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Batman #13

New 52

The Joker in Batman #13

I recently read the New 52 Batman #13, the first comic in the Joker’s Death of the Family storyline. It was everything that I love about comics: great writing, excellent art, an accessible story and a new take on a decades-old dynamic. I’ve only started following comics in the last 5 months (thanks to a friend’s gift of the first 10 New 52 Batman comics) and in that time, I’ve tried over a dozen titles and adopted a few to read every week. Batman & Robin, Batwoman, Detective Comics, The Dark Knight, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel. These are my go-to comics, but they all pale in comparison to Batman. The art on Batwoman is incredible, but given the choice, I take writing over art. And Batman‘s Scott Snyder has got writing down.

Batman #13 is the return of the Joker after a one-year absence from Batman’s world. Joker had his face cut off to escape from Arkham Asylum, and he’s only now resurfaced.

There’s a lot to like about this comic, but my favourite part has to be when the Joker attacks the Gotham City Police Department to reclaim his face. He cuts the power and taunts Commissioner Gordon from the darkness as he breaks the neck of police officer after police officer. Artist Greg Capullo makes good use of the blackness and Gordon’s feeble flashlight to show just how terrifying the Joker’s madness can be. When Batman finally gets there, Gordon is shown defeated, surrounded by the bodies of his men. Joker’s face is gone.

The reveal at the end of the story is well-done. One of the elements I admired most about Snyder’s Night of the Owls storyline was the way he brought his storytelling tropes full circle in the end. In Batman #1, Bruce’s monologue contemplates a popular newspaper column that encourages citizens to submit answers to the line “Gotham is…” Many believe that Gotham is Batman. By the end of Night of the Owls, Bruce learns that’s not true, and he says as much in the aftermath of his battle with the Owls.

In Batman #13, Snyder again brings things full circle. Snyder borrows a page from Shakespeare’s Macbeth by beginning the comic with some pathetic fallacy – a river running backward, a lion born with two heads – to show that Gotham is turned on it’s head with the return of it’s greatest criminal. On the final page, Snyder ties the two-headed lion omen into the first reveal of the Joker’s new face. That face is arguably more grotesque that the Heath Ledger scars of the Dark Knight; it’s a face stretched into a smile by surgical hooks. It’s a face that Joker wears like a mask.

If you didn’t jump on board the DC Comics train when the New 52 left the station last year, this is a good first stop to climb on. Everyone knows the Joker, but not well enough to know what this Joker will do. This looks like a new take on a classic character, a deeper perversion for an already twisted clown.

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo deliver a masterful first chapter for Death of the Family. Check it out.

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