Saturday, 2 May 2015

Batman #15 [The New 52] - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 15, February 2013
Ever since his first appearance in the April 1940 (first) issue of “Batman” the criminal mastermind known as the Joker has always been portrayed as having an unusually close relationship with his Dark Knight nemesis; something akin to opposite sides of the same coin. Such an arguably intimate legacy has endured throughout numerous Bat-titles, editors and creative teams, whether they’re depicted the green-haired mass-murderer as a psychopath with a sense of humour or as a somewhat zany prankster. But none have ever taken this ‘kinship’ to the extreme of having Jerry Robinson’s co-creation actually feeling “love” for the Caped Crusader… until now that is.

Writer Scott Snyder has already depicted a far darker, more blatantly sadistic Joker than has ever been seen before in the previous instalments of the multi-issue event “Death Of The Family”. But the suggestion in Issue Fifteen of “Batman” that the Clown Prince of Crime now actually feels love for his archenemy is positively preposterous. Yet disappointingly, this is precisely the emotion the American author would have the book’s 151,568 readers believe to be motivating the unfunny fiend’s far-fetched revenge upon “Bats.”

Possibly almost as bad is the New Yorker’s concluding plot twist that the Joker has secretly been renovating Arkham Asylum for days ‘making it into a castle for his King, the Batman.’ Whilst such a concept probably originally sounded quite a good idea, such an event could only take place with the knowledge and coerced consent of every single security guard in the institution. And whilst that’s clearly been the case for forty-five year-old widower Dylan McDyre, surely even the white-skinned trickster would have struggled to find leverage enough to hold all of the sentries hostage? Besides such a transformation of the hospital is hardly original material, having previously been used as the climax to the 2009 action-adventure video game “Batman: Arkham Asylum”.

Greg Capullo does at least try and illustrate such a travesty of a narrative with some breathtakingly good drawings. The former “Spawn” artist’s panel work during the comic’s opening few pages, as Batman clashes with the Joker on top of the Gotham City reservoir, are top notch and packed full of detailed dynamic action. However as soon as the vigilante returns to the Batcave and begins a laboriously long argument with the other members of the Bat-family, the artwork to “But Here’s The Kicker” noticeably deteriorates. Almost as if the penciller is as bored as the ten-page dialogue-heavy scene is lengthy.

Fortunately this issue still manages to finish on something of a high note thanks to the short tale “Red Light, Green Light” at the very back of the book. Written by Snyder and James Tynion IV, this tale of how the Riddler joins forces with the Joker is extremely well-delivered, and shows arguably Batman’s two most innovative rogues momentarily mentally sparring with one another in Arkham Asylum. Mark “Jock” Simpson’s style of sketching is not arguably in the same league as Capullo, but it certainly does the job and actually seems to suit the off-key humour of the action.
The variant cover art of "BATMAN" No. 15 by Greg Capullo

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