Death of the Family Review: Batman #14 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (2)
by RJ Schwabe on November 18, 2012

Batman #14: Funny Bones

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Release Date: 11/14/2012
Cover Price: $3.00
Review: Digital Copy (From Comixology)

This is the continuation of the Death of the Family crossover (although only Batgirl has been a part of the crossover so far) that threatens to affect all of the Bat books. In Batman #13, the Joker returns with his detached face/skin kindof loosely attached to his head like a flesh mask (kindof an homage to the movie Face Off I’m guessing). The Joker’s plan is that the attack by The Court of Owls has shown that Batman is weaker than he used to be, so The Joker is going to re-enact old crimes but in a different more deadly manner. The Batman family is alerted, and Batman goes off to confront The Joker at ACE Chemicals. At the chemical plant, he finds Harley Quinn dressed as the Red Hood, who traps Batman in a chemical vat. Meanwhile at Wayne Manor, Alfred is attacked by The Joker with a wrench.

Synopsis

  • Batman escapes the vat of chemicals and returns to Wayne Manor, where he discovers that Alfred is missing, as Bruce is given a tape telling him that his butler has been abducted.
  • Batman visits Commissioner Gordon in his bedroom. He tries to move Gordon to a safe bunker, but Gordon starts to bleed out from a paper cut, as The Joker had given him blood thinner.
  • Nightwing and Batman talk about how to take down The Joker, and sends Dick to the Gotham Aqueduct while he does to confront The Joker at the reservoir.
  • Batman confronts The Joker who has changed his plans; he has already poisoned the water, drowned people in the water, and blown up the aqueduct, so that he and Batman can move onto the next phase.
  • Joker traps Batman and tells him that he knows the identities of the Bat-Family. And that within 72 hours, they will all be dead, killed by Batman

Questions and Answers

Q:    The suggestion is that Alfred was attacked by The Joker because Bruce Wayne is heading up Batman International, but this has yet to be proven or disproven by the story.

Q:     The Joker claims to know the secret identities of the members of the Batman family, but he does not tell any of them to Batman, especially not mentioning Batman’s connection to Bruce Wayne. Is he telling the truth or lying

Q:     The Joker claims that the Batman is keeping a secret from the rest of the Bat-family.

Analysis

Tell me if you’ve had this experience before. You read a comic book in one of your favorite titles written by one of your favorite writers, and the story is part of a larger story that is really good. You finish reading the comic, and you just feel flat.

You don’t feel disappointed or let down. You know the writing was good. You know the art was good. You know the overall story is good. You are still just as eager to read the next issue. But the comic just seems like it wasn’t enough.

That’s where I am with Batman #14. The book had several great moments, but for me the whole thing felt anti-climactic. But I can’t really say why. There’s a good chance that it’s the reader and not the creative team. (Sometimes I can read so many Joker stories where he’s so monstrous that it’s hard to believe he’s anything but a fictional character.) Or maybe it’s just that there was a lot of talking and not really a lot of action.

However, there is no reason that you shouldn’t buy this issue if you are a Batman fan, especially if you’ve been reading Death of the Family. So with that said, let’s review this comic.

In the early part of the book, Batman is trapped inside the chemicals that made The Joker, and the narration describes how he has analyzed the chemicals for years now. The narration describes that he has looked in the chemical component for some sort of answer to The Joker, why he’s not dead, what made him the way that he is, what can be done to solve the unsolvable problem. It’s a great concept, and it totally fits in with the obsessive Batman character.

Joker revisiting old crimes as a calling card to Batman is a nice touch. Using old technology, like a cassette tape, was also really appreciated.

Batman’s talk with Nightwing, where Bruce is trying to stay focused as Batman to the extent where he calls Alfred both “Bruce Wayne’s butler” and “Pennyworth”, trying to keep things as clinical as possible, was really interesting. Alfred is the one vulnerable point of Batman’s life, someone less equipped to deal with a maniac like The Joker. It is tougher for Bruce to handle him being in danger.

I like Greg Capullo’s art very much, but he has a real thing for eyes. During the Court of Owls saga, he depicted Batman with one white eye slit in and one slit out (so you could see one eye white, and the other blue). And now, he does the same look with The Joker. All artists have a style, but it seemed repetitive to me.

Scott Snyder interjects the rather Shakespearian idea that The Joker is the court jester for the king, meaning Batman. In Shakespeare plays, specifically King Lear, only the court jester can tell the truth to the king who is blinded by the trappings of human emotions. This is a pretty interesting idea that places Batman as a flawed character who knows the truth but is too trapped by his emotions to act on it. It’s a very clever idea.

The one problem with this whole story is that this does not feel like a DCnU story, where Batman has only been a hero for the last 6-7 years. This feels like the post-Crisis Batman, who had close to 25 years of history with The Joker (probably condensed into a 10-14 year time frame). I know the Bat-Universe is relatively untouched by Flashpoint, and I should repeat to myself, “It’s just a comic book, I should really just relax”. (Someone had to get that reference). Regardless, this is a plot that makes sense for an aged Batman, a conflict between two foes that defines their lives, not between two adversaries who have only been fighting since before the previous presidential election.

And I get the feeling this is all leading to a Batman who rejects the other members of the ‘family’, preferring to work alone. This would be the ‘death’ that the title refers to. This is a great idea, except it has been done before, in fact lots of times before. In fact, over the last 20 years or so, Batman has rejected the ‘family’ more often than he has kept them close. To this long time Batman reader, it really feels like Batman has just recently reconnected with the family, since coming back from the dead, and to go back to solo Batman who rejects everyone feels like going backwards instead of forwards.

Men of Worship

Writer: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Artist: Jock

The Penguin goes to a church on the outside of town to meet with the other crime families in town. Turns out The Joker has killed all of them using one of The Penguin’s umbrellas, which will let the families think that the Penguin was behind it all. Joker thinks of Batman as the God-King of Gotham City. After the Penguin amuses him, the Joker offers to take credit for the massacre, and invites The Penguin to a special ‘event’.

Analysis

There is a lot of fun giving a past history between The Joker and The Penguin, which is always one of the fun things about Gotham City. It also shows a real distinction between them as villain types. I really enjoyed this little side story.

Verdict

There’s nothing wrong with this comic book, really. But it didn’t strike me like most of the Scott Snyder issues have done in the recent past. I’m still 100% on board for the Death of the Family crossover, and I look forward to the next chapter. I do hope that we’re not heading towards a very familiar and overused scenario.

Overall Grade: 8.0 (A disappointing second chapter that means nothing if the remaining chapters work.)

 



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