Review Round-Up Pt. 1: The Joker gets serious in Death of the Family

Posted: December 14, 2012 in DC, Reviews

By Alex Headley

So, this week, I’m splitting my reviews up into two parts. Phil will be posting his reviews later today as well. That means three posts for your guys in one day. We just wrapped up recording on our second podcast as well so there is plenty of Comic Critique coming your way this weekend. Enjoy!

A teaser for the event prior to it’s launch showcasing Joker’s grotesque new appearance. Property of DC Comics.

Batman 15
Death of the Family is really moving fast now. This issue is the middle of the event and thus spends most of it’s time setting up for the penultimate chapter. Batman gets some baddass moments here as he takes on the Joker and we get to see some of that meticulous planning  and detective work that makes the character so great. His running narrative on how pupils dilate in association with moods is just the kind of stuff Batman would be thinking about. Narration can sometime bog a story down, especially if the writer forgets to keep it distinct from the action on the page, but I like Snyder’s approach. It’s very similar to how a main character might think to themselves in a novel but doesn’t get carried away with itself and forget that this is a comic book with pictures and tell us everything rather than show what’s happening. While this issue gives us more of Snyder’s excellent take on the Joker it gives us something new too; a look at Batman before he had a family in the New 52 and a glimpse at the dynamics of that family in the present. The scene in the bat-cave is mostly exposition from Bruce, but Snyder makes it interesting. There is palpable tension in the group and its interesting just how quickly the group is suspicious of Bruce. It also seems like Batgirl’s tie-in to the event happens before this issue. That takes some of the tension out of Simone’s ongoing tale in her series. But that doesn’t detract from what’s good in this issue. Joker is planning some big things and he’s built an army for himself to help him get it done. He even has a secret base set up for the grand finale, Arkham Asylum. We see most of his plan in the backup tale, as Joker interacts with the Riddler in the Asylum. I think this may be Edward Nigma’s first appearance in the New 52 and it’s good. I’m a fan of the Riddler, despite some of the inherit silliness of the character and Snyder seems to know what makes the guy tick. His dialogue feels very true to the character and he manages not to be completely overwhelmed by the Joker’s charisma. We see some of Snyder’s dark humor in the backup story as well, his Joker can be quite funny in a terrifying sense. This continues to be a great event by Snyder and Company. It’s a must read for bat-fans.

Batgirl 15
Batgirl 15 is the second Death of the Family tie in issue for the series and it moves the story along at a snails pace. We get a lot of Batgirl exposition and narration. Some of it works; the first time Batgirl vows to kill Joker for his crimes is interesting, unfortunately the seventh time she says it is less so. Still, we get to see Babs be a badass here as she takes risks she would normally avoid. Gail Simone obviously loves the character a great deal, which makes her departure from the book at #18 all the more heartbraking. Simone announced that she was leaving the book last week, though she seemed a little surprised about it. She has since urged fans not to be angry at DC but it stings a bit, this seemed like her dream gig and the series has been great with just a few missteps along the way. Unfortunately, the wedding between Babs and Joker has not been Simone’s best story, the dialogue is a big part of that. And her Joker just feels less menacing. His method of attack on Batgirl should be deeply personal and it is for the most part. It’s just that the undercurrent is a little too obvious, there are a few too many references to Alan Moore’s ‘The Killing Joke’. It’s like a flashing neon sign to fans that says “LOOK! Some of your favorite stories still happened!”. Don’t get me wrong, the story is a classic and I’m glad it’s still in continuity but Batman and Robin 15 references it in a much smarter way that hits home a little harder despite the fact that Batgirls is barely involved. The art in this issue doesn’t blow me away either, Batgirl has had several rotating artists on the series and none have lived up the book’s launch artist Ardian Syaf. I’ll be sticking with Batgirl through the event but when Simone leaves it just might find itself on the chopping block.

Batman and Robin 15
This issue is all Damian Wayne all the time. Robin goes searching for Alfred and has an intense encounter with the Joker in a zoo. This issue gives some interesting insights into the minds of both characters in a way that’s almost as compelling as their first encounter in Morrison’s Batman and Robin series before the reboot. What really makes this issue stand out though is the art. Patrick Gleason is hit and miss with me but he does some great things with Joker here, taking the horrific new look of the villain to places not even Greg Capullo has gone in the primary Batman series. It’s grotesque and terrifying in the just the right way. Robin is seeing Joker at his most depraved and frightening. The setting for much of the issue is apt for the discussion between the two. The Gotham Zoo is a place that doesn’t seem to value security nearly as much as it values dynamic lighting and terrifying scenery. And a random giant egg. The end of the issue leaves us with an odd cliffhanger. Everything the Joker has done thus far has been very grounded in reality. He uses explosives, drugs, poisons and psychology to terrify the Batman Family but here he seems to be employing a bug monster of some sorts. Not sure if that will turn out to be Clayface or a symptom of the drugs in Robin’s system but it felt a little off to me, like it was a device to pad the story for another issue. But the last page doesn’t spoil the rest of the issue and I think this is how an event tie-in should work. It’s not an essential tale to understand the main plot but it adds context and suspense. How will Robin handle Batman’s greatest foe? How will it change him? These are interesting concepts that the main series simply doesn’t have time to explore but they make Batman and Robin 15 a worthy read.

  1. insiderhedge says:

    Reblogged this on Parrot Reviews.

  2. insiderhedge says:

    Reblogged this on Parrot Reviews.

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