batwatch's Batman #15 - But Here's the Kicker; Red Light, Green Light review

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    Batman #15

    But Here’s the Kicker

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    Despite the fact that I came down somewhat hard on the last issue of Batman with its supernatural Joker killing dozens of guards with a sweep of his hand, the hype seems to be getting to me because I found myself positively giddy to get started with this issue. Does Batman #15 live up to its hype, or does it prove to be but an average comic wrapped in a supernatural media storm?

    In this issue, Batman confronts Joker, suffers a disturbing dream, and has an unpleasant discussion with the Family.

    The New Darker Joker?

    All throughout this arc, people, both inside and outside of the comic itself, have been talking about how this is a darker Joker than we have ever seen, and people like me have been saying, “I don’t think so.” Joker is already about as dark a character as you can possibly have. When comparing villains for sociopathic deeds, no one can top the Clown Prince of Crime. People seem to be mistaking a higher body count as “darkness,” but the soul of Joker is no more dastardly than usual. Is this a darker Joker? No, but that is not a failing of the story because it would be virtually impossible to make the Joker any darker.

    However, this is an excellent Joker story exposing just how dark the character is and has always (in the modern era) been. I would pay a few bucks to get the first page alone framed on my wall. In that one full page panel, readers get a disturbing presentation of Joker’s current visage and an excellent little analysis of Joker’s psyche from a fresh perspective. It is very nice, and the story continues to deliver fresh ideas for the character. As promised, Joker confronts Harvey and the police and takes them down psychologically and physically in a way that does not rely on supernatural nonsense. It is soon revealed that Joker has a playhouse constructed for Batman which will no doubt play a fascinating role in the next issue, and Mr. J’s choice of locales has me very intrigued. Snyder seems really intent on playing up the romantic element of Joker’s fascination with Batman, and I have to say that is does serve to make his obsession all the more disturbing. Even the playhouse ties in to that concept; it is almost as if Joker is the good homemaker for his man. Joker’s tactics are brutal, effective and creepy in this issue, and I love them.

    The Flow

    I always have to give respect to a writer who evenly balances a comic with action and story and makes both equally entertaining. This issue starts with a bang, but when Bruce ends up talking with the family, things are just as riveting. Snyder is still teasing whether or not Joker actually knows the identities of Batman and company, and this discussion takes center stage. Again, the hype must be getting to me because I kind of want to slap Snyder and say, “Just tell me already!” Despite my impatience at having to wait another month, the pacing is actually perfect.

    Artistic Excellence

    Capullo continues to deliver on the artwork. What amazes me is not so much the general quality of the work but the overall artistic design. There is a flashback sequence in this issue, and the art is given a faded, scratchy look which combines the looks of an old newsreel and a worn-out comic. It looks amazing. There are many other little details which make this issue superb. The cover is simplistic genius. Joker’s face looked even more twisted than usual during the fight with Batman. Even the spacing of the panels seems to have been carefully chosen to deliver each one at exactly the poignant moment. Most artists can draw a nice sketch, but not every artist can put it all together in such a satisfying package.

    There was one scene which perplexed me, and I do not know if this was an artistic choice or something specifically written, but at one point, a family is shown which perfectly mimics the Bat Family. A dark haired father, four dark haired boys perfectly fitting the age and sizes of the Robins, and a light haired daughter all centered around a table. At first, I thought that perhaps Joker had identified the wrong family as Batman’s clan, but the scene seems to go by without any acknowledgement of this similarity which was way too close to be happenstance. Will this become important later, or does Snyder and Capullo merely want to remind readers subconsciously that this story was all about the Bat Family?

    Despite My Praise…

    Despite my praise, I did see a couple problems with this issue. Batman appears to have survived a rocket blast in this issue which is clearly ridiculous, but there is enough wiggle room in the art to make this plausible. After all, it could have been a rocket that landed shortly in front of him, or it could have been some sort of incendiary explosive which would have been mostly stopped by his suit. Still, the artwork should have made that scene clear. Also, there is a dream sequence in this issue which struck me as hilarious, and I am not sure if that was the intended effect. Finally, Bruce is magically saved at one point in the story, and his miraculous survival is never explained. I could make some guesses, but that is a pretty huge plot point to leave undisclosed.

    Red Light, Green Light

    The backup story in this issue features Riddler trapped in his cell while Joker is creating chaos in Arkham Asylum. In addition to being one of the best Riddler stories I have seen in a long time, this story seems to setup for the next issue and the probable future Riddler story following Death of the Family. It is very entertaining, and it really whets the appetite for what Snyder has cooked up in the next issue. The artwork is also extremely strong, so kudos to the backup team.

    Conclusion 9/10

    I tried to find fault with this issue, and I did, but despite some moderate story telling faults, the positives were so much stronger that they nearly earned this issue a perfect score. Because of the miraculous Bruce feats which readers have to explain away, I dropped this issue down a notch, but it is still an extremely good issue which any Batman fan should purchase.

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