Death of the Family Review: Batman Detective Comics #16 by John Layman and Jason Fabok

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Batman Detective Comics #16

“Nothin’ But Smiles”(and “Pecking Order”)

Published by DC Comics

Written by John Layman

Art by Jason Fabok (and Andy Clarke)

Coloured by Jeromy Cox (and Blond)

The Plot

Ogilvy is taking advantage of the panic caused by the Joker to borrow his modus operandi and commit crimes in a similar manner.  More people are getting swept up by the madness, which includes a lot of Joker disciples and copycats.  Batman arrives to stop one group of them as he is trying to find more information about the League of Smiles.  Batman continues to monitor possible members by scanning Old Grant Park where fans of the Joker are allowed to congregate.  He shows some interest in Rodney the Torch who has a history of arson.  The League of Smiles (which now includes Rodney) crash a memorial honouring the Joker’s victims with the intent to kill them all.  Batman is busy with another couple of groups and is racing against the clock to rescue the memorial hostages.  He arrives to find a surprise and Rodney…has issues.  Meanwhile the League of Smiles regroups, but with their boss this time around…Merrymaker.

The back-up story deals with Ogilvy (a.k.a. Emperor Penguin) who tells other crimes bosses about his plan to blame the Joker for their crimes.  He states that he wants control over their operations and that the Penguin will soon no longer be in the picture.  Not everyone sees eye to eye with him, which forces him to get them to agree with him by any means necessary.

The Breakdown

I enjoyed this issue more than the most recent on the main title.  Layman does a good job of showing the panic and madness at the ground level.  Some groups are legitimate threats while others are just posers.  This issue provided a good view of how the Joker’s return is affecting people outside of the Bat-family.  The revelation about Rodney was interesting as it provided a decent little swerve (considering he’s a character with no impact on the Bat-verse).  This is what I like about Layman though, he takes the time to utilize characterization to make characters more real whether they are major or minor.  There was also no Joker to be found in this issue, which actually made it better.  I think this is why I preferred it because his presence in every Bat-book has been a little bit of overkill.  Some of it has been fun, but I’ve been picking up every issue of the Death of the Family and this month it started to wear on me a bit.  However, this issue takes a different approach to the storyline and that’s what I liked about it.  Batman’s struggles with all of the fringe groups didn’t seem forced either.  He’s working hard to contain the madness created by the Joker’s return.  By not specifically placing itself within a time period of the story occurring over in Batman, this story does not suffer from any continuity flaws.  This allows the issue to stand out and be a bit less restricted from the main story.  I’m also interested to see what role Merrymaker has to play in the whole Joker affair.  Fabok’s art was very good this issue.  The storytelling by the art was very good and it looked top notch.  I’m not familiar with Fabok’s previous work offhand so I was taken aback by the quality of his work this issue.  It stood out more for me than his work in the previous issues.  The colours provided by Cox also helped to set the appropriate tone for the book.  All in all, the art team did a great job this issue.  I enjoyed this issue more than I expected to.

BUT…

I still cannot buy into the whole Emperor Penguin thing.  I just cannot take him seriously when he declares himself with his poses.  He’s also adopted a monocle this month, which makes him more deadly in the eyes of his peers (?).  The revelation with Rodney was slightly hurt by what the end result was.  After enduring that there’s no way he could’ve been in the state of mind to speak with Batman.  Also, it should’ve been much messier considering the limited amount of time that passed.

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

Buy It.  It was a solid book this month.  I’m not raving about it, but this title is consistently getting better with Layman at the helm.  This book had no momentum (for me at least) going for it when he took over the writing duties.  I’m definitely enjoying it more than the other Bat-titles right now (other than Batman) and the art by Jason Fabok is getting better by the issue as well.  Even though it’s technically a Death of the Family issue, it still provides a nice break from Death of the Family.

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