- Release Date: January 16
- Publisher: DC Comics
- Story By: Scott Snyder
- Art By: Greg Capullo (pencils), Jonathan Glapion (inks)
Seeing as I’m so bloody obsessed with DC’s BATMAN title, it tends to take over my weekly column like a particularly poetic fungus (see examples here and here). Thus, I shall review it separately forthwith, so as not to draw attention away from other deserving titles. [Minor spoilers ahead.]
A lot happens in BATMAN #16. This is both satisfying and disappointing. Rather than giving the inexorable buildup that has kept us entertained since issue #13, Scott Snyder finally steps back from extensive narration and allows Greg Capullo to pelt the reader with nightmarish imagery, while the Joker’s continuing King Arthur metaphor makes your blood run cold. It’s more “action-packed” than previous installments, which makes it read disappointingly quickly (over already? no!)—this being the only drawback. Batman’s introspection, which has heretofore been the meat of the story, is thinned to simple sentences that slither swanly in between Joker’s horrific displays and declarations of love and insanity. It’s a delicate waltz reminscent of the opening segment in which guards are forced to dress up and “dance for days” in character while their feet are wet and wired to electricity.
This is only the first of Joker’s torturous enhancements to Arkham Asylum. In fact, this entire book is so intense and disturbing that in the hands of a lesser writer or artist, it might feel like HOSTEL or SAW, like a film in which the demented games of a madman are the essence of the entertainment. But Scott Snyder is not just any writer, and he would never let that happen. He loves metaphors too much.
And so it goes that Batman stumbles upon a tapestry sewn from living people, but what you take away is its symbolism—as a narrative wall-hanging in a castle. A terrified horse is set on fire, and even as it runs through the dark, you find yourself thinking of battle, of medieval cavalry. There is an explicit reference to the myth of the Sword in the Stone, and it takes a violent turn, but your mind is so incumbent upon retaining the sense of royal formality that the death barely registers as such. Without such poetry, the sheer brutality of this issue might seem exploitative; instead, there is a perfect balance between the two.
Every so often Greg Capullo pencils a fly crawling over the Joker’s ruined face, and you are suddenly reminded of how messed up the whole situation really is. But outside of those moments, BATMAN #16 has you completely hypnotized—which is, of course, precisely what the Joker wants.
ALL HAIL THE BAT KING.