|BATMAN No. 14, January 2013|
For “DC Comics” best-selling comic of November 2012 the plot pacing to Issue Fourteen of “Batman” is arguably a little underwhelming and laborious as Scott Snyder attempts to re-enact the Dark Knight’s earliest clashes with the Clown Prince of Crime in a disappointingly dialogue-heavy yarn interspersed with the occasional inauspiciously drawn single-page splash. Certainly it is hard to fathom out how the book sold a staggering 159,729 copies during a month when fierce publishing rival “Marvel Worldwide” dominated the sales figures with a plethora of ‘fresh’ titles such as Brian Michael Bendis’ “All New X-Men”.
Admittedly the twenty-two page long “Funny Bones” starts well enough, depicting a somewhat battered and burnt Batman barely breaking out of a giant vat of sulphuric acid. But disconcertingly that is all the excitement with which is to be found within the narrative, as the American author then ponderously dwells upon the Joker's abduction of Alfred Pennyworth and a failed attempt to murder Commissioner Gordon by thinning his blood with “a derivative of Heparin.”
The heavy involvement of Dick Grayson doesn’t help matters either. Snyder appears determined to merely use the ‘heir to the Mantle of the Bat’ as some sort of petulant emotional foil for the Dark Knight, rather than show Nightwing as the Caped Crusader’s former heroic partner. As a result their bickering over just whom Alfred means the most to is ridiculously childish and really slows the comic’s sluggish sedentary storyline down even further.
The biggest disappointment however has to be the seven-page confrontation between Batman and the Joker on top of the Gotham City reservoir. The former “Swamp Thing” writer has spent some considerable time trying to build up the reader's desire for this meeting, having had the super-villain kill numerous police officers, kidnap and torture Bruce Wayne’s elderly butler and try to kill one of the Dark Knight’s best friends… not to mention the cowled crimefighter himself. Yet all Snyder has the duo do when they finally come face to face is discuss their former struggles back when they “were full of vim and vigour”. This is especially true for the homicidal psychopath, who can’t seem to stop talking because he believes he knows the secret identifies of all the Bat-allies.
True at one point, upon realising that his arch nemesis has drowned “the young and uppity” from a nearby condo, the Caped Crusader loses his temper and rushes the green-haired fiend. But he is immediately ensnared by a number of wire-trailing joker teeth and swiftly brought to his knees, so as to allow the ever-grinning maniac to continue ‘rabbiting on’ for a further few pages.
Regrettably the probable highlight of this “Death Of The Family” instalment is the six-page black humoured anecdote “Men Of Worship”, which is somehow shore-horned into the back of the comic book. Written by Snyder and regular collaborator James Tynion IV, and competently if not gruesomely illustrated by Mark “Jock” Simpson, this ‘short’ tells the tale of the Joker blackmailing the Penguin into helping him throw “a special little get-together”.
|The variant cover art of "BATMAN" No. 14 by Trevor McCarthy|