Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 02.13.2013 – Batman #17

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Avg Rating: 4.4
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 1.7%
 
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Batman_17_Full
Story by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion
Colors by FCO Plascencia
Letters by Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt
Cover by Greg Capullo, FCO Plascencia, Toney Daniel, Matt Banning, & Tomeu Morey

Size: 40 pages
Price: 3.99

Old joke: Clown pulls a trigger. Gun goes bang. Not a sound. Robin lays an egg.

Over the past month Scott Snyder and company played a game of Schrödinger’s butler. So long as that platter rested under starling silver and Alfred Pennyworth’s whereabouts remained in doubt, the heart of the Bat Family pulsated between life and death in a pristine state of enigmatic flux. Nearly as much a wild card as his cackling antagonist the Joker, Snyder is one of the few writers who could conceivably pull off such a gambit, leaving readers with palpable dread and genuine uncertainty. If anyone has the stuff and the pull and the gall to off Bruce Wayne’s surrogate father, a fixture of DC Comics for longer than most of us have cycled air, it’s Scott Snyder.

Here’s the important bit. Just because he could’ve doesn’t mean he should’ve. Which he didn’t, as you by now know. But it would’ve taken a degree of Thoreauvian discipline I simply don’t possess to ignore the divisive outcry from readers who deemed “Death of the Family”‘s ending a whimper as opposed to a bang. They forget, I argue, that the Joker isn’t likely to draw much of a distinction between those sounds. Or if he does, he’d probably take the whimper. Bangs are gone in an instant as any barber will tell you. Whimpers endure. They persist. Isn’t that the old argument for the power and fury of a life’s sentence versus the chair? Time conducts misery far more potent than any electricity.

These are the jokes our Joker so adores. Sure, he revels in the instant gratification of the pratfall, but it’s the jokes that stick, the jokes that register only later. The sad jokes that fester. He gets the last laugh even though he’s already out the door. Or down the drain as the case may be. A trace element’s abbreviation flashing on the screen in a Batcave lonelier than it’s ever been. Save for the last of the flies.

Ha.

Ha.

Ha.

In my own sacred, personal continuity, I like to think of that little bastard as a not-so-distant cousin of the fly from the bottle episode of Breaking Bad, a series I know Snyder enjoys with a similar fervor. It’s no surprise. Vince Gilligan and this writer share a preternatural knack for the composition of tension and outright dread. From the horrific Texas Chainsaw Massacre dinner party to the exploding, two-headed lion club, to the pervasive horse flies and near-acrobatic reversals and reveals, this final chapter in “Death of the Family” is festooned in the macabre. The Batman has likely never felt true fear so acutely in his career. Not since the alley and the pearls has death been such a greedy, swollen presence. To sit passively in the company of his imperiled loved ones in the hall of his greatest enemy? I found myself fidgeting throughout, the sickly drone of those flies and the smell of gasoline mingled with the metallic tang of plasma took on an impossible reality.

I believed in those moments that the Joker was capable of anything. Anything. More importantly that our hero was just as willing to do anything. Anything. That Alfred’s head or heart or face didn’t rest under that dome was a relief. That the faces of the Robins and of Batgirl did, as incredible a suggestion as it was, jolted me. When I learned the truth of the situation? That it was all a parlor trick? I was far too busy with the appalling vision of the Bat Family, Alfred included, degraded by Joker toxin, rictus grins transfiguring their familiar faces. Sit and think about the effect that kind of thing would have on Bruce and on the wards and family helpless under its sway. That’s not nothing. That’s a walking nightmare.

As for Snyder’s vision of the Batman and Joker’s climactic encounter, I was taken with the allusion to Holmes and Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, of the fantastic metaphor of masks and faces and identities. Of what it means to win. For these two it’s never been about life and death. It’s always been life. Grueling, unrelenting life. The Joker doesn’t want to kill the Batman. Despite his flirtation, he doesn’t want to have puppies with him either. He simply wants the dance to last longer than either of them. To live forever in Bruce Wayne’s mind. Call it vanity. Call it a lust for immortality. All that matters is that it’s his everything.

While Greg Capullo and Glapion’s pencils and inks may have faltered earlier in this arc — particularly in the rush to commit those many faces to the page — this is, visually speaking, the strongest issue since the start of the tale back in October. The mounting destruction and shift of the Joker’s face serves as a masterclass in both cartoon expression and body horror. It’s more than gross anatomy though. There are few images more haunting than the broken Joker looking over his shoulder in the cell at Arkham in the cool blue flashback.

“He looked right at the card, Alfred, and right at me. But…but he didn’t see me. He didn’t see me at all.”

Would Snyder have been permitted to kill Alfred or the Joker if he really wanted to? I don’t pretend to know. Does the story feel somehow anemic because that’s even in question? I don’t think so. Truly. I don’t consider it a cop-out, even in the face of the Joker’s opportunity to murder. You might argue that a psychopath like the Joker wouldn’t or even couldn’t have resisted taking those lives. It doesn’t come down to the Joker’s faculties though. It’s his love of theater that makes this poetry. The Joker finds far more satisfaction, far more salacious pleasure in a prank than in, well, anything. Besides. Killing the Family would signal the endgame. He’s far too invested in playing to do something so banal as to win.

It’s the punch line that matters. Gun goes off and nobody dies. But that little flag with the punchy onomatopoeia that poots forth from the barrel isn’t so much a reprieve. It’s just welcoming you to the rest of your life since all that came before flashed through your eyes in an instant of anguish and regret. Batman knew fear and his life and relationships will never be the same because of it. The Joker’s laugh (for now anyway) is not an act of execution or even of punishment. As with any agent of chaos, he’s a catalyst. A wild card.

All hail the Lord of the Flies. He endures in what remains.

 

Paul Montgomery
Will always use the definite article before invoking “The Batman.”
paul@ifanboy.com

 


Comments

  1. lcarrero89 says:

    Does this mean the iBatman logo will be going back up ;)

  2. WheelHands WheelHands says:

    Well said, Paul. Admittedly, I was among those disappointed in the finale, but not because I wanted blood. For me, in this case, the journey was better than the destination. That said, the finer points you mention here were not lost on me. Snyder and Capullo remain an absolute dream team, and The Batman’s title has not been this good in a very long time. I look forward to the future.

    Now watch as folks complain that Batman got the pick over other books this time. A hilarious reversal if ever there was one. Somewhere, in some fictional realm, The Joker is laughing his face off.

  3. LeviHunt15 LeviHunt15 says:

    I can’t pretend to write a comment back half as eloquently as Paul wrote about this issue so from this point in the comment on, I speak in Hulk.

    Issue good. Really, really good.
    Me like issue.
    Paul say what me unable to say.
    Me like review.
    Hooray, Hulk happy! Hulk like new guy!
    Now go eat steak. Or whatever it is Hulk eat.

  4. So it’s okay that this was a total letdown because it was in character for the Joker? Well if it’s in character for the Joker to be so boring, they probably shouldn’t make him the focal point of a 40 issue crossover.

  5. markavo markavo says:

    First: The review was perfect Paul! Bravo!

    My thoughts:

    I think the overarching joke is in The Joker’s prediction that The Batman would kill all of the Bat Family members was, in a way, very true. The lying from Bruce, regardless of how his companions would understand it, rocked the family. He mislead them for their safety, but they all feel at least a little betrayed. Batman cant trust anyone but he should try to trust his family. He should trust them for, if anything, the strength he claims they give him. The Joker certainly had the last laugh. The whimper, as Paul so eloquently put it, will live on throughout the family for some time to come.

  6. Neb Neb says:

    Paul, that is an awesome review. Well done sir.

    For me, personally, this was an awesome issue. I really enjoyed the storyline. Having said that, I yearn for a tale that’s a bit lighter with more swashbuckling swagger than dread. I enjoy this darker take on the character, but I miss the more mystery driven stories where Batman completely outsmarts everyone. A story like that would be a nice pallet cleanser, at least for me, before we head in whatever other dark directions we’re headed.

    Either way, Snyder and Capullo knocked this one out of the park.

  7. Can we all admit that there was no grand plan to having Joker cut his face off and that it actually was just a stupid shock gimmick by a talentless writer like Tony Daniel? Cause Snyder just tacked on some stupidity “SO YOU COULD SEE ME SMILING UNDER MY FACE AHAHAHA” in the midst of his 83 paragraphs of Joker clearly and concisely and painfully explaining not only his every thought and motivation throughout the course of the arc, but also mad-libbing the Batman vs Joker wikipedia article by explaining to Batman(and the reader) different aspects of their relationships.

    And that, is the true failing Snyder. Once again he is all tell and no show. The Joker just does a bunch of random, evil, stupid shit for 5 issues and then at the end they literally sit down for dinner and he explains everything. It was on of the worst Joker showings in recent memory. His joker is so dull. He is SO UNFUNNY. There’s nothing special or unique or interesting about him, least of all how he turns into a whimpering useless boob at the idea that Batman might know his name and that for all his chaos and insanity he’s really just a fragile little snowflake running away from his old life. That’s unnecessarily reductive to his character and it makes him less interesting and just another dime a dozen murderer. Nothing like the Force of Nature Joker, nothing like the Chaotic Joker.

    Also I really thought the sex-metaphor stuff with Batman and the Joker just got silly. At the end when Batman is threatening to “go all the way” with Joker and whispering into his ear and calling him darling? I dunno, it’s part of why I think Snyder’s Batman is an unbearable unlikable jackass and I honestly root for the villains because he’s such a oafish dick. And he wins by falling out of his chair and getting up while Joker is too busy monologuing to do anything…

    This arc was so hyped and even taken as its own divorced from the hype, it’s nothing. It’s VAPOR. Empty, decompressed, poorly constructed spectacle with paper-thin characterizations and horrendous dialog. It’s “Batman for Dummies”. If Greg Capullo wasn’t on this book, it’d be completely without merit.

    It’s bad, is what I’m saying.

    • MastodonTD MastodonTD says:

      I just want to commend your abilities at copy/pasting from the CBR forums.

    • You claim this is one of the worst Joker showings in recent memory. Did you read Kevin Smith’s first Batman mini? That was the worst Joker I have ever read, and one of the worst comics, period.

    • rwpos rwpos says:

      To your point that the story was unnecessarily long or stretched out (“decompressed” as you put it, although in this case I think that’s a misuse of that term), I tend to agree. I felt that the story dragged early on, and the various crossovers weren’t ever important to he core story. However, to my taste, it finished very strong, with excellent pacing over the final two issues. I really enjoyed the characters and felt that it was an interesting and relatively fresh nuance for the Joker, and for me there was nothing flimsy (or vaporous!) about this story. I really enjoyed it, and I continue to look forward to what Snyder will do with the Batman in future issues.

    • RecksDeud RecksDeud says:

      @Jeremy Carrier – I concur.

      @JohnVFerrigno – I disagree.

    • RedBaron504 RedBaron504 says:

      I don’t care where this was copy and pasted from but I totally agree. It was a very dull story and I didn’t recognize these versions of Batman and Joker. I pulled out an old Superman annual from 83′ or something and in it Batman dressed up as a Hot Dog Vendor on the street in order to prank Superman. It was unexpected and funny and it made me sad because I thought, “Batman would never be seen doing anything like that today.”

  8. APoetSomeday APoetSomeday says:

    My store’s delivery didn’t arrive today…I have yet to read it.

    Eventually, after much thinking, I came to the conclusion that the name ‘Bruce Wayne’ would be written on a piece of paper under the platter. After reading this, I don’t think I was right, but it probably wasn’t that bad a guess…Or was it, we’ll see.

    Eventually.

    Hopefully.

    Anyway, Paul, you did a fabulous job of making me want to read this one even more than I already did. You magnificent bastard, you. Awesome work, sir.

  9. I thought it was terrifying and unnerving. Joker needs the Batman to be THE Batman. If Joker killed the family or any member, then Bruce / Batman would totally change, and Joker knows that. It would push Bats to become someone different and that would ruin the joke.

    I love it and wasn’t let down. The gun goes bang and the flag pops out…

    • rwpos rwpos says:

      Although the Joker DID kill a member of the Family. Unless the New 52 retconned “A Death in the Family’s” murder of Jason Todd out of existence. Otherwise, I see your point! And for the record, I wasn’t let down either! This was a five-star book for me.

    • bub64882 bub64882 says:

      I think death in the family happened…see the (again) on the Red Hood’s face shot at the table in this issue.

    • APoetSomeday APoetSomeday says:

      Joker explicitly states that he already “got” Jason in this issue by saying that he could potentially “get him (again)”. That renders it ‘New 52′ canon.

  10. SpiderTitan SpiderTitan says:

    Paul I was very taken aback by the gravitas & maturity of your review. Also I was so mesmerized by the fact that my thoughts were of similar rhythm to yours good sir. Your examination of the “dance” that the Joker does so enjoy could very well have put the relationship between him & Batman at an new level of playing field. Whereas their relationship has always been understood (or at least mostly) as a game very much like Sherlock & Moriarty as you’ve mentioned above (although I would argue that Bane is the more literal personification of Batman’s own Moriarty). Yet with the cover, the way Snyder does so hauntingly deliver the ending to Death Of The Family (which reminded me of the ending scene in A History Of Violence because of their similar haunting atmospheres) & your viewpoint on their relationship Paul, I would say that the idea of Batman vs Joker being more of a “tango” of death, destruction & horror between the two of them & everyone that gets involved with them in the crossfire, just gives the whole feud that much more of an immortal feel. Like in a game there must always be a victor, thats how games end, yet in a dance, there’s no telling when the tango would end, should it end, if it could end with these two foes dancing in that everlasting majestic tango. One can only imagine. in other words, well done Paul, well done :)

  11. supersnac90 says:

    I love how poetic and focused your reviews are Paul and this is a great first official POW one. And I was surprised how great this book is without doing anything truly major to continuity or characters, just fantastic drama that is hard to find in any superhero comic nowadays.

  12. This was a great review. Nice way to have your historic first POTW! Congrats, Paul. Also, it should always be “the Batman.”

  13. mrshock13 says:

    Superb review, very well written article. It’s rather nice to see a comic bring out a wonderfully eloquent expression of admiration.

    The final few pages really felt like Joker did win. Joker leaving with a whimper, a word which very strongly sums up the feeling, was the best possible way to end this story and get his point across (“his” being Joker). Those last few pages, showing the family more fractured than we’ve ever really seen as a result of what did, and did not, happen, clearly created a lasting impression on the characters. It does seem like Joker won; Bruce has become more singular among the family now. I loved this issue; every page of it, every panel.

    The subtext throughout the issue, especially after going back to the beginning of the story, was fantastic. While we got an explanation of sorts in the final issue from Joker, never did Snyder explicitly state the underlying motivations or fears of Batman or Joker, which I thought was a welcome change from quite a few other comics these days. He granted a tremendous amount of respect to the readers, wanting us to really look at what is driving these two characters and what they are truly afraid of, rather than being overt with his ideas.

    To Jeremy Carrier, I find it rather interesting that everything you complain about (which I did notice was very similar to other diatribes on CBR), can be presented with counterpoints. I’m not saying your opinion is wrong, because that isn’t possible. You have every right to not like the material. It’s YOUR opinion. Just try to contain your rage a bit more…it was a bit over the top.

  14. nastysnow nastysnow says:

    I was so disappoint in this book. Uncanny xmen was my pick

  15. The twisted part of the plot is that Joker did succeed. At the end, the Family wasn’t answering and running to Bruce like in the past. He had succeeded in showing the kids that Daddy was very bad and let them down. (I stole that from Silvia in Skyfall). He didn’t have to kill them all…he made them see Bruce was not infallible and kept secrets from them which did leave them vulnerable to the Joker to be tortured.

    It worked.

  16. The thing that fell short with this story is the title and the promotion which created a jeopardy of such major proportions that the only ending to satisfy was to go all the way. This didn’t happen.

    I understand that 1) the Death was of the trust of the family and not literal death. 2) What the Joker showed Batman was how he gets that rush from, not the endgame, but from the game itself as much as the Joker does and this is what the two mean to each other. Without this, the Joker gets killed and then what? No other villain can fit his shoes.

    I’m not disappointed because its only the first Joker story in the New 52, I saw this coming (as arrogant as that sounds). And that’s okay as long as the next Joker story goes father than ever before because something has to give. Soon or later. Snyder, Capullo and Co. have the good stuff, I’m looking forward to the Riddler story.

  17. smeeeeee smeeeeee says:

    The scene where bruce shows joker the card in jail was pretty powerful. I wanted someone to die though. I thought it was going to be alfred. Even though bruce kept things from the family, i like how he always still trusts dick. Besides alfred, hes the only person bruce doesnt want to let let down.

  18. First off, congrats on this first POTW review Paul. Very well written and I’m looking forward to the podcast on your first pick.

    However, and I really feel like this is poor timing, I don’t feel the same about the issue. I wasn’t expecting a body count or a a ‘shocking’ death because it makes more sense this was a figurative death than anything else. But I felt that everything wrapped up way too nicely in regards to Joker getting away with it. The moment he opens the dishes and shows the faces of everyone, I just knew this was all going to be B.S. That and the final confrontation by the waterfall (just how big is this cave?) was so cliche. We’ve seen this confrontation before in different locales and Synder made it way too convenient for him to disappear.

    I really do feel bad on disagreeing with the Pick cause it makes it sound like I was going to disagree no matter what. (Which was never my intention.) I just thought this was way too convenient of an ending is what I’m getting at.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      A thoughtful rebuttal to be sure. I look at it this way though. The Joker’s putting on a play and as addled as he seems, he’s also calculated. The waterfall bit was always in the back of his warped mind. It’s all part of the game. And I’m cool with that. That doesn’t lessen the Batman’s smarts or abilities. It just goes to show that the Joker isn’t just a maniac. There’s something more there, and it allowed him to make a dramatic exit.

    • @Paul: Was the waterfall apart of the plan though? He seemed to be very much troubled that Bruce was going to tell him his secret and decides to jump at the last second.. Maybe that was his plan all along to escape but he definitely seemed troubled over that speech.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      I think both can be true.

  19. illmatic illmatic says:

    Great review, bad pick. I’m a Marvel fan, don’t eve n try to hide that. But I was excited for this book, this was the first thing I read today. Snyder always writes a great book, but sorry this was a huge let down for what could have been a definitive Joker story.

  20. muddi900 says:

    So when was the last time a major tent-pole release from the Big Two wasn’t praised to heaven in the comics press.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      I’ll have to check my notes from the last few meetings of the comics press.

    • PraxJarvin PraxJarvin says:

      Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    • LeviHunt15 LeviHunt15 says:

      How much time do you have? Ha ha. Start with just about any event in the past decade, then make your way to something like Johns’ and Lee’s Justice League to Uncanny Avengers to Amazing #700.

    • rwpos rwpos says:

      Uncanny X-Men launched today and it wasn’t the pick. Doesn’t that count? If so, then the answer to your question is “Zero days ago.”

    • Josh Flanagan Josh Flanagan (@jaflanagan) says:

      I believe I’ve earned quite a reputation for not doing that at all. It’s a baseless charge, and 5 years of marvel summer events back it up. You’ve been around long enough to know that you’re just talking silly talk.

    • This really isn’t the case with this website. I’ve learned about more independent publishers from iFanboy then anywhere else on the web. Marvel and DC and Image have great creators and pump out a ton of product. Odds are you will find great books under those three banners. Calling iFanboy a shill for “the big two” is just lazy commenting. And not accurate.

  21. trobinson79 trobinson79 says:

    I know I’m probably asking for too much, but part of me wanted DC and Snyder to go nuts and make a literal death happen rather than a figurative one. I get what they just the figurative route, but you would think with this being the “New 52″ (I know – not so new any more), they would take a bigger chance and cut loose to set themselves apart from the old universe. My mind was programmed for a long time that Alfred was on those dishes given his long disappearance. And if that happened, that would definitely lead to interesting storytelling for however long they’d keep him dead.

    But in the end, it was a great journey that Snyder and Capullo took us on and added another dimension to the Batman/Joker dynamic. On to Riddler…

    • trobinson79 trobinson79 says:

      *I get why they just took the figurative route

      Crap, my grammar sucks. I need something to eat. What’s under this dome?…

    • rwpos rwpos says:

      I’ve gotten so sick of the gimmick-death routine of modern comics. I much preferred the tease of a possible death without the fabricated anguish and annoying future retcons of an actual character death. For my money this was a much more interesting and satisfying pay off.

    • trobinson79 trobinson79 says:

      Yeah, I hear ya. Even if they stuck with killing Alfred, I’d put money on him being back in a year. It’s just a complaint I have about the New 52 where nothing “new” is really happening on most of the books – just status quo. If DC had the guts to relaunch everything, they should have the guts to change Batman’s status quo for a bit.

    • Yea enough death revolving doors.

    • APoetSomeday APoetSomeday says:

      Its not a case of guts – its a case of right story/right time.

  22. roboadmiral roboadmiral says:

    I was really enjoying it until the Joker made Batman drop him at the waterfall. Everything after that was confusing. Did Batman shout “No!” because the Joker was going to die or was he angry that he didn’t get to fulfill the “Everything that happens to you tonight happens by my hand” line? At first I thought he was going to kill Joker, but then it seemed like he was going to psychologically destroy Joker by telling him he knew who he was, but then at the end there’s the computer screen still reading “Identity Unknown” so was it a bluff, if so what was his plan? What was he going to do to finish Joker for good? I found this issue’s explanation of why Batman doesn’t kill the Joker (“I truly believe that if I did it, if I killed Joker, Gotham would just send me someone worse”) to be as half-assed as every other explanation I’ve heard. Like I said, I’ve enjoyed Snyder’s run on Batman immensely thus far, but I am a bit annoyed that Death of the Family has left me mostly with unanswerable questions.

    Also, I like the idea of that Bat-family drifting apart. I think there’s too many people. I like my Batman as a lone ranger, but maybe that’s just me

    • Just about every chapter of this story was a homage to past great Joker stories; the reservoir, Arkham Asylum, Killing Joke and the last chapter of Dark Knight Returns. I honestly thought Bruce was going to kill him this time. There was that line when Bruce escape Dr Hurt, he told Alfred “I was unconscious at the hands of my enemies for an hour..” Or some such line. Well here all five kids and Alfred were gone for hours…and it was Joker not Hurt. I think he finally was going to do it.

  23. Juhl75 says:

    Scott Snyder, this issue was incredible! Thank you, sir. I look forward to you writing Batman for many issues to come!

  24. Pssh. Paul would go with a Batman book like he always does. So biased. When can we get a replacement who doesn’t wear his prejudices on his sleeve? (But for real, Paul. Great review. Congrats on your first pick.)

  25. To anyone who thinks this was a huge letdown think again. We’ve all been had to think that Joker would play into anyones’ expectations. Whoever thinks so is fooling themselves. Joker won after all… the family is now in a metaphorical sense dead. That I think is the brilliance of this issue.

  26. wow great review. you really helped me fully appreciate what Snyder and Capullo pulled off with this story. I was a bit underwhelmed at first, but now i’m tending to agree with your takeaways.

    In this day and age where killing a character is so common and expected, its interesting to see a psychological killing of a mortal enemy. I mean Snyder telegraphed his punches 100% and still surprised us with a slight of hand. Well played.

  27. sunhero sunhero says:

    Paul, your really good at writing.

  28. JimShelley JimShelley says:

    Great review Paul! I completely agree with everything you said.
    I’m a bit surprised by the negative backlash, but I suspect time will tell on this run and this will be eventually be regarded as the classic it is. (I guess it’s a good thing comic book forums didn’t exist when the last issue of Watchmen came out…)

  29. Paul, seriously … Great review. Glad you’re first was a memorable issue! It was a great book and your review a few hours later was a great look back at it. Here’s to many more.

  30. geekmonkey geekmonkey says:

    “He’s far too invested in playing to do something so banal as to win.”

    Thank you, Paul. That line is one of the best summations of the Joker I’ve read. Congratulations on your inaugural POTW; looking forward to many more.

  31. stuclach stuclach says:

    Well written review, Paul. You did a fantastic job conveying why you enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the humorous use of the strikethrough.

    I enjoyed this issue, too. It made me squirm. I didn’t need Alfred to die and I didn’t need the batfamily to require reconstructive surgery. I needed a suspenseful, entertaining comic book and that’s exactly what I got.

    I agree that the art was spectacular. I particularly like the cracks around The Batman’s eye and the effects of the acid in later panels. Very detailed and very good.

  32. kennyg kennyg says:

    Paul, great review. As always, your writing is top notch. Good to know that things are in good hands at ifanboy.

    For me, this was a great week of comics. I really didn’t know what would be the pick. I assumed Batman #17 had a pretty fair shot at being picked, but I thought it depended on who had the pick and their tastes. I would be hard pressed to choose between this book, Manhattan Projects, and Bedlam, all of which were excellent. I haven’t read this installment of Fury, but it’s been a pick before. Batman and Robin, Batgirl, and America’s Got Powers were all good too, but not POTW great. So I really didn’t know what would ultimately win out. I’m fine with it being Batman #17, but Bedlam was pretty fantastic!

  33. Will Magnus Will Magnus says:

    Great start Paul…Enjoyed the review!

    I was all in with ‘Death of the Family’ until the very end, the Prologue, of Batman #17…

    1.) How does Batman’s computer, with access to the internet and other high-end databases, not know the Joker’s identity, but can identify Dubnium, a rare, short lived element, hours later?

    Dubnium is a synthetic element (not natural) produced by nuclear fusion. Of which, only small amounts have ever been produced.

    2.) How/Why would Bruce know to ask, “…other names?” when the the computer stated “Isotope in Joker Toxin Identified” as Dubnium?

    3.) This also begs the question, “How did the Joker gain access to a rare, radioactive element that has a half-life of a day and a half at best”? Is Firestorm behind all this?

    Why aren’t people asking these question???

    Other than that, Snyder, Capullo, Glapion and team’s Death of the Family was fantastic! Can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in the future!

    • kortum22 says:

      First, identifying an element is completely different than figuring out the Joker’s identity. The fact we don’t know it is part of the mythos. Secondly, if you’re are looking into an element to figure out why it was used, as Batman would do because he is meticulous, you are bound to come across an earlier name that a quick wikipedia search can provide. Your last question is the only open question but does that really matter at all. Maybe that’s why he was gone for a year. Planning and locating a certain element that he knows will haunt Batman at the end of their ‘dance’.

    • APoetSomeday APoetSomeday says:

      OK Will, how about this:

      Somewhere after Detective Issue 1 but before Batman Issue 13…

      …Its a dark and stormy night on the outskirts of Star City, or Metropolis, or anywhere that isn’t Gotham.

      Joker (without a face) shows up at a Nuclear Power Plant with incriminating photos of the manager involved in a bizarre superhero-themed orgy. He says “give me access to the element and maybe I won’t let what happened to me happen to you”

      Terrified, the Plant Manager gasps “what? It only has a half-life of a day and a half at best!”

      Joker says “I’ll tell you where and when, fat-boy!”

      Then, the night before Joker started all that shit in Arkham, Joker arrives at the plant and the Manager delivers the element (I have no idea how you’d store it and I’m too damn lazy to look it up). Joker thanks him and then burns the photos.

      “I’m free to go? Just like that?”

      “Just like that”

      The Plant Manager walks across the beams of his plant and Joker hits him with the same hammer gag he used on Bats back in Issue 13, he falls (preferably into a vat of nuclear waste, dying horribly). Joker smiles cruelly and goes back to Arkham (although, to be fair, he’s a little jet-lagged by the trip – hence why he was still preparing his surprise when Batman arrived to stop him).

      Happy now?

      :)

  34. Nordh Nordh says:

    Wow what a pleasure to read, thanks Paul. :)

  35. DavidClark DavidClark says:

    The story’s not finished. Just this “episode”. There’s no way anyone was going to physically die. The arc is “Death of the Family.” Whatever Joker said to them, it worked. You see it at the end. The “Family” is dead. And that’s what J wanted, right?

    The sheer volume of emotion from readers speaks, I think, to how successful the story actually was–maybe from a “meta” viewpoint only, but — Some readers WANT Batman to kill Joker. Some readers WANT Joker to kill someone, anyone in the Bat family. Neither got what they wanted, except again, maybe Joker. I find this issue to be a great cliffhanger. When will J come back? What damage has been done to the Bat family?

    Now, I don’t know if any title is going to explore those questions at length or not…but they will resurface in future arcs.

    We’ll see Joker again, and THEN somebody WILL die.

    Random associated comments:
    Swamp Thing was HORRIBLE. If you were disappointed in Batman, you shoulda read Swampy.
    These Bat events have made me acutely aware that I should be reading Batgirl. I dig Simone’s crossover issues.

  36. Amazing review Paul. You’ve opened my eyes. The joke is on us, and that’s why I’m still pissed off.

  37. diebenny diebenny says:

    This was very well written and a pleasure to read, Paul… Even though I still think you’re a dick.

  38. abuddah says:

    Thanks for a great piece of writing, Paul. I’m frustrated because I found the conclusion quite disappointing. The word “hype” keeps coming up other reviews about this conclsion but the anticipation is built upon the stakes that Snyder raised in the proceeding issues. A kidnapped Alfred, a poisoned commissioner Gordon, the contents of the serving tray, the threat of the Bat Family’s identity and then in this issue their personal disfigurement. None of these consequences were delivered upon, leaving the joker an ironically ‘toothless’ villain. Yes, many unnamed cops and ancillary Gothamites died, but that lacks the personal involvement this story claims to be about. So the argument then is that this is about the thematic Death of the (Bat-family) but even this wasn’t delivered. There was a terse call between Bruce and Dick and Damien decided to train elsewhere. That pales in comparison to many of the dust ups between Bruce and his adopted family over the years. The structural flaw is that Snyder doesn’t utilize the Bat-family in this title. He has Nightwing show up from time to time to give Bruce someone to talk to (or punch), but he doesn’t work with them to track down the Talon or hunt the Joker within the Batman title. Barbara and Jason were merely props in this storyline. Therefore how are we to feel any ramifications as the title moves forward? Imagine a furious Jason Todd at the end of this issue chastising Bruce for not killing the Joker and storming out. Maybe one of the Robins quits as well. That would at least give you a better sense that the Joker has won. I can’t concede Snyder would pull a “jokes on you” Wanted type of ending either.

    I also take issue with the psychological and thematic elements of the Batman/Joker dynamic being blatant rather than suggestive as they have been in the past. When Snyder offers up a metatextual argument over Batman killing the Joker, it brings you out of the story and into an argument in your local comic book store. He even has the Joker disprove the slippery slope argument and you’re left with the realization that the Joker is alive because DC has to keep these licensed characters going. Watching Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns DVD last week didn’t help either. Bruce’s visit to the Joker back in the day feels too on the nose and out of character. There’s a big difference between the Joker not caring who Batman is or literally not being able to process it.

    There’s also some structural problems with the story as a whole. Why would the Joker attack Alfred is he literally can’t process Batman’s secret identity? How did he get back into the caves for this final issue? Also read Batman’s dialog by the waterfall again. That’s a lot of verbiage in the middle of a tense fight to the death, a flaw in the finale of the Talon story as well.

    I like Scott Snyder, I think he’s a kind man with great insight into these characters and I even had my Batman #1 signed by him at NYCC. But ultimately, I’m only keeping The Black Mirror on my proverbial coffee table.

    • stuclach stuclach says:

      The joker fully intended for the batfamily to burn alive and/or tear each other apart due to joker gas induced madness. Batman stopped him. He STOPPED him from doing the most horrific things imaginable. I can’t fathom why he would be considered toothless given what he TRIED to do.

      If I tried to burn a room fool of people and was only stopped due to the unmatched knowledge and reflexes of a police officer would that make me seem less dangerous?

      I don’t mean to pick on your response specifically, but yours seems like a well written version of what many others have stated, so I felt it wise to respond to your post.

      I’m not trying to defend a pick (that’s not necessary given how picks are made), but I do feel a bit of a need to present my view since it seems to differ so significantly from the views of others. I certainly respect your point of view and I’m glad you shared it.

    • stuclach stuclach says:

      I think it should probably also be noted that the Joker did succeed in weakening the bond between Bruce and the rest of the crew, as evidenced by the last few pages of the story.

    • ScottE ScottE says:

      I loved this arc and thought this issue was perhaps the best but I do think you make really good points that can’t really be argued with. It didn’t involve the family enough and when reading their books I found myself really confused at when and how the Joker was organizing all of his plans. And I really wish the Joker would have killed or majorly injured someone close to Batman.

      But I have no problems with Batman and Joker’s conversation, they have been fighting for so long and been thinking about these issues for so long that they are bound to have a conversation like this at some point. Plus I thought Synder made some new and interesting points to this old discussion.

    • pyynk pyynk says:

      @Stuclach EXACTLY! In my opinion, even if everyone “survived”, the Joker won this round. Because Batman is alone again, which is exactly what the Joker wanted.

    • stuclach stuclach says:

      Yep.

  39. Let it be known that I am nobody (Mr. Nobody to some) and I fully endorse this review. Way to pop your POW cherry Paul! Do kids even say that anymore?

  40. phess1 phess1 says:

    Thank you Paul Montgomery for giving comics the thoughtful, in depth and nuisanced writing that they deserve.

  41. pyynk pyynk says:

    No matter what Bruce said to them, no matter that the book was blank, Bruce reaching out to Barbara and the Robins at the end only to be met with evasive, awkward rejection? The Joker won. Even if the family isn’t dead, it’s definitely hurting.

  42. JokersNuts JokersNuts says:

    This was a great finish, and I am looking forward to collecting this one in trade too. Glad it got POTW despite the naysayers. Now, regarding the matter of The Joker’s face… maybe Neron can help him out or something…

  43. BradLWoods3 BradLWoods3 says:

    SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read Batman 17 then don’t read my comments.

    First of all, this had some truly horrific moments. The idea that Batman’s “family” all had their own faces removed like the Joker was brilliant.

    But then, as is often the case for Snyder, the explanations for what’s driving the villain get a little too wordy. It happened in the Court of Owls saga too. But that’s a small complaint.

    The fact that none of the faces were really removed was a relief (epecially for me in the case of Damian, I have grown to love that little guy). However there was a bit of a letdown in this as well because after all the buildup everyone came out pretty much unscathed.

    I’ve also noticed in the Snyder/Capullo run that the storytelling gets a bit confusing at crucial moments and this happened again when the two headed cat went “foom”. Again, a small complaint as overall this was another knockout issue.

    I did enjoy the way Batman finally got fed up with the Joker and how the Clown Prince became moody and angry over it. I also liked the fact that the Joker didn’t want to know all of Batman’s secrets, even to the point of not being able to see Bruce Wayne right in front of him. And I was glad to see the faith Batman put in his “family” while he took care of business.

    Do you know who the Joker really is? Does Batman? Does it even matter, or was it just a ruse Batman used against him?

    The moment with Bruce taking care of Alfred was hilarious.

    However, the attempt at explaining why Batman doesn’t kill the Joker did not hold water for me. And the idea that the Joker did end up causing the “death of the family” after all in an entirely different way also did not ring true for me because I knew that it would ultimately be short lived.

    The joke of the name of the isotope was satisfying.

    All in all a breathtaking Joker series which overcame its few flaws and fulfilled on the heights it aspired to.

  44. flapjaxx flapjaxx says:

    “I believed in those moments that the Joker was capable of anything.”

    Well, sure… and yet that probably says more about your own gullibility and childlike belief in the hype of the story, I think.

    This was literally the most generic Joker story of all time, and yet also the most over-hyped. How is that a win-win, unless you’re looking for style over substance? The Joker doesn’t accomplish anything in this story, and neither does Snyder. Nothing new about the Batman-Joker relationship is said, and anyone who thinks otherwise is just fooling themselves, really. And (of course) the status quo doesn’t change either.

    I know a lot of you guys have read genuinely good comics and books (book-books) before, so how on earth can you be THIS impressed with Snyder’s hamfisted literary stylings? You see a fly, whose meaning is ambiguous, and automatically start screaming about how “My word! This is comparable to Lord of the Flies!” Give me a break and stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

    • jwt6577 jwt6577 (@jwt6577) says:

      “Look at me! Look at me, everybody! I hate something you like! Look at me!” If you hate Snyder’s Batman so much, stop pulling it.

    • jimmyboy says:

      Why is it that it seems any negative comment warrants the weak, unhelpful reply: “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it.” It shuts down any conversation and isn’t the point of commenting on forums to have conversation?

      I am astounded by the majority of response has been to swallow this story hook, line and sinker.

      A major plot point goes without any real answer: WHY did Joker cut off his face?

      While I liked Paul M.’s use of the clown’s gun going off with a flag’s “bang”, I don’t have issue with a story where a big ‘bang” doesn’t go off. I take issue with the piecemeal plot points and devices… that go nowhere.

      One of the best critique’s I’ve read is here: http://comicsastonish.com/2013/02/12/batman-is-stupid/
      I don’t know the guy who wrote it, I have no stake in posting his link, I submit it only to add to the discussion and b/c i think he makes great points in which iFanboy should engage.

    • kennyg kennyg says:

      When I read reviews and comments like this, I often think “Haters gonna hate!” Some people live to piss on others’ work. Some just genuinely don’t like it, which is fine.

      Other times, I think if the arc were identical but the by-line read “Morrison/Quietly” the same people would be lining up to blow the creative team…

    • jimmyboy says:

      yeah, ok, and “playas gon’ play, …don’t hate tha playa, hate the game.”
      i still don’t understand why honest critique is not welcome. or not tolerated. …and why must it be interpreted as hate.

      …and why project your own fantasy onto others who contribute to the “conversation”? (if we can call it that.)

  45. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Hype is a marketing tool. People enjoying things is people enjoying things.

  46. bub64882 bub64882 says:

    Initially I was a bit “let down” that all this tension culminated in not a whole lot. I dreaded Alfred dying, but thought “wow, that would really up the stakes”. Throughout the twists of the issue though, it became clear there was no “game changer/status quo changer” in store for this arc. Except that there was, it just didn’t have a funeral issue pronouncing it.

    And then I realized that I’d fallen into the trap that I profess to loathe. That we have to have meaningless deaths (retconned awkwardly with the next creative team), or divorces, or mind swaps to make stories matter. What utter bullshit.

    In the end, Snyder and Capullo masterfully pulled off a very “old fashioned” batman story. Batman vs the Joker! Hostages! The menace of the Joker ends forever….or does it?!? I mean, if you break down the plot with the benefit of hindsight, this could be, well maybe not silver-age, but certainly late 70′s or early 80′s storytelling. Except that there was no comfort zone…I didn’t read each issue and think “of course Batman saves the day”. And that, to me, is the triumph of this storyline. The creative team has managed to infuse a classic tale with a real sense of dread…an acknowledgement that “holy shit, anything could happen…that could be Alfred’s head, or Gordon’s head, and Dick/Barbara will never speak to Bruce again!”

    And I can’t remember when I have been on the edge of my seat like this waiting for an issue. And I’m someone who barely cares about Batman!

    So, THANK YOU Snyder and Capullo (and everyone else who made this)…You reminded me why I love this medium, and what is possible without resorting to “tricks”. Very, very well done!

  47. Mordecai Mordecai says:

    Wonderfully written synopsis and review Paul. Your first POTW review is one for the ages.
    Also, great book.

  48. ed209AF ed209AF says:

    A lot of people are complaining the “whimper” wasn’t enough, that there was a false sense of promise that someone would die. The thing is the book did exactly as it promised. This arc was called “Death of the Family” and the entire bat family feels betrayed by Bruce by the end, the family is unraveling. It’s pretty simple. Scotty don’t make no promises he can’t keep.

  49. ArsNotoria ArsNotoria says:

    I agree with most of Paul’s points, but I just couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed by this issue. I can’t quite put my finger on why, either. I guess after issue #16 I was expecting something horrifying and disturbing, but the whole “faces” thing was fairly predictable and the toxin and gasoline just seemed slapped together. After such an intricate lead-up to this finale, I suppose I was expecting a more clever ending. The final page, however, was a fitting punchline.

  50. Mr.J Mr.J says:

    Excellent review, Paul!

    Like many others I too was disappointed with this issue. But, a combination of this review and an interview with Snyder made me realize that I was wrong. I honestly think Snyder has written one of the best Joker stories ever.

    Can’t wait to hear the podcast!

  51. BionicDave BionicDave says:

    First – that was a superb review, Paul. You have such an inspired gift of communication, both written and spoken. I’m so grateful that recent events have led to you getting an even larger role with iFanboy.

    Second – I am curious to read posts (here and elsewhere) about what readers suppose Joker told Dick/Jason/Tim/Damian/Barbara in the dark, i.e. what he possibly could have said to them to decay their trust in Batman even a bit. After I’d finished reading #17, my first thought was that Bruce was wrong in his reverie narration to Alfred; that while he was so sure that Joker didn’t care to see that it was Bruce Wayne holding that card against the cell glass, he was in fact wrong – and that Joker did absorb it. And while it is true that Joker doesn’t care whom the Batman truly is, Joker does know that the Bat Family is built on an assumed trust, so that if Batman never told the Robins and Batgirl that he revealed himself to Joker years ago… then that would be all it’d take to cause Batman’s soldiers to march away. No?

  52. batguy0602 says:

    no such thing to say awesome dark story and greg capullo’s art is brilliant