snyder, more than any other writer, writes Gotham City as another character. He gives it life and personality and Greg Capullo enhances this effect by rendering the city as though it were a living organism. A child is spear fishing in the flooded entrance to the Gotham subway when suddenly he is assailed by a pair of mask-wearing thugs .He drops his fish and runs for his life. Batman shows up in a tattered makeshift uniform minus cape ,riding a dirt bike that looks like it was used in a Mad Max film. He saves the child and returns his dinner to him.

The time line jumps further – it is now five months earlier and The Red Hood makes his appearance but just who is under that hood at this point is not known. Bruce is heavily disguised and driving a truck full of men that The Red Hood is quite interested in killing for refusing to join his gang. This sets up an edge of your seat escape scene and shows a more reckless Bruce at a time when he was more likely to take chances. Bruce returns to a pre-Bat Cave headquarters which appears to be a secret room full of computers and training equipment hidden inside Wayne Manor. Here Bruce and Alfred discuss the state of modern crime fighting. Snyder is a master of writing dialogue. The conversation flows with a natural rhythm that lends a deeper level of credibility and realism. The discussion is complex without being pedantic and illuminates a deepening relationship between two friends.

Bruce’s Uncle Philip plays a major role from here on out. He shows up and takes Bruce on a drive around Gotham to show him the new Wayne Enterprises building. As an interesting detail we are shown the giant penny that we all know will come to be housed in the Bat Cave. It stands before Wayne Enterprises as Uncle Philip tells the story of overseeing its forging. He also gives us some history of the relationship between the Wayne family and the Kane family. Snyder then takes us back to a time when Bruce was a boy. He sees his father working on an old Lincoln and runs happily to him. His father looks lovingly into his eyes and what follows is some of the most revealing dialogue in the book. Bruce explains his desire to be anonymous and that his love for Gotham stems from the fact that he can be anyone he wants when he is in the city. His father then shows him a visual mapper designed by Mr. Fox to be used by fire-fighters, EMTs and doctors. It makes a three dimensional map from inside the rubble of a collapsed building or destroyed village. I can’t help but think this is going to be a significant piece of equipment in the near future, perhaps in the construction of the Bat Cave.

Uncle Philip returns for the final pages and has a conversation with a rather unexpected co-conspirator. A dark and foreboding solution is proffered to Philip’s quandary, one that echoes across time and space as we see Bruce as a boy reflected in the shiny visual mapper held in his tiny hand. In the final panel he stands contemplating a gaping hole at his feet.

Zero Year is not the re-telling of Batman’s origin that some may have been expecting. It has so much more ambition than that. Scott Snyder is writing his own entry in the history of the greatest of all comic book heroes, filling in some of the gaps and bringing the Dark Knight into sharper focus. Snyder’s engrossing and meticulous dialogue brings these characters to life. His fast paced and absorbing plot is the perfect framework for the exhilarating action sequences. Zero Year is the total package, not only does it have everything a great comic book should have but it is an endearing human drama as well.

Greg Capullo continues to deliver some of the best pages on the racks today. His hyper-detailed cityscapes and exhilarating action scenes are the stuff of comic book dreams. He has been the perfect collaborator with Snyder to bring us these stunning Batman stories. Not since Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s groundbreaking pre-New 52 run on Batman and Robin have I been so thoroughly and completely impressed by a creative team on a Batman book.

The back-up story is a look at a nineteen year old rebellious Bruce in Rio de Janeiro, also by Snyder this time with the help of his Talon collaborator, James Tynion IV and art by Rafael Albuquerque. The story highlights Bruce’s firm resolve to do the right thing even though his methods may seem drastic. The writing is again top-notch, the break-neck pace and snappy dialogue rocket you through the narrative in no time flat. The art is more stylized but fits the material. The flowing lines, blending colors and blurred backgrounds give you the very definite feeling of speeding through the streets of Rio. It is a short but intriguing look into another of Bruce’s formative years.

Zero Year is off to an immaculate start. Over the next year we are to be witnesses to the birth of the Dark Knight. Some of the questions we have always had about why things are the way they are in the complex mind of Bruce Wayne will surely be answered while others are more fully explained. This book is mandatory reading not only for Batman fans but for all lovers of great writing and tremendous artwork everywhere. So even if you are only a sporadic reader of the Bat-titles I would recommend jumping on at least for the next year. I’m sure you will stick around.

Until next week, see you at the comic book store. Same Bat-time…

Review: Batman #20 – Snyder / Capullo / Miki

batman-20This issue is the end of the two-part Nowhere Man story arc as well as the final story to be told in the present day in Batman, as Year Zero begins in issue 21. This is another amazingly rendered issue by Greg Capullo. His Clayface is menacing. His fantastically detailed visage is freakishly frightening as he twists his amorphous body into an oozing blob of murderous intent, actually swallowing a battered Bruce Wayne in the opening pages of this issue. He is then very unceremoniously spat into a crusher used by Wayne Enterprises R&D Department to eradicate unusable prototypes – he joins a previously deposited Lucius Fox. Fox informs him that Clayface has over-ridden the fail safe protocols and that there is no other way out. All the weapons are gutted before being disposed of, but there hidden beneath a mound of bits and pieces of discarded Wayne-Tech is a concept suit which he Bruce dons to rescue them both. In a nod to Batman Beyond, Lucius explains to Bruce that it will be twenty years before this suit will become cost effective. Bruce leaves in pursuit of Clayface.

In the guise of Bruce Wayne, Clayface is leading the Gotham Police on a high speed motorcycle chase. Batman, now wearing a sort of electrified armor, catches up to him and informs him that his blackmail scheme is over. He then attempts to use hydrogen fluoride to thwart the shape-shifting monster – to no avail. Clayface taunts Batman by morphing his fingers into grotesque puppet-like versions of The Joker, Penguin and Riddler. Batman tries solvent, coolant – anything that would have worked on the old Clayface. Nothing works so then he resorts to electricity – he charges the suit and releases every ounce of power he can generate into Clayface.

This does nothing more than tingle the hulking villain. He grabs Batman by the head, crushes the face mask of his helmet and makes contact with his skin just as Commissioner shows up with a squad of police officers. They hold their guns on Clayface and he transforms again into Bruce Wayne. Clayface now believes he has uncovered Batman’s secret identity for all to see. Since making contact with Batman’s skin should have allowed him to become whoever he is under the mask. However in the confusion, Clayface is trapped in a panic chamber that has been programed to respond to the only person Batman can be sure that Clayface cannot duplicate the DNA of – Basil Karlo. It seems that in becoming everyone he touched, Basil Karlo had lost his own genetic code thus, making himself a cipher, a perfect clay man. Batman explains that he was wearing a fiber mask of Bruce Wayne’s DNA, which is the reason he became Wayne after touching him, once again preserving his secret identity. This angers Clayface so much so that he takes on the likeness of Damien Wayne and rages against the rich like Bruce Wayne and their disregard for everything including his own son. Batman is still raw from his loss and flies into a blind rage, kicking the panic chamber containing Karlo who is still maintaining the image of Damien.

Batman is recounting the capture of Clayface to Alfred back at the Batcave. Alfred has just finished wrapping Batman’s most recent bruises, when he joins him for an evening of reminiscing about his lost son. In an extremely poignant and tender moment we see a single tear stream down Bruce’s cheek as he watches the view screen inside his visor.

This was an extremely well written arc. Scott Snyder kept the possibility of Batman’s identity being exposed just out of reach for the entire story. The suspense just added to the excitement of an already pulse-pounding plot. Snyder re-invents Clayface as a more powerful, far more formidable foe. This was a nice send off before Year Zero starts next issue, which will tie things up for the next eleven months. I could read Scott Snyder’s dialogue forever – it is so good that I find myself quoting it as one might do from a favorite film.

Let’s move from some of the best writing in comics to talk about some of the best artwork in comics today.

Greg Capullo is unbelievable at drawing horrific monsters – just look at his work on Spawn and Haunt. The amount of detail he puts into his creatures is what makes the difference. His Clayface is not just a blob but a layered mass of crust and teeth and muddy goo, something truly disgusting and awful to behold let alone to be swallowed by. I can only call to mind the words of Han Solo when he commented about a freshly opened taun-taun, “And I thought they smelled bad on the outside”. Just imagine what Bruce Wayne endured while inside Clayface. I’m sure it was an assault on all senses, and Greg Capullo brings that so sharply into focus that you can almost smell the dank musty mud. His artwork is second to none and his work on Batman is some of his best.

The back-up story written by James Tynion IV, with art by the great Alex Maleev, is also brought to completion here. It’s not an Earth shattering epic but just a nice Batman/ Superman team-up story. The two heroes battle a supernatural entity called Will O’ The Wisp. The end of the story shows us a moment of deep friendship and the effects of Batman’s loss on that friendship. Ultimately that’s really what this story is, a glimpse of a deep friendship.

Batman #20 is an all-around top-notch comic book with fabulous writing and fantastic art. If you are not currently a regular reader of Batman you might want to take the upcoming Year Zero event to jump on. You will be happy you did, trust me.

So until next week, see you at the comic book store.

Review: Batman & Robin #18 – Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason


So passes another Robin. Damian Wayne, slain in the pages of Batman Incorporated #8 has left a large hole in Bruce Wayne’s life. Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason’s series Batman & Robin takes the full brunt of the fallout, exploring how Batman is coping with the loss of his biological son – but this issue is different. Batman & Robin #18 has not one line of spoken dialogue, leaving most of the burden up to Gleason’s art, which thankfully delivers on an issue that is full of emotional impact as Batman spends his first night in the aftermath of losing his Robin.

This issue shows how Batman grieves the only way he knows how- by burying himself in his work. Bruce takes to the streets of Gotham with the rage and determination of a man who has lost almost everything, and he becomes particularly violent in this case. The anger that Batman shows, which was previously reserved for only his most dangerous nemesis, comes out in full form as he appears to have his most eventful night. It’s dark stuff, and it seems that this may be the one event that could push Batman over the edge, which provides an interesting set-up for how the future of Batman comics could play out.

Where this issue really shines is when the action takes a break and the family is left to think. From the opening pages where Alfred allows himself a moment of tears, before straightening up as Bruce walks into the room, through to any time Batman looks over his shoulder expecting to see his son beside him – each of these actions speak louder than any line of dialogue could. It’s a great touch leaving out any spoken words, and shows that words could not even describe the pain that the family feel.

Gleason really goes all out with his art in this issue, as he manages to capture the full emotional impact of the grief.  While some of his character work appears to look more like mannequin than human, this issue boasts some particularly stand out panels, such as what appears as the last image (for the time being at least) where we see both Batman and Robin together. It’s obvious that Gleason enjoyed drawing the Boy Wonder, and this panel is particularly impressive, as he manages to capture  the spirit of Damian Wayne’s Robin – it serves well as a one last hurrah.

Batman & Robin #18 says goodbye to Damian Wayne in a way that is wholly unique. It’s incredibly sad to see one of the more intriguing Robins in recent memory pass, especially considering his relationship with his father was finally reaching a point of normality within this title. It’s emotional and heavy, and as the final pages play out, as the impact of the event finally hits, you’ll find yourself in a similar state of mind.

Goodbye Damian Wayne. You will be missed

Score: 8.5/10

Review: Batman “Death of the Family” – Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Batman Death of Family Review(Note: the Death of the Family arc compiles issues 13-17 of Batman)

When I reviewed Batman #13, the first issue of “Death of the Family”, back in December, I posed the question of this arc’s place within the Dark Knight’s story hall of fame. Would it be able to stand up to the likes of The Killing Joke or Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, some of the greatest works in comic history, or would it pass by leaving the Batman mythos largely unchanged? Following the conclusion of the arc in Batman #17 less than a week ago, it’s safe to say that not only is this a fantastic look at the Batman- Joker relationship, but leaves the entire Bat-family in an interesting predicament.

The Joker takes centre stage for the arc, and the creative team make sure you know it. Capullo pulls no punches in creating a truly terrifying rendition of the character – his face rots before the reader’s eyes in horrifying beauty. This is some of Greg Capullo’s best work on Batman – the Joker’s face pulls and twists as events play out, and Capullo manages to portray emotions of a man who lacks many of the features that people actually need to do so. It’s twisted, disgusting and beautiful all at once.

Art elsewhere is also a treat. Aside from the Joker, there are many other gruesome scenes that colourist FCO Plascencia and Capullo craft excellently. Alongside the story beats, Bruce Wayne’s emotions run wild in this arc – Capulo shows anger, desperation, and sadness, seemingly with ease. I’m a huge fan of his take on an enraged Batman, and this is delivered in large doses.

In the end, art wouldn’t matter if the story wasn’t up to the same standard. Thankfully Scott Snyder delivers in producing one of the most interesting takes on the Joker/Batman dynamic. Snyder places Batman on a pedestal for the Joker, showing an almost fanatical love for his nemesis, much in the same way a patriot would love their king. The Joker feels that the Bat-family drags Batman down, that his family isn’t what makes Batman – it’s the Joker that does. The Joker honestly believes he understands Batman better than anyone, and that his plan will restore his “king” to his former glory. It’s a sick and twisted love story – and just in time for Valentines Day.

Snyder also creates tension with Bruce’s understanding of his nemesis as well. He holds his family at arms length, feeling that his understanding of the Joker is what can save them, and that this is something only he can handle. The way Bruce deals with his family is patriarchal, and leads to some great moments of tension.

These events all come to a head in an explosive final showdown, providing one of the most memorable exchanges between these two characters. Not only does it highlight their relationship in a succinct manner, but it also provides character development that I honestly did not expect to see. Without spoiling anything, this is best exchange between the two since The Killing Joke. Hands down.

When The Death of the Family finally reaches its phenomenal finale, it wont be what you expect. Snyder successfully manages to defy the expectations of what a status quo changing event can be, setting up a new world for Bruce Wayne to deal with. Snyder and Capullo’s take on the Joker  is not only one of this creative team’s best stories, but one of the best Batman stories ever. This is what events in superhero comics should aspire to be.

Score: 10/10

Review: Batman #13 – Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

batman13Ask any fan of Batman comics who they think the Dark Knight’s greatest nemesis is, and you’ll be sure to hear The Joker’s name more than once. The quintessential Batman villain, The Joker has always been the other side of the same coin, a product of similar tragedy that turned him into a murderous madman. So when it was announced that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo were bringing a new story featuring The Joker, especially on the heels of his fantastic character study of Bruce Wayne in his previous arc “The Court of Owls”, it wasn’t hard to be intrigued.

The stage for Batman #13, which marks the beginning of his new story arc “Death of the Family”, takes place a year after the events of Detective Comics #1. The Joker had allowed his face to be removed by another villain known as The Dollmaker, and he returns a year later beginning a series of ‘greatest hits’ – previous crimes that were perpetrated in famous Batman stories of the past. As we soon learn though, his motives are much more sinister. These events don’t end up as Bruce expects, and it hurtles towards a fantastic cliff-hanger at the issue’s end.

Snyder creates a wonderfully dark entrance for the Clown Prince. The inner monologue of the Batman, combined with his uncanny ability to channel The Joker’s demented dialogue to a tee, helps create a truly dark and twisted story. Snyder manages to instil a true sense of dread and horror within the pages of Batman #13, especially in a chilling assault of the Gotham P.D. at the onset of the issue. The horror isn’t merely blood and gore either, as the Joker’s dialogue throughout the sequence is truly evil and terrifying. Without spoiling anything, you’re going to want to look under your bed. While many of the stunts resemble fairly “standard” (whatever that term may mean in this case) Joker crimes, it sets the mood for how the arc will play out, and still leaves the reader guessing where the action will end up next.

Synder also works in a subtle character moment for the Dark Knight in this issue. As he communicates with the rest of the Bat-family about The Joker’s return, you learn that he intends to keep details, and even the investigation itself, between him and his nemesis. It is a moment where you realise that Bruce either wants to protect the ones he loves, or is willing to bank on his own skills and hubris to bring The Joker down, which is an important theme tackled in the “The Court of Owls” arc. It’s interesting that Snyder chose to revisit this theme, considering that Bruce Wayne should have learned his lesson in “The Court of Owls”, and it will be interesting to see how it will play out.

Greg Capullo’s pencils combined with Jonathan Glapion’s colours gives the art in the issue a strong resemblance to the Batman: The Animated Series of the late 1990s. It’s suitably graphic without relying too much on gore, and when The Joker’s face is finally revealed, it will give you chills down your spine. Its dark and twisted, and it really works.

It should also be worth mentioning that picking up Batman #13 without any previous interaction with Snyder’s run will be of no real detriment to the story he is writing here. While it may drop in a couple of references to his previous encounters with The Joker, it only requires a base understanding of how the villain works.

When Scott Snyder’s run on Batman moved towards the event “Death of the Family”, and the inevitable return of the Clown Prince of Gotham,  the questions were asked regarding whether this new take on this villain would live up to the standard set by The Killing Joke, and other Joker tales of times gone by. After Batman #13 perhaps we should begin to ask a new question:

What if the “Death of the Family” is better?