Print Edition: November 20, 2013
Halfway through this graphic novel, there is a single dark panel with the Joker smiling in the shadows. The menacing smile on his stretched and rotting face of the Joker is chilling to the bone. Once you somehow turn away from that face, you can see quote boxes of Batman trying to convince himself that the Joker is just a man, and that those beady eyes are those of a regular human being. But when you turn back to Greg Capullo’s sketch, it is nearly impossible to believe.
After having his face literally sliced off and disappearing for a year, the Joker returns to reclaim his face and execute the ultimate act of horror and inhumanity against the Dark Knight and his allies. Writer Scott Snyder weaves an intense as well as ridiculous plan. From re-enacting his original crimes to publicly announcing the death of the entire “Bat” family, the Joker has truly lost anything resembling childish jokes or a playful demeanor and become a true force of evil. That’s not to say he wasn’t already evil before, but the Joker really takes it to a whole new level in this comic.
To be honest, everyone will read this just to see the Joker return. Wearing his old face via staples and surgical wire, every single panel containing him is horrifying to look at. Yet the horror is what draws you in. With Capullo’s detail of colour and human anatomy along with additional work from Mark Simpson (a.k.a. Jock), the artwork is stunning on almost every level.
But there are some inconsistencies at times. While Simpson is a great artist (having helped break Snyder in with The Black Mirror) he seems to have been misinformed on colour textures. As the story progresses, Capullo begins to deteriorate the Joker’s face and rot begins to set in. But whenever Simpson takes the artistic reins, the face returns to white. While this is really the only issue of the comic art-wise, it can break the progression at times and brings into question how this major factor of the Joker wasn’t brought up in production.
Snyder has had a great run so far with the Batman series. Writing a story that overlaps all other Batman comics as well as partners like Nightwing and Batgirl can be a heavy burden and Snyder has handled it pretty well. Now, with the return of the Joker, the tale of Death of the Family encompasses the entire Batman-related universe. But a certain aspect of Snyder’s recent writing appears just as before. His ideas aren’t entirely original.
Granted, his “court of owls” idea is intriguing, it is also heavily borrowed from works like The Cult, Hush, and his own graphic novel, The Black Mirror. He also has a tendency to reveal something at the end of his novels that was completely unknown up until that moment. For this novel, while it is obvious that some events hearken back to the Joker’s debut, it sometimes feels more like a rough rehash rather then a new take. While it is impossible to come up with new ideas all the time for the Caped Crusader, this lack can be a little tiresome.
But that doesn’t stop him from writing a heck of a page-turner. Batman repeatedly fails to foil the prince of crime as the chaos begins to focus purely on the relationship between the two. Delving into the idea of the Joker’s obsession with the hero as a form of psychotic affection, Snyder digs deep into the psyche of the Joker. And while there are some absurd Batman moments as well, like punching out a horse, most of the book is entertaining.