WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND! This way to the post without spoilers.
Alfred’s not dead, but he’s probably blind! Nightwing is in flames! Batman’s stereo looks strikingly like The Joker!
Phew. I had to get that out of my system.
With that massive cliffhanger at the end of Batman #13, I’ve been more than a bit concerned for the past month. I mean, I had no doubt in my mind that Batman would bust out of the acid vat that Harley locked him in, so I didn’t fret over that at all. And I know Alfred is somewhat of a bad-ass, not as much as in Geoff Johns’ Batman: Earth One, but he can do minor surgeries and hold his own, then calm down with a nice Fernet Branca. Regardless, Batman can barely hold his own against The Joker (something he admits in this month’s Batman #14), so how is Alfred supposed to do it?
Long story short… he can’t. It’s revealed through an old-timey cassette tape left for Bruce Wayne (NOT Batman) that Alfred is being held hostage and has been blinded with ammonia. Lucky for us and for Bruce, Joker sees fit to torture Alfred further with the ammonia while the tape rolls. The result is completely unsettling.
But Batman keeps his wits and runs to Jim Gordon, finding the clues that lead him to believe Gordon to be the next target. Of course, Joker likes hitting his targets early, so Gordon begins bleeding out before Batman can do much of anything.
Batman stabilizes him and tells Nightwing about the goings on, about the kidnapping of Alfred and Joker’s plan to dismantle the Family. Batman hits the road to meet Joker near the reservoir where they had their first true fight, sending Nightwing to the nearby aqueduct.
Joker and Batman meet over the reservoir, but Joker’s plan is laid out and in motion before Batman can stop him. Joker blows up the aqueduct, sending Nightwing hurtling in flames. He calls up a school of his infamous Joker Fish that swarm around Batman, tying him down with spools of wire. And while Batman is incapacitated and Joker assumes he is broadcasting to the entire Bat-Family, Joker drops the bomb that has been hinted at since the last issue:
Joker knows the secret identities of Batman and his associates.
ALL of them.
At least, so he says. We’ve learned over the years to take everything The Joker says with a grain of salt.
The issue wraps up with Joker making the even bolder claim that not only will all the members of the Bat-Family be dead within 72 hours, but that they will die by the hand of Batman himself.
Add onto that a small back story about Joker and Penguin starting a feud and we’ve got ourselves part two in the main “Death of the Family” story arc.
Overall, I truly can’t say enough good about Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s creation. I loved the tangle with the Court of Owls last year, and the new Joker story is already surpassing that. The demented dialogue and story turns Snyder creates are truly some of the best and darkest Batman has ever seen, and Capullo’s art continues to impress me. I mean, the man’s mind spawned what may be the greatest single panel of a comic since the infamous “Captain America punches the HEIL out of Hitler” splash page.
Capullo has quickly become one of my favorite comic artists, and when paired with Snyder’s sharp, twisted writing, Batman is the one title that I could never cut from my list, regardless of how very little money I’d have on a given Wednesday. That’s right:
I’d do illegal things to buy Batman every month.
Hopefully it’ll never come to that. If I started stealing or selling drugs to get cash for comics, it’s likely Batman himself would stop me. On second thought, maybe it would be worth it to meet Batman…