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Comic Review: Batman #16

Batman #16 New 52 Joker Greg Capullo DC Comics

Batman #16 is every bit the homecoming the Joker promised, as the Dark Knight gets a king’s welcome at Arkham Asylum for the penultimate chapter in Scott Snyder’s Death of the Family storyline.

Snyder has done his narrative build-up with the earlier Death of the Family entries, and in this issue, he moves into the payoff: Batman #16 has all the ambiance, horror, and horses you could hope for.

Snyder and artist Greg Capullo usher Batman through a ghoulish and macabre tribute to the core elements of the Caped Crusader, all orchestrated by his greatest fan and self-proclaimed court jester, the Joker.

The Joker has been pushing his Bat King metaphor for a while, and he finally gets to bring that metaphor to life in Arkham Asylum. The Bat King’s court jester has a lot to show off, including the rest of the king’s court, which includes some well-known faces from the Justice League and Batman’s own rogues gallery.

Snyder continues to expose Batman’s overinflated sense of control, but he does it in a subtler way here than what we’ve seen before. Batman wants to control the pacing of the Joker’s funhouse and – by extension – the pacing of the story, meaning the tension is built into the very structure of the comic itself. Batman is determined to plow through the Joker’s horrific theatre pieces, but the largest visuals in this otherwise claustrophobic comic are the ones that seem orchestrated by the Joker.

Batman #16 New 52 on a horse in Arkham Asylum

The Joker presents: the Bat King on his horse.

Each grandiose display is a visually stunning win for the Clown Prince of Crime, and every win is so magnificently drawn that it’s impossible to breeze past it the way Batman does.

Inker Jonathan Glapion gets a chance to really make his presence felt here, too, as Capullo’s Joker face continues to evolve. The Joker has been wearing his skin mask for a while now, and it’s starting to decay; he’s become a walking fly trap, and the normally white face is starting to rot. Glapion illustrates this subtly by offsetting the white of Joker’s neck and ears against the beige of his decaying face. When Capullo adds a fly or two crawling on Joker’s ear, the art on this book moves to a whole new level of creepy.

Snyder pairs with James Tynion IV again to deliver an excellent backup story that serves as an epilogue to the main story. Snyder and Tynion have been using the backups to show the Joker’s interactions with the other Batman villains, and that choice continues to complement the main narrative. Jock’s artwork is good if a little off-putting in that Two-Face, Riddler and Penguin get a sudden costume change. Nevertheless, these backups truly enrich the Death of the Family experience.

Visually, Batman #16 is a tight, claustrophobic and grotesque experience befitting the confines of Gotham City’s infamous madhouse.

Narratively, Batman #16 is an expertly crafted yarn that’s true strength lies in its unraveling.

The electrifying cliffhanger on the final page will leave you dying for next month’s finale when Joker finally puts together his long-expected dinner party. Alfred will be waiting.

So will we.

9.5 out of 10

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  1. January 16, 2013 at 6:24 pm

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