Batman #16 – All Hail the Bat-King

The Joker is back, and he has a plan… (spoilers for Batman issues #13 – 16)

In September of 2011 DC decided to do a company wide relaunch, restarting or rebooting every book in its line. This was a good and bad idea. Many properties weren’t working (Superman), or to dense with too much history to jump into (Justice Society of America). But quite a few were firing on all cylinders (Batman and Green Lantern). Many feared what would happen to their favorite books or characters when DC’s New 52 launched. What ended up happening was the entire history of DC’s characters was condensed into a 5 year span (so Batman’s only been active for 5 years). This left openings for creators to fix problems with many of their characters. For the most part, the plan worked.

Turning our focus to Batman, when the relaunch happened, they wanted to remove many of the familiar rogues allowing lesser known or newer ones a time to shine. At the end of issue #1 of Detective Comics, Joker tore his face off. With this, he was out of circulation for a year (in real world time). With Batman #13, Scott Snyder (writer), has brought him back and he has a plan. His appearance was creepy. The issue opened with Commissioner Gordon talking with a fellow officer about how he’s trying to quit smoking. Soon, the lights in the station goes out and a cop dies, followed by another. From the darkness the Joker speaks, applauding Gordon for his efforts to quit smoking, but he knows he’s not. He even knows about the pack he hides under the mattress, and how some nights he lies under his bed just to listen to him sleep… Creepy indeed.

Joker takes Batman on a tour of the city, by first returning to the sight of his first crime, where he tried to poison the reservoir with his Joker toxin. Here we learn that the Joker has kidnapped Alfred Pennyworth (Batman’s butler), which shakes Batman to his core, making him wonder “Does the Joker know who I am?”

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Artist Greg Capullo beautifully and disgustingly shows how the Joker has reattached his face. Each panel is wonderfully disturbing. As the issues progress, we learn the Joker’s plan. Batman is his king, Gotham is his court, and he is the Jester. Batman’s family (Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, etc.) have made him weak and slow. Joker wants to restore Batman to his glory by ridding him of this dead weight. The King Arthur metaphor continues to play out wonderfully as Batman returns to Arkham Asylum where Joker has been working for months, setting up his “palace.” Batman witnesses many horrible things as he progresses through the madhouse until he finally reaches Joker in the “throne room.” This amazingly rendered double page spread shows the extent of Joker’s madness andthe attention to detail the artist works into every panel.

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Thankfully issue #17 concludes the story next month. I cannot wait to see the finale.

I highly recommend the first trade in this run, Batman and the Court of Owls. What’s your favorite Batman story? Suggestion for a future topic? Comment or tweet!

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