|BATMAN No. 16, March 2013|
There is something deeply and fundamentally disturbing about Scott Snyder’s incarnation of the Joker in “Castle Of Cards”. The super-villain is not just teasingly tasteless in his traps and tribulations. But actually gruesomely sick and worryingly perverted to the point where perhaps the New Yorker is close to crossing a certain creative line when it comes to acceptable content within a book merely rated ‘T for Teen’. Indeed the Brown University graduate’s interpretation of the green-haired fiend is so utterly sadistic, and so profoundly troubled it is arguably doubtful, cosmetic similarities aside, that co-creator Jerry Robinson would actually recognise his Clown Prince of Crime.
It’s not that the Dark Knight’s archenemy desires to have pairs of Arkham Asylum guards electrocuted which is the issue, nor that he sets a living horse alight and then sends the wide-eyed distraught animal charging straight towards an astonished Caped Crusader; though that particular scene is rather troublingly vile in its own right. It’s the “royal tapestry” which the Joker gleefully points out depicts ‘yesterday’s adventures’ upon a macabre canvas of Human skin. Such a gestalt of ‘living corpses’ sewn together with “tubes in their stomachs” is utterly abhorrent, especially when the dangling flesh-woven decoration starts to chant “Hailthebatkinghailthebatking…” There isn’t any of the prankster’s trademark humour to be found within such a scene, and his quip that “the live flesh makes the colors pop” simply demonstrates how utterly unfunny and as a result unlikable Snyder’s psychopath is.
Unfortunately such tastelessness isn’t the storyline’s only weakness as the American author bestows upon Batman a fighting prowess which is truly incredulous, and seemingly just so he can have the cowled vigilante out best some rather unbelievable set-pieces. It is entirely plausible that the crimefighter might be able to beat Mister Freeze within the space of a page if he managed to swiftly disable the scientist’s cryogenic suit through the convenient placement of a heat generating device. But the enormous shape-shifting Clayface in just four panels, and then straight afterwards the Scarecrow within the space of three more? Never. And then there is the Dark Knight’s ludicrous battle with approximately sixty well-armoured flame-sword wielding “royal knights” plus mounts, which he unthinkingly dispatches with just a bat-line and an occasional well-aimed kick or punch.
Infinitely less graphically gruesome is “Judgement” a six-page collaboration between Snyder and James Tynion IV, which briefly looks at the fragile truce between the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler and Two-Face. Mark “Jock” Simpson’s undisciplined illustrations lack much of the detail famously found within the pencilled pages of the comic’s main story artist Greg Capullo. But the Scot’s clown-faced criminal is very well drawn, packed full of the dynamically-charged manic energy the giggling ghoul is notoriously known for.
|The variant cover art of "BATMAN" No. 16 by Alex Garner|