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Comic Review: Batman #14

Greg Capullo Joker Joe's Garage New 52 Batman #14 Cover DC Comics

Batman #14 is a grand tragedy in the making as the not-so-fresh-faced Joker begins to tear Batman’s world down around his pointy ears with the twisted promise of building him back up better than before.

We saw the Joker abduct Alfred at the end of Batman #13; now we get to see Batman return to Wayne Manor, his sanctuary, only to find it empty. Thanks to Greg Capullo’s art, Wayne Manor is eerie and strange to its master. The floor creaks. There is no butler to answer his call. And there’s a poorly-wrapped package at the open front door for Bruce Wayne.

Batman #14 Joker Alfred Wayne Manor New 52

Does the Joker know Batman’s identity? Who will he attack next? How can Batman possibly predict the actions of a psychopath?

Writer Scott Snyder uses the Joker to turn Batman on his head, playing on the fear, paranoia and anger that comes with being threatened by something unknowable. Not even Batman’s best-trained and most-loved are safe in this Gotham City. Everyone is a weak point. And that’s exactly what the Joker is trying to say: Batman has grown lazy and soft with all the followers he’s brought under his wing. They need to be eliminated so he can become strong again.

Some of the Joker’s most memorable of tangles with the Dark Knight have been the ones where he victimizes Batman’s loved ones. He kidnapped Commissioner Gordon and crippled Batgirl Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke. He beat second Robin Jason Todd to death with a crowbar, then blew him up in A Death in the Family. But this goes beyond targeting one or two. He’s after the whole bunch – and he seems to have spent his year off studying each and every one of them.

Over the course of Batman #14, it becomes clear that the Joker isn’t trying to destroy Batman. He’s carefully orchestrated everything out of a twisted sense of loyalty to the Bat, in order to make him better. Snyder has cast the Joker as a court jester to the Bat-King of Gotham. “And what does the jester do,” he says, “if not deliver bad news to the king?” The overwhelming sense of helplessness that hangs over this issue raises the question: is the Joker right?

Batman has always been willing to die for his cause. But he has never been willing to sacrifice someone else for it. His followers are his responsibility to keep safe. They’re not expendable. The Joker won’t kill Batman. But will he kill one of his allies?

The Joker crossover is in full swing now. His new look has now appeared in Batgirl, Suicide Squad and Catwoman, but no artist seems as perfectly-suited to drawing the new Joker as does Greg Capullo. The Joker’s face is truly a horror to behold, stretched back by meat hooks and held on with a belt. The white skin is peeling back at the edges and exposing pink muscle at the hairline. Even his eyes are different colours, adding that extra touch of crazy to an already grotesque face.

The big Joker reveal from Batman #13.

Batman #14 is King Lear in a Bat cowl. Scott Snyder flips over another card in his Joker deck with this issue, but you can’t help wondering what else he’s got in his hand.

9 out of 10.

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  1. November 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Snyder is making an awesome work on Swamp Thing as well. Honestly, I’m enjoying it more than Batman – but both of them are excellent.
    The main difference with Batman, apart from the atmosphere (realistic in Batman, fanciful in Swamp Thing), is that Swamp Thing works better as a TP. Each issue is so strictly linked to each other that you have to read them in a single session, to understand the plot properly. There are a lot of DC series that are hard to follow as a monthly read, and Swamp Thing definitely is the clearest example.

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