There are really only a few stories that move us, especially when it comes to familiar characters. Take Joker for instance. Batman’s arch nemesis, the yin to his yang, the shadow that is cast by the bright light of the Dark Knight’s justice. For seventy plus years, we’ve watched the macabre dance between these two icons and, while the characters have never gotten stale, their stories have gotten repetitive. This leads me back to my original statement. There are really only a few stories that move us.
How can you define a story that moves you when it involves a character that’s been as exhaustively explored as the Joker? Really, for me, it comes down to whether or not the story reinvents the character within the legacy. Do I see this character from a new angle? Is there a new dimension that wasn’t there before? Think of classic stories like Arkham Asylum, The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge, The Man Who Laughs and, of course, The Killing Joke. All of those stories shined a new light on Joker, and now writer Scott Snyder can throw his hat into that pantheon of literature.
Death Of The Family is easily the best Joker story since The Killing Joke. Why? Because it has created a Joker so much more sinister, cunning, sadistic and evil than ever before. He’s akin to the Joker Alan Moore wrote about in TKJ, but I see no moment of humanity for Snyder’s creation. But the Joker in Snyder’s world isn’t without a plan. This Joker wants to clean the slate, wipe out the Bat-Family in order to purify the man he sees as his king. So now this newly focused and merciless madman is organized, patient and highly intelligent. The 'oh shit' factor just went through the roof.
Batman #16 is the precursor to a grand finale. Joker has not only taken over Arkham Asylum he’s gathered some of Batman’s greatest enemies to portray servants to his king. Walking into the lion’s den, the caped crusader witnesses torture and brutality and all before he gets near the Joker.
Within the pages of this issue, Snyder not only makes the Joker seem unstoppable, he makes the Dark Knight seem fallible – the man we all thought to be unshakable has been rattled and thrown off his game, thanks to fallout from Court Of Owls and the realization that his one constant, Gotham City, had secrets that betrayed him. This is what I mean by all of Scott Snyder’s stories being interconnected.
Greg Capullo’s art is, once again, the core of this series. While Snyder’s words create the drama, in the hands of a lesser artist they could fall flat. Capullo takes the story to an entirely new level. All of Capullo’s standard abilities are present in Batman #16, but it’s his vision of Arkham Asylum that helpS lend serious punch to the caped crusader’s situation. It’s dark, it's dank, and it stands as a perfect home to the Joker’s mindset. Then there’s the Joker. Panel after panel, Capullo renders the clown prince of crime in such a way that it amplifies his evil and his sadism. Few current series have such a perfect tandem between writer and artist.
With the end of Death Of The Family approaching, Snyder and Capullo will cement themselves as the best creative team behind Batman since O’Neil and Adams.
(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)