Batman #17

"Batman" #17 marks the conclusion of the "Death of the Family" mega-event and signals major changes for the Bat-family as Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo still manage to deliver some surprises. I'll preserve the air of mystery as to the specifics of the change, but suffice to say the status quo has definitely shifted. Then again, when have events ever stood pat or reverted to their origin when it comes to Scott Snyder's "Batman?" The scribe who added the Court of Owls to Batman mythology brings some interesting connections and secrets to the post-relaunch DC Universe for the end of the Bat-family crossover.

The Joker, as written by Snyder, is so deceitful and manipulative that his misdeeds and evil acts almost seem natural and free-flowing, but as the depths of deceit become more apparent, only then does the Joker's scheming truly come to light. Snyder writes crazed lunatics and deranged maniacs like no one else to the point where, after finishing this book, I had to remind myself a man with young children wrote this and this is in no way a reflection of who he is. At least, I sure as hell hope Snyder's nothing like his Joker, because his Joker is damn terrifying.

As with any defining clash with Joker, Batman is pushed to the limit, his mind and body ridiculously tested by a foe that brings out the absolute best and worst in the Dark Knight. Snyder's tests for Batman (proctored by Joker) are more emotional, psychological and significantly more memorable than I recall seeing in any Batman comic book this side of Grant Morrison's "Arkham Asylum." Joker is every bit the unbalanced madman portrayed by Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight," but magnified through an unbalanced lens that adds layers of disgusting creepiness and filth, accentuated by Greg Capullo's masterful depiction of Joker's own face rotting away as it is strapped to his head. Visual elements like the two-headed lion cub and Greg Capullo's buzzing flies deepen the nauseatingly uneasy quality of Snyder's narrative. The suspense and uncertainty of the story's outcome, coupled with the big reveal under the dinner plates was enough to turn my stomach, bringing me to the precipice of hurling, but stopping just short.

Capullo delivers an amazing amount of detailed, animated, active art in the thirty pages of story that "Batman" #17 provides. As has been the case all along, Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia accentuate Capullo's art, with all three merging nicely together in an amazing set of visuals that will certainly inspire untold amounts of homage art from the inspiration delivered. Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt combine to deliver lettering that seals the deal on this comic book. Joker's balloons are haunting and disturbing, sharing nothing with the voices from the members of the Bat-family. It's a nice touch that really helps make this comic stand out.

While the quality of "Batman" #17 certainly reaches the high bar Capullo and Snyder have set for themselves, taken as a conclusion to a sweeping crossover is where the issue succeeds, both as a creative work and satisfying ending. The other Bat-family titles have entrusted their characters to Snyder's care and he does a good job manipulating that trust into a stunning conclusion that permanently scars the Bat-family in a way not unlike the Joker's own disfigurement. While the installments in other titles certainly added depth to the tale, there is no denying the backbone to the story was in "Batman" all along. Only here, in the final chapter of "Death of the Family" do readers really learn the true depth of the relationship between Batman and Joker.

Truly functioning as "The Punchline" to "Death of the Family," this issue will be received like many jokes: some will get it right away, some will need it explained and others will walk away with little comprehension of it. For those who get it, who have been dialed in to the setup, the delivery from Snyder and Capullo in "Batman" #17 pays off with a grand and satisfying conclusion to an epic tale the Batman corner of the DC Universe.

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