Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Greg Capullo
Look, up in the sky! Is it a bird? Nope. A plane? Hardly. No my friends, it’s the shining beacon that strikes fear in the heart of Rob Liefeld. It’s Scott Snyder’s Batman! After an entirely forgettable issue 12, and a decent, if not perfect issue 0, Scott and Greg Capullo return to top form. The beginning to the ‘A Death Of the Family’ crossover pits the caped crusader against his greatest foe. Riffing off the deplorable concept created by Tony Daniels, Synder in his tightest, creepiest, deadliest script to date delivers a book that sits head and shoulders above anything else I’ve read in the last 3-4 months. Enough with the verbal hand job though… let’s cut this baby open. Heh.
Daniels (and the editor who more than likely had his arm elbow deep up his keester) thought it’d be awfully grim, gritty, and awesome to have an oafish villain (created for the new 52, and left in the bargain bin next to all the villains from Gail Simone’s Batgirl) carve off the Joker’s face. As a fan of both the clown prince of crime and Batman? I was immediately moved to vow not to purchase anything written by Tony Daniels again. If you want to make a cliched villain, be my guest. But make him interact with the A-Listers in order to give your garbage a bump? Shame on you. But I digress. Scott Snyder picks up with Joker a year after the aforementioned defacing took place. With a clever twist of dialogue, the idea is reshaped into something believable for the character, and one of countless concepts being fired off. And unlike lesser writers who dog-pile concepts and melodrama for the sake of sales… Batman #13 comes across small and concise. It’s a crafted horror story wrapped in a neat little super-hero shaped package.
Matching the scripts eery notes is a Greg Capullo who has earned the respect of this reviewer, and his angry eye. While Capullo doesn’t nail every panel, his story telling has never been better. Deftly cramming an amazing amount of panels on every page, while selling the detail when it serves the purpose of the action is Greg’s strongest point. It’s ever-apparent that Snyder now knows his artist well enough to not compete with him; he knows how to let his artist shine while telling his tale in the tone he’s best suited for. To be honest, at times I felt like Snyder’s first Bat-arc (“The Court of the Owls”) was a bit stiff. Here though, like many great combos in the past (dare I utter O’Neil and Adams? I do.) the finished product is better because the collaboration is truly evident.
While many modern comic crossovers like to waste pages, here we’re jumping into the deep end of the pool. Joker within the first 10 pages makes clear he’s sending a message. I feel as if in the hands of lesser writers we’d be subject to 21 pages of set up and then a cliffhanger. Smartly though, Batman #13 has plenty of scenery chewed on before the last page is flipped. Better yet, a backup by Snyder BFF James T. Tynion IV and former Snyder artist Jock helps flesh out an earlier scene in brilliant fashion. Here’s a slick book that dusts off every production bell and whistle it can afford—and for once I’m only applauding it, instead of bitterly mocking it. Hey AvX VS #6? This is how you really do fan service.
You’ll note that up until now I’ve been very nice. I’ve not spoiled a single point of the book. It’s not my M.O., you know that far too well. After reading, and rereading the book though, it simply stands for me to be straight-forward with you. I want you to enjoy this book fresh and in the raw. My snarky tone is but an afterthought in the wake of this issue. Batman #13 is a top to bottom success. A tight script that is equal parts set up and payoff. Art that sells the story, not just the pin-up prowess. A backup that genuinely lends to the overall impact of the story. And hey, a nifty die-cut cover that will look pretty in the bag and board. While I have NO intent on following this story into the other books (because I’ve learned my lesson with that enough now…), I will follow ‘Death of the Family’ in Batman and Batgirl.
Simply put: If every book in the New 52 had this level of care placed into it… I wouldn’t be saving so many shekels for Marvel NOW. Rest assured though, so long as Snyder is throwing the switch on the Bat-Signal? I’m staying in a penthouse suite in the Narrows.