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Comic Review: Batman #17

Batman #17 Death of the Family Joker New 52

Batman #17 is the spectacular finale to a now fundamental Batman storyline, as Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo turn in their best work yet to end Death of the Family. Batman #17 is a terrifying character piece that looks not only at the nature of Batman’s relationship with his family and his greatest foe, but also at the nature of the Joker himself.

Everything about Batman #17 is magnificent. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo work in perfect tandem to deliver a spectacular story finale that probes at the heart of the Batman/Joker relationship. Yes, there’s the obligatory climactic fight – Batman and Joker had to throw down, didn’t they? – but there’s so much character analysis going on that every punch has meaning, and every action resonates with the long history of these two foes.

The true brilliance of Batman #17 is that it’s never quite what you think it’s going to be. Scott Snyder packs this issue with double-takes and fake-outs, subverting expectations and playing on his reader’s fears with every page turn. The pages of this book feel heavy, laden with dread, and dripping with horrible possibility.

We know the Joker is completely unhinged and capable of anything. He’s gone farther than he’s ever gone before, but how far is he – or Batman – willing to go to see this through to the end?

Batman #17 takes the love/hate relationship between Batman and the Joker to new territory that will leave you begging for their next encounter. Death of the Family has been centered on Batman’s psychology so far, but with one masterful turn of the story, Scott Snyder offers a glimpse into the heart of the darkest villain in comics. The result is a finish that shows exactly why these two characters are among the very best in comics history.

Snyder gives us something we’ve never seen before. Many writers have tried to answer Batman’s reasons for never killing the Joker, but Snyder interrogates the concept in a fresh and provocative way that puts the old simplistic reasons to shame. After this comic, Batman’s relationship with the Joker will never, ever be the same.

What’s more, the lasting effect of the Joker’s plot will doubtless carry forward into all other Bat titles. The Joker strikes a blow to the Bat-family here that resonates beyond his inevitable defeat. In a heartbreaking, silent way, this really feels like the death of a family.

Batman #17 is laced with nuance and subtle nods to the past. From a crowbar up Joker’s sleeve to the inclusion of the two-headed kitten mentioned in a radio report from issue #13, Snyder has collected all the tiny threads he laid out earlier and built them into a masterpiece finale. Batman’s cowl is perhaps the best subtle touch of all, as the damage he took in issue #16 has created spidery cracks around one eye. We’ve watched the Joker’s face decay, but Batman’s face takes plenty of punishment here, too.

Greg Capullo’s art is always stellar, but it’s masterful in Batman #17. The Joker’s decaying, barely-attached face stretches to a new level of creepy when Batman starts landing some punches. In one panel, it actually twists right around and hangs off Joker’s head. The visual is downright ghastly and marvelous all at once.

Even Capullo’s cover – so often a barely-relevant image used to snare readership – lines up perfectly with the themes found inside. The Joker is dancing with Batman’s costume because he is in love with Batman – not the man underneath.

Greg Capullo Batman #17 New 52 Death of the Family Joker cover

“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

Batman #17 is a must have for your collection, and the collected Death of the Family will doubtless become mandatory reading for all fans of comics.

Scott Snyder’s work has jumped into the same conversation as Alan Moore’s seminal The Killing Joke story in terms of Joker tales.

This is one for the ages.

10 out of 10

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