Guess Who’s Back?
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
In the pages of DetectiveComics #1, readers witnessed something truly disturbing: the removal of the Joker’s face by new B-Villain, the Dollmaker. Joker reveled in the pain and horror of the experience, laughing as the Dr. Frankenstein-esk baddie filleted his flesh like the scales of a Joker Fish. Leaving the face nailed to the wall, the Joker ran off into the night, leaving the Dark Knight to combat the new villain, disappearing for one entire year…
…and now he’s back.
The Joker’s history is one as motley as the Caped Crusader’s, with the character taking on a number of different personalities, looks, and feels over the last 70 odd years, but one has always remained the fan favorite: the sadistic body-mutilating killer, and in Batman #13 this Joker is back with a vengeance.
Newcomers to Scott Snyder’s work on Batman will have almost no trouble jumping into this grisly issue. Its cover alone should be enough to get longtime fans and those green to the Batman universe alike to pick it up. For this reason, the entire issue reads as an homage to the Joker’s long, terrible career. To long time fans it offers a look back and some of the character’s “finest” moments, with references to the Killing Joke and his first murder in Gotham City. It traces his origin, pulls in “sidekicks” and feels from beginning to end, like a love letter to the Clown Prince of Crime.
Newcomers to Snyder’s Batman, or Batman in general can treat this comic as a sort of Joker 101, introducing characters and important plot points from the character’s long history. Here is the Joker’s origin, here was his first murder, here is his…”love interest”, here is the character now.
The book never losses the feel of a horror movie (no surprise as it is this genre where the writer’s strengths lie), from the strange opening-page omens to the evil laughter in the dark room. The book’s other characters are not left behind in this exploration of the Joker’s history, as we get several key character moments with both Batman and Jim Gordon throughout. Gordon shows real fear for the first time that I’ve seen after the Joker’s attack, and even goes so far as to ask Batman whether it, the fear, shows in his voice. Batman, ever the stoic, does his best to block out the fear he must be feeling, but struggles to understand the Joker’s motivation in his very un-Joker-like actions.
Capullo’s art is, as ever, a delight to the eyes. From a beautifully lit skyline of Gotham to the drab inner reaches of the ACE Chemical Plant, detail abounds in his work. My only complaint with the book as a whole is that in certain panels, especially close ups, it can be a little difficult to discern exactly what Capullo is trying to draw in them. I promise you this is barely noticeable.
Overall, this is a book for the ages. From one of the greatest Batman team’s comes the return of the greatest Batman villain. Blood is spilled, necks are cracked, faces are lost, and smiles are turned upside down. If you are even vaguely interested in the Batman mythos, or looking for a place to break into the frighteningly convoluted post-Morrison Batman continuity, there has never, ever been a better time to do it.