Death of the Family Review: Batman and Robin #15 by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

Death of the Family Review:  Batman and Robin #15

“Little Big Man”

Published by DC Comics

Written by Peter J. Tomasi

Art by Patrick Gleason

Coloured by John Kalisz

The Plot

The story begins with Damien determined to find Alfred as he was abducted by the Joker back in Batman #13.  By finding a clue, he determines that Alfred has to be held at the Gotham Zoo.  He is quickly attacked by a group of hyenas.  He is successful in fending them off, but he is drugged while doing so.  He awakens to the Joker who is wearing his face upside down.  He also appears to be suffering from a serious hygiene problem as well.  The Joker continues to banter with Robin and attempt to mentally torment him at the same time.  He is angered by the footage he sees of Alfred getting tortured and promises to kill him.  Robin attempts to fight back a little bit and then the Joker deduces that he is different from the other Robins in a warped way.  The Joker continues on his rant (from other titles as well) that Batman’s allies are continuing to hold him back, which will negatively affect his own relationship with Batman.  He also uses an actual robin and a bat to further illustrate his point.  He then buries Robin in a huge pile of bugs, etc. much to his disgust.  Afterwards he uses another method to continue illustrating his point about the incompatibility of Robins and Bats in a very strange cliffhanger.

The Breakdown

This was a good issue as Joker used some veteran moves to get the better of Robin who at the same time, did not fall prey to fear.  At the same time, I did enjoy seeing Damien get rattled towards the end of the issue.  Damien getting restless and wanting to discover what happened to Alfred was good because it explored a plot point that needed some resolution.  Alfred is missing and this upsets both Batman and Robin, but since the latter is stuck on Batcave detail he has time to investigate the abduction.  I liked how the Joker went more out of his way to be more visually disturbing with Robin.  The reason why I liked this was because he is employing different approaches with each of Batman’s allies that he encounters.  There are also some good Joker one-liners such as “that I’ve turned my frown upside down” while he puts his face on right-side up.  As crazy as he is, I like how he is pretty perceptive.  One example of this was him seeing through Robin and recognizing that he’s pretty dark himself.  In this issue we also get a small glimpse of what lies behind the face.  I’ve been pretty curious about this since he had it removed back in Batman Detective Comics #1.  We are also provided with a little more insight behind the Joker’s actions, which helps to continue building upon the story in the main title.  There were some funny moments as well such as Robin not knowing who the Lone Ranger and Tonto were.  Gleason’s art helped to provide a very disturbing and rough looking story.  The colours provided by Kalisz were effective in setting the dark grim tone of this book.  I was looking forward to this confrontation and I was not disappointed.  I’m also wondering what’s going to happen next issue with the weird cliffhanger.

BUT…

During the flashback scene Alfred looked like Bert from Sesame Street, but with a moustache.  I hope that we get to see the Joker and Robin go one on one next issue.  Robin spent the majority of their confrontation drugged and restrained.  However, I’m sure that we’ll see this in the next issue.  During this confrontation something kind of dawned on me.  We are seeing some potentially great Joker stories getting crammed into one storyline.  There have been many Joker stories over the years and it must be difficult to create new and interesting storylines for him.  Some of these encounters could have happened and more in-depth at a later time.  I’m enjoying this storyline right now, but the thought has crossed my mind that there is some wasted potential for some future storylines involving the Joker.

Buy It, Borrow It, Shelf Read It, or Ignore It?

Shelf Read It.  I’m officially on the fence about this one in terms of recommending it.  I personally enjoyed it, but I don’t feel strongly enough to fully recommend people to spend their money on it.  The success of this story does really rely upon what happens in the next issue.  People either like or hate Damien (I’ve grown to like him overall) and he’s the focus in this book.  This was a dark and gruesome issue and it really suited this confrontation, but the people that I talked to were turned off by this.  I’m glad that each title is committed to showing the storyline from the perspective of specific characters.  Damien was still a little badass and didn’t look weak when the Joker stepped up the torture and intimidation tactics, which finally got under his skin.  I’m glad that Batman is not showing up in the other titles and that his own battle with the Joker is kept to the pages of his own title.  The part where I really started to enjoy this issue was when the Joker saw that he has more in common with this Robin than the other ones.  There is something with each encounter that I’m looking forward to, which is what’s making this storyline work for me overall.  The tie-ins are much more relevant this time around as opposed to the Night of the Owls storyline.  This issue provides more insight into the Joker’s madness and I enjoy the team of Tomasi and Gleason in general.  I liked this story and my review reflects this overall, but I recommend someone to quickly peruse it just in case they don’t like maggots, falling flesh, and other disturbing images.

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