Batman #14 is the next step in the Joker’s devious and sadistic plans to return order to the House Of Bat. As he explains towards the end of the issue, Joker sees the Batman as soft now, a shell of his former self who relies on an extended family to help battle crime. In Joker’s twisted fantasy, Batman is the king and he is the faithful jester. Being faithful, the jester realizes his king is weak and needs to have his strength restored through the death of that extended family he leans on.
Writer Scott Snyder has developed a certain rhythm to how he writes. From his initial run with Detective Comics, Snyder has slowed his roll a bit. He enjoys setting up strong arcs with big pay offs. His most recent arc, Court Of Owls, was the first look at how well Snyder can structure a series. Now we’re in Joker-land and the plot has thickened. Issue #14 is a talker, which I realize is an odd term for a comic book. What I mean is, Batman #14 is a lot of exposition and a lot of dialogue. Snyder is setting things up, letting us know what the Joker is up to and what it means for Batman.
Some are going to love how Snyder writes Batman and some are not. Those looking for non-stop punches and gadgets might see Snyder’s style as slow. For me, I see Snyder’s style as something Batman needed to stay afloat. Look at the other New 52 books that have relied on “shake ups” or pure action – Superman, Action Comics, Justice League – they all punch first and set up a story later. They are also unilaterally bad. The books in the New 52 that really have worked, such as Frankenstein, Justice League Dark, Aquaman and Batman, focus on story and let the action come naturally.
By the time Batman #14 is finished, you’re emotionally invested in the story. You know the angles, you know the savagery of the Joker’s plan and now all you can do is wait to see it unfold. I’ve heard some complain that the Joker is too together here, that his plan is too in-depth for the clown prince of crime. That may be true, and I’ll agree that the bit between Joker and Batman on the bridge goes too long. However, I think what Snyder is doing is giving us a new Joker in the New 52. He’s still bugger nuts, and he’s still a psychopathic sadist, but he may be just a little smarter and a little more conniving than he was before. To me, that makes him a better adversary for the Dark Knight.
Greg Capullo’s art in this is orgasm inducing. Every time he pencils a page, he gets better. The art in issue 13 was wonderful, the work here blows that out of the water. Even Capullo’s faces, which I had a problem with initially, are coming together nicely. His line work is so fragile and yet it jumps off the page with such power. I’m also completely in love with Capullo’s rendition of the Joker and Batman. Each character is absolutely perfectly drawn, which adds so much to the story. If Snyder is making his literary statement with Batman, Capullo is making his artistic one.
Batman continues to be extraordinary. This incarnation of the Joker is one of the best in years.
(4.5 Story, 5 Art)