Batman #15

"Batman" #15 continues to redefine the Joker and his relationship with the Bat-family, including the other members of the Rogues' Gallery. In that regard, Scott Snyder joins with co-writer James Tynion IV to bring the Riddler into the larger story for the backup feature while the lead narrative focuses on the seeds of doubt Joker sews among Bruce Wayne's allies.

"Death of the Family" is a nice addition to Snyder's redefining run of Batman and Gotham. Artist Greg Capullo's lively drawings imbue the story with a twisted energy that shouldn't be present in a Batman comic book, making the dark and scary more hyper and intimidating. The opening page of "Batman" #15 will certainly prove to be one of the most memorable Joker images for years to come. Capullo, inker Jonathan Glapion and colorist FCO Plascencia have crafted an image that will burn into readers' minds and return to their consciousness much the same way as the Brian Bolland drawn Joker at the door from "The Killing Joke."

The biggest problem with a book that has been so consistently great is that when the smallest blemish turns up, it seems magnified. This issue suffers from a pair of such moments, one on the writing/lettering/editorial side and one on the art. The first is a simple misconstruction of a sentence where Batman either slips into Yoda-speak or the creative crew simply constructed as sentence as "It's the only way, beating to him his punchline." The art bobble happens when Batman attempts to escape the clutches of the Joker. Without spoiling things too much, it appears as though the Dark Knight is responsible for some destruction and then suddenly has no gloves on. A re-read helps straighten things away, but the story is so briskly paced and Capullo's art so resplendent with details that this little storytelling bit gets overshadowed. These flaws, as I've mentioned, are minor, but they're present nonetheless, preventing this book from achieving perfection.

Aiding the fight towards perfection is an absolutely spectacular flashback page that not only evokes Frank Miller and Neal Adams, but also is treated in such a manner as though the image itself was plucked from archival files in the Batcave. Little touches like that and the cinematic framing of the sequence where Batman is casing the apartment of Dylan McDyre help separate this book from everything else on the stands, including other Bat-titles. Add to that the personalities that Capullo pours over the Bat-family and this book is, at the very least, a visual spectacle. Capullo's Bat-family is so much fun (as they have been under his direction since "Batman" #1) that I find myself thinking how enjoyable a Batman Family title might be with Capullo on the art chores.

As if Capullo weren't enough of an artistic draw for "Batman" #15, Jock joins the party and draws a seven-page conversation between Joker and Riddler that takes place in the halls of Arkham Asylum. In keeping with the trend in his collaborations with Snyder (and, in this case, co-writer Tynion), Jock draws up another dead animal in a Batman story, in this case a horse, but don't worry, it all makes sense in the story. I've never been a big Riddler fan. For me, Frank Gorshin nailed it and no one else in comics, cartoon or film has been able to touch him since. This installment is an enjoyable bit that offers up some hope.

As the Joker tells the Riddler in the backup story in "Batman" #15, "You're going to want to come along for the ride. This is going to be something to remember!" Indeed "Batman" #15 is just that -- an unpredictably bizarre tangle of ideas wilder than a roller coaster from the deranged mind of the Clown Prince of Crime as he sets out to make an appeal to "his king."

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