Batman #13 – Comic Review
The major comic companies put out enough comics that sometimes it can leave your head spinning and eyes bleeding as you search the new titles each week for something worth reading. To aid in your Geeky endeavors, Speak Geeky To Me on occasion reviews new titles from the major companies to spotlight the best and worst of what’s available at your local comic shop. So sit back, relax, and enjoy a new Comic Review.
Title: Batman #13
Writer: Scott Snyder (American Vampire, Swamp Thing), James Tynion IV
Penciler: Greg Capullo (Haunt, Spawn), Jock (Losers, Hellblazer: Pandemonium)
Inker: Jonathan Glapion (Haunt, The Outsiders), Jock
Colorist: Fco Plascencia (Spawn, Invincible), Jock
Publisher: DC Comics
Number of Issues: 13 (on-going)
Page Count: 30
The Review Bit
The long awaited Death of the Family starts here, as the Joker finally returns to the New 52 for the first time since Detective Comics #1, where Tony Daniel had his face carved off by the Dollmaker. First and foremost, I have to give credit to DC comics for the rather awesome use of a die-cut cover. These things used to be more annoying than cool in the 1990’s, but by making the die-cut into a mask of Joker’s face and applying it to covers all across the Bat-family of DC comic titles, you get a rather fun pile of covers that look quite similar, yet unique behind the mask.
Death of the Family begins with a rather darkly poetic noir scene, narrated in captions we don’t immediately get to put a voice to. It is a dialogue between Commissioner Gordon and Detective Harvey Bullock, which comes off at first quite pointless, but in truth is very mood setting and foreshadowing of what we all know is about to come: The Joker’s return. The return doesn’t leave us waiting too long, happening rather early in the issue, as the clown prince of crime takes a hauntingly violent jaunt through GCPD offices, killing officers and making jokes in reference to previously Joker moments, such as Alan Moore’s graphic novel, The Killing Joke. It is a horrifying scene made all the more powerful in that we don’t see the Joker as he goes on his killing spree to retrieve his face from the police department’s holding facility. Instead, we are left to experience this in the dark through James Gordon’s reaction. To this, I must give Snyder a lot of credit in building such a dark suspense in the comic.
Word travels quickly amongst the Bat-family about Joker’s return, as they all call in to give their 2-cents to Bruce about the situation. Much as we enjoyed in Batman #1, we once more get to see Greg Capullo try his hand at all 3 loyal Robins, Alfred, and Batgirl (though, yes, Batgirl did not appear in Batman #1). But the telecommunication reunion is short lived when the Joker appears on television, using John Claridge as a puppet to announce his plot of killing Gotham City’s mayor. Once Batman and Nightwing realize it is John Claridge on TV they quickly make the connection to the Joker’s first victim, John’s father Henry Clardige. The cool thing here is that Henry Claridge really was the Joker’s first victim, way back in 1940’s Batman #1. Though unlike what Batman says in this comic, Joker didn’t come on TV in the original Batman #1, but rather made his announcement over the radio on page 1 of the issue’s main story. Still, it shows Snyder is doing an impressive job at including old continuity into his new stories. From there Batman and the GCPD do the best that they can to protect the Mayor from Joker’s plot, but Joker succeeds in his actual plan and lure Batman away to Ace Chemicals, hoping to confront the Dark Knight. Unfortunately for Batman, it is Harley he finds there and she quickly knocks old Bats out of the equation, while revealing the Joker’s actual plan is to destroy Batman’s extended family of heroes, forcing him to once more be the sole protector of Gotham. This eventually gives way to the final page of the initial story in Batman #13, finally revealing Joker’s new face. A full-page splash, this art from Capullo blows away any other image we’ve had spoiled for us featuring the new face of Joker. It is both macabre and not, yet certainly haunts my mind well after reading the issue.
Batman #13 also features a short 6-page back up story by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Jock, entitled Tease. This story works as the lead in to how Harley Quinn was reintroduced to the Joker and found herself at Ace Chemicals. Despite knowing the outcome of the events told in this tale, because we have read them several pages earlier, it is still quite suspenseful and unexpected. A proper tease, if you will, that shows how skilled our writers are. Furthermore, Harley Quinn fans will be excited to know there is a nude Harley in the pages of this back-up, albeit not at all sexualized in Jock’s heavy inked, noir art style.
As I’ve already expressed, Snyder is a very talented writer and it is seen in every page of Batman #13. The suspense, the perspectives, the narration, it all is written to build us up, put readers on the edge of their seat, and yet still surprise us when we know what is coming. The dialogue is great, the story is great, and I just can’t find any way to criticize Snyder or Tynion on this issue, but trust me when I say I went into it trying.
On the art end we have both Capullo, inked by Jonathan Glapion, and Jock drawing the two stories of this issue. Capullo and Glapion do a great job setting a dark mood, while still providing just beautiful Batman artwork. Furthermore, Fco Plascencia does exceptional work coloring this story to have a dark noir feel, yet still be bright and not just tinted with an excessive amount of dark tones. The one thing that does kind of pull me from the issue art wise is that Capullo seems to draw Bruce Wayne, and some of the bat family, a little too happy or smug in their facial expressions. It just seems odd to see these characters sitting around the Batcave, discussing a serial killer on the loose, yet Bruce is almost smirking or giving the poor emotional reactions you’d expect from the masculine male stars of a Twilight film. Never-the-less, Capullo’s other subtleties stand out so perfectly they must be noted, such as the arm placement of the Joker during his television announcement and Harley Quinn’s body language at Ace Chemical. The high moment of art in this issue, aside from Joker’s reveal, must be the Joker’s rampage through the GCPD. From his first appearance in the shadows, evoking memories of The Killing Joke, to the entire panel structure and expressions of James Gordon throughout the scene, it feels more like you are watching a movie the suspense is so high. It is rare that I’ve ever felt so driven by the creators while reading a comic, but it truly feels like Snyder and Capullo are setting the pace for you while reading Batman #13.
Then there is Jock, providing art for Tease. Jock’s art style is still quite stylized, and the pages seem very minimal with no background other than some texturized colors. Yet this once again is art that sets a strong mood, working greatly with the story. I’m sure it will bum many Harley Quinn fans our that her nude scene wasn’t more sexually emphasized by an artist like Guillem March or Adam Hughes, but it works all the more better by giving fans the uncomfortable darkness that the character must have been feeling in that moment. I then want to further express that the coloring Jock did for these few pages really pops and lights the mood for story. A simply amazing job was done by all involved.
The Rating Bit
Batman #13 was a striking piece of work that could easily be called the best Batman story of the New 52. Just about everyone involved brought their A game to the comic, and the only thing keeping the issue from garnering a perfect score was that, while Capullo did a brilliant job, the art still seemed a bit too light in tone at moments. Still, the open issue to Death of the Family easily earns a powerful 9 out of 10, making me wish more DC comics could be this good.
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