Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Batman #13 [The New 52] - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 13, December 2012
There is a great deal which is disturbing about Issue Thirteen of “Batman”. Not least of which is the ‘skinned’ Joker face die-cut half-mask which acts as one of the comic’s variant covers. Not all the perturbances are related to graphic depictions of blood-splattered corpses or the imminent threat of cutting off a person’s facial features either. As “DC Comics” make it clear straight from the start that “Knock Knock” is just the first of many instalments concerning the publisher’s “Death Of The Family” story-arc and actually go to the trouble of listing the numerous issues and different Bat-related titles readers will need to purchase in order to experience the “epic event”.

Equally as psychologically harrowing an experience as the requirement to buy twenty-three different magazines is Scott Snyder’s sinister narrative, particularly when the writer seems to so easily allow the audience to get inside the head of Commissioner James Gordon and genuinely experience the man’s terror as the Joker murders the policeman’s officers in the pitch darkness of the Gotham City Police Department. Especially terrifying is the Clown Prince of Crime’s whispered warning to Jim that he sometimes lies under the lawman’s bed at night and listens to him sleep. Disconcerting psychosomatic stuff which can easily raise the neck hairs of the hardiest of bookworms.

Fortunately for those bat-bibliophiles feeling somewhat uneasy or queasy some ‘light relief’ is provided mid-way through this emotional thriller by the likes of a cocksure Robin, who seems to believe that the Joker “used to be a great adversary of my father’s, but he’s over now.” However such an arrogant underestimate of the super-villain is soon highlighted as the green-haired ghoul slaughters a police protection team supposedly safeguarding Mayor Hady by making the law enforcement officers literally belch blood over one another.

The highlight of Snyder’s storyline though has to be the comic’s conclusion which sees a furious Batman supposedly confronting the Red Hood at Ace Chemicals. Unsurprisingly the Dark Knight discerns he isn’t facing his old nemesis but a heavily disguised Harley Quinn. But not before a gigantic mechanical mallet has knocked him into a fast-sealing chemical vat, which quickly starts to fill with a familiar looking toxic liquid.

Such an unsettling sojourn into the world of the Joker’s revenge is made all the more exhilarating by the outstanding artwork of Greg Capullo, who really seems to pull out all the stops for this dark grisly tale. In particular the American penciller’s drawings of the Caped Crusader are masterfully animated, even when the crimefighter stalks the shadows, allowing just his eyes and teeth to be illuminated.

Possibly the most unnerving element of this comic though is “Tease”, a six-page ‘short’ which somehow manages to portray the Joker at his sadistic ‘Hannibal Lecter’ best (or worst) and the lovable Harley Quinn at her most vulnerable. Mark Simpson’s artwork is a chaotic mess but somehow manages to amplify the squeamish terror facing Doctor Quinzel as her love approaches her, cut-throat blade in hand, and starts to tell her how cutting off her “pretty face” is going to hurt “tremendously. More than anything has ever hurt in your life!”
The regular cover art of "BATMAN" No. 13 by Greg Capullo and FCO Plascencia

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