Batman #17 Review

No day could have been better for the release of Batman #17 than the day before Valentine’s The conclusion of “Death of the Family” is the Joker’s valentine to Batman and the culmination of Scott Snyder‘s lover letter to the Joker. Here’s the official description from DC:

• This is it: The stunning conclusion to “DEATH OF THE FAMILY”!

• Who lives? Who dies? Who laughs last? Find out as Batman and The Joker face off one last time!

I won’t recount the plot of the issue, but I will talk SPOILERS.

Scott Snyder’s story beats this issue are brilliant; it’s one powerful scene after another, each one crucial to the story overall. Similarly, there are tons of “Will he?”/”Did he?” moments: Did Joker really cut all those faces off? Will Batman finally kill the Joker? Did he really find out who the Joker is? Will Scott Snyder actually tell us who he is? The answers to all these questions are predictable, and yet Snyder’s skills as a writer ensure that we’re still not completely certain, that we’re left with niggling doubts.

Perhaps my favorite scene of the issue was a flashback where Bruce visits Joker in Arkham. The idea that killers and psychopaths fixate on specific individuals is hardly original, and yet it’s intriguing to think that a normal man won’t even register with the Joker, even if that man’s a famous billionaire playboy. Unless he needs them for some reason, such mundanes might as well be nonexistent to him.

There are other great points to the writing: Snyder doesn’t reveal what the Joker said to Batgirl and the Robins, which is a smart choice. To do otherwise would have been messy and time-consuming, and it’s better to let those characters’ main writers deal with those questions anyway. The dialogue is excellent, too; Snyder’s been writing the Joker for five issues now, but he really does get the clown’s voice juuuuuuust right.

There are a couple problems, but they’re negligible. There’s a lot of text in this issue, but that’s normal for Snyder, and if ever there was a time for talking, it’s now. As was the case when Batman removed his gloves to escape a trap a couple issues back, some technicalities are left to be inferred by the reader, but that’s okay. Again, the emotional beats are the important part, and honestly, you don’t need your hand held the whole way, do you?

Greg Capullo‘s art is great again this issue. He has to deal with a lot of bandaged faces, close-ups of eyes, and conversations, which are all things that can easily go wrong or get out of hand, but he handles it gracefully. His viewing angle choices are inspired, taking advantage of every available aperture and viewpoint to keep things interesting. The Joker’s face seems to have gotten more rounded as the story has progressed, which I assume is do to the skin beginning to sag and rot. Still, I liked the angular, tightly stretched look more. In it’s first appearance, the Joker’s bat-shaped ax -which is awesome- has a crooked handle. Overall, the art is great, just not as visually engaging as the last issue, when Capullo got to draw most of Batman’s rogues gallery, a flaming horse, and a tapestry made of still-living bodies. That’s a hard visual feast to beat.

Whoever writes the next Joker story has a lot to live up to. “Death of the Family” is possibly the definitive Joker tale of a generation, and has established an entirely new interpretation of one of the most interesting relationships in comics. The falling out from this story is also likely to have a huge effect on the bat books as we go forward, and it should be great fun to see those ripples spread.


Zac is a future important person. Find him on twitter @gingitsune23.

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