Batman 17

batman 17 DoF

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman 17 originally released February 13th, 2013. This issue is part of the Death of the Family crossover event. Click here for complete DotF coverage. If you missed any part of the crossover and want those events summarized, we’ve got a video for that.

Drew: They say a man is known by the company he keeps. For Batman, we might think of the bat-family — Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, and the various Robins and Batgirl(s) — but we also think of his rogues gallery. Indeed, Batman has long been defined by the villains that he fights, but I’ve always thought of that as “Batman,” the idea, not Batman, the character. Indeed, the fact that Bruce is perpetually locked in battles with his nemeses has always seemed more a curiosity of circumstance than of design — Batman doesn’t kill, and they keep breaking out. Batman 17 puts that assumption under the microscope, asking just what his perpetual battle with Joker might say about Bruce. Obviously, SPOILERS after the jump.

The issue finds the entire bat-family tied up in some remote part of the Gotham cave system. Joker continues to tease Bruce (and us) with just what is under those platters, first suggesting that it’s Alfred (it isn’t), then revealing it to be the faces of each character (which also turns out to be fake). The real gut-punch comes in the monologue Joker gives, where he suggests that Batman loves their eternal struggle just as much as he does, which is why he’s never been able to kill the Joker. Batman insists that if he kills, Joker wins, but Joker counters by pointing out that living to kill again isn’t exactly losing. Joker is able to knock down every defense Bruce puts up for his “no killing” rule, making a strong case that Bruce really is choosing to fight the Joker into perpetuity. It’s not enough to shake Bruce, but it seems to sink into his disciples, who are all within earshot of this exchange.

Joker and the batfamily Death of the Family finale

Bruce eventually breaks free, and pursues Joker further into the caves for a classic superhero detente, with Joker seemingly falling to his death. As everyone recovers, Bruce convenes a meeting, but one by one, everyone checks in to say that they won’t be coming, showing that the Joker really does get the last laugh, even in defeat.

It’s an unsettling end, one that understates just how profound its repercussions might be. I’ve seen folks poo-pooing a “Bruce is more isolated than ever” ending as unworthy of the weight Snyder et al had put into this event, but I think Snyder managed to stick this landing from an angle nobody expected. At first blush, this returns Batman to his loner status seems at odds with Grant Morrison’s recent assertion that Batman was never alone, but when you consider the nature of Bruce’s isolation at the end of this issue, these two takes fit together perfectly. Bruce doesn’t want to be alone, but his behavior has made him unknowable.

It would be hard to hold the Joker’s words against Bruce, but the end of the issue reveals a detail Bruce has always left out of the story: that he once went to see Joker as Bruce Wayne, and knows for certain that Joker simply couldn’t be bothered to know Batman’s identity. It’s this intimate, unexplainable knowledge that assured Bruce that Joker couldn’t have gotten into the Batcave — he wouldn’t want to. In the end, Bruce was right, but because he didn’t open up to his friends, they couldn’t have his confidence, which made his behavior seem totally irrational — he played right into Joker’s hand. Maybe Bruce was ready to admit this at that final meeting, but it was too little, too late, as everyone begs off from attending with impersonal text messages. Only Dick can muster a call — apparently from just outside the Manor gates — but even he can’t bring himself to talk about what happened.

That leaves Bruce with only one last puzzle piece to put into place — a trace radioisotope in the last batch of the Joker toxin. It turns out, this was Dubnium, which through a bizarre naming controversy, was at one time known as Hahnium, with the element symbol of “Ha.” That sounds too clever when I explain it, but it makes for a chilling closing image, as Joker gets his last laugh from beyond the grave (temporary as it might be).

Hahnium Death of the Family

Could this have been Joker’s plan all along? If is goal was to separate Bruce from his disciples, he has succeeded perfectly. Given that this isn’t the first time this issue where an apparently grisly plan turns out to just be set-dressing for a much subtler, cerebral ploy — we actually see the fake severed faces of the bat-family — it could be that Joker never really intended to kill them. Joker’s plans always have a way of pulling back to reveal that things are, in fact, going exactly as planned, and I’m tempted to read this as such. The lasting effects of this event remain to be seen, but it seems that, for all of Bruce’s trying, Joker hatched another plan without a hitch.

Man, Patrick, between all of the ideas in this issue, and the fact that it’s concluding a sizable crossover, there’s a lot to talk about here. I hesitate to prompt you at all, but I want to know if you’re satisfied with this ending. We’ve discussed a lot of highfalutin theories that didn’t pan out at all, so I’m curious how this smaller, subtler conclusion sits with you.

Patrick: It totally works for me – but it works in such a way that I thoroughly expect a mixed reaction to this issue. Snyder seems to understand the power he has over character and narrative in a way that fans didn’t totally grasp coming into the home stretch of this event. The key example of this is that we all debated the “who will die?” question for months. Drew and I were fairly certain that no one would die, but even with that assumption, it’s essentially impossible to shake the thought “we haven’t seen Gordon in a while” or “Harper Lee is primed to be the new Alfred” or “Tim’s origin has been so muddled by the New 52, maybe they’ll just get rid of him.” Or whatever. Pick a theory: it’s clear that fans assume the greatest impact a story can have is removing a character from play. But Snyder does one better: he articulates something we already knew about Batman, but overlooked because… well, he’s Batman. Joker’s successes here don’t come about because he’s manipulative or especially cruel, his success comes from being unsettlingly observant.

Also, man, the timing of this issue couldn’t be any better. Joker’s affections for Batman were teased back in Catwoman 14, and Joker all but ditches the King-and-his-court imagery in favor of a romantic-relationship imagery. It’s positively chilling that Joker knows that Batman’s used the “You don’t understand him” line when talking to the rest of the Bat-family, because it implies a level of intimacy that Bruce just doesn’t have with… anyone. Bruce may know all there is to know about Babs and Dick and Tim and Jason and Damian, but he’ll never understand them the way Batman understands Joker. As if playing right into the fact that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, Greg Capullo frames the big pretend-reveal of the issue in a fucking heart.

Joker's Death of the Family Plan revealed

Also, look at the variety of angles and perspectives in that one gorgeous, gruesome heart. We can see Dick’s bandaged face in the reflection of his platter, and we’re peering through the eye-holes Damian’s face-mask. Pus, there’s that two-headed lion cub from issue 13 — the original bad omen — heralding Joker’s final emotional blow. And, not to be outdone by some two-headed kitty, there are flies buzzing around Joker’s rotting face. By the end of the issue, those damn flies have essentially cemented themselves as sign of the instability Joker caused in the family. What I’m saying is that one drawing has everything that I love and fear about this crossover and will be one of the lasting images that stay with me forever.

It is interesting how much of the emotional thrust of this story has nothing to do with Joker’s recently-removed face. Back when this thing started, I was reading all sorts of fun shit into the fact that Joker seemed obsessed with his own concept of his past and his identity. I still think that reading holds up, but it’s clear that he was re-enacting his old crimes because he wanted to re-live his best adventures with Batman. That muddies the logic of basically all of the other books involved in this crossover. Sure, Batgirl was a fun, interesting story, but what does Joker stand to gain from putting Babs through that experience? The wedding doesn’t reveal the strength of his relationship with Batman, and it doesn’t reveal any of the weaknesses in her relationship with Batman.

Though, I guess Joker does need for everyone to have some singularly horrible experience that they can blame Bruce for having not prevented. It’s amazing what a relief it is to see the various members of the Bat-family taking a well-earned break.

The Bat Family recovers from Death of the Family

Jason doesn’t look too happy there, but at least he’s safe. The real gut punch comes from seeing Damian on the next page.

Damian recovers from the Death of the Family

Everyone else can cope well enough – everyone else has lives and families of their own to return to. But poor Damian… can’t even bring himself to wail on that punching bag.

Hey, did you notice that it’s not until that image I posted above (in what is essentially an epilogue) that we see Jason’s face without bandages all over it? Is that just because it’d be too weird to take his bandages off to reveal that giant red helmet, but also equally weird to see his naked face?

Drew, like you, I have so many other things I want to talk about. Like what’s up with Batman pretending to know Joker’s identity (when he really didn’t)? What was he about to whisper to Joker before taking a joy-buzzer in the face? Was he playing one last silly game with the love of his life before throwing Joker into the crevasse? Bruce seems utterly unsurprised to see that Joker’s book of names is empty. Batman claims to have changed – that he’s “not like you (Joker)… not anymore.” But he’s still sort of playing that game, right?

Ultimately, what moves me about all of this — and Snyder’s run on Batman in general — is the way Batman’s flaws come into sharp focus without robbing the character of his impossible agency. Batman still saves the day, and he still does so by just being Batman. But those fundamental imperfections are becoming harder and harder to ignore.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

68 comments on “Batman 17

      • I hope he just gets the work done and goes back to having a regular face. Snyder and Capullo have basically played that ickiness out as far as I care to see it played out. Yes – this thing was NASTY AS FUCK, but I don’t want all of my Joker stories forever to have this underpinning of extreme gore.

        • I’m hoping the next time he returns, he just has a face and they never explain how or why. That said, I don’t anticipate that we’ll be seeing him for a LONG time.

  1. Great write-up guys! Hoo boy, Snyder is VICIOUS ain’t he? He’s going after Batman in such a fundamental way that you just don’t see too often. This was such a wonderfully heartbreaking conclusion and I’m so incredibly curious to see where this goes from here. Not only for Batman, but for the other bats as well. Each member has been radically changed because of DotF and it’s going to be interesting to see where each writer takes it from here.


    • Alfred seems totally fine, even being so jovial as to tell Bruce to go to hell. It’s interesting that Alfred’s not at the table for the big “you love me more than you love them” speech. While it rattled the allies, I wonder what effect it would have had on Alfred. Is there a point where his loyalty is challenged?

      • It is an interesting choice, but I’m not sure that it matters, ultimately. Alfred has always been a bit more in the fold than even Dick — I think there was even something about his security clearance being “highest” in the first issue. I think Alfred is generally more able to give Bruce the benefit of the doubt, but it’s also possible he knew about all of these secrets, which would kind of allay these trust issues.

  2. I’m so excited for the fallout from this, especially where Damian is concerned. We don’t know how long the Joker had everyone at the table waiting for Batman, he had to have some pretty horrifying things to say.

    • OH HEY GOOD POINT: Now that this is over, we can go on to speculating about the next big thing that could kill Damian. I’m referring — of course — to Batman Incorporated. In the last issue, Damian was quick to point out that Talia wasn’t like “Catwoman or the Joker or any of those idiots.” I think kid is definitely in real danger of being wiped out by the Leviathan.

        • I don’t think you can separate the two – nor do I really think they’re all that different. We hear more about Damian’s defiance of Bruce in B&R, but we see it more in Batman Incorporated. Plus, Tomasi’s a good little soldier, and if Morrison offs the kid in B,I, the kid is gone from B&R.

        • Have we seen anything from Snyder’s Batman world leak over into Morrison’s? I’m not trying to be snarky about it, I genuinely can’t think of anything. It’s true, Tomasi has to deal with what Morrison dishes out, but I don’t think the reverse is true. That’s why I’m more interested in the lasting effects of this event as seen in Batman and Robin.

        • I think there was something in Batman Incorporated where they mention the events of Batman and Robin, plus Titus was first introduced there, and has been present in Morrison’s run. I can’t think of there being anything from Batman, which I think is why there’s a perception that Incorporated isn’t part of the New 52 Universe. To be fair, though, Batman hasn’t really acknowledged any of the events from Incorporated, so it’s kind of a two-way street.

        • Yeah, it’s the same with Batwoman; they both seem to exist outside of Snyder’s Gotham. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I just don’t think we’ll see any lasting effects of the Joker on Damian in Batman, Inc.

        • Right, I think Patrick’s point was more about how the solicits make it look like Damian might not make it through the next few issues of Batman Incorporated.

        • Yeah, that is what I was referring to. Not that we’ll see the effects of DotF on Damian in Batman Incorporated, but that — in addition to seeing those effects on Damian in B&R — we will see what the upcoming issues of B,I will have on Damian in B&R.

  3. This ended pretty much exactly how I imagined–with the symbolic death of the Batman Family–but that certainly didn’t stop those last few pages from being one sucker-punch after another. And that reveal of the Bat-kids faces on the platter, good lord, my stomach dropped into my feet. I probably spent five minutes trying to figure out how they’d fix that before turning the page. The fact that Joker didn’t actually cut their faces off was actually initially a bit of a letdown, if only because the initial reveal had put me through so much emotionally, but just the sheer relief seen in that hug between Bruce and Damian made up for any of that.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing how this affects the Bat-Family from now on. Man, imagine if this had happened BEFORE the Court of Owls story? Obviously none of the family would let Owls run loose and slaughter innocent civillians al night, not even Jason, but how eager would any of them have been to pick up Bruce’s call in the first place? This could have some serious reprucusions if another catastrophe starts up.

    Also, what makes you think Bruce doesn’t know who Joker was? I’ve only read the issue once, so its totally possible I missed something you guys caught, but I totally thought Bruce knew. And how thrilling was that moment? Apart from killing him, that is probably one of the few ways Batman could have actually beaten Joker.

    Finally, alas poor two-headed omen, I knew ye well. How many animals has Snyder killed this crossover?

    • At the end, Bruce is standing in front of the Batcomputer, which shows Joker’s face and says “identity unknown.” I suppose he COULD know something the computer doesn’t, but that seems unlikely.

        • I thought I actually understood this part. When Bruce outright revealed his identity to Joker in Arkham it was like part of Joker’s many psychological issues was a defense mechanism where he couldn’t allow himself to consider Batman as a normal person by day. His mind refused the information. The converse, then, would be true as well – he could never consider himself as someone who was once ordinary. In fact, he’s probably completely repressed the information of his former identity in his mind to the point that he no longer remembers it himself (Killing Joke). When Bruce falsely acknowledged knowing Joker’s identity and threatened revealing it to him this basically made Joker shut down, mentally. An obvious advantage in any physical altercation, not to mention a real check-mate maneuver in his goal to tell Joker “You are not inside MY HEAD, I’m inside YOURS. You are beaten.”

    • The not-really-your-faces reveal does imply that joker cut of the faces of FIVE OTHER PEOPLE. That continues this disturbing trend in DotF of the characters (and us as readers) deciding that we don’t care about it if it’s not happening to the Batfamily. Just like Tim and Jason we like “those aren’t are dads – FUCK ‘EM,” it’s weird how much less horrifying it is to discover that those are just some rando faces.

  4. I gotta say, I thought the issue was crafted with much finesse, and I enjoyed reading it, but I did also fee that it was a bit of a let down considering the gravitas of the earlier issues. I just feel like “Joker could care less about the man behind the bat, it’s only the bat that he’s interested in” is a familiar take on Joker and what they’ve done here is just tweak that concept slightly, add in the gore bits, and then isolate bruce as a new status quo. I just felt like there should have been something more. When Bruce revealed he knew Joker’s concept I was kind of like “finally, something!” – the interesting thing there is that I was kind of happy there was at least SOME kind of breakthrough in the Joker-Batman relationship even though I have always HATED the idea of giving Joker an origin. I feel like Snyder has mostly refined many takes on Joker into an amalgamation rather than adding much new to the relationship; the lovey-dovey stuff from Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth, and the disregard of Bruce has been amped up a little but was already a well-known concept also

    • This brings up an interesting question that I think is kind of unique to comics. Does a story need to advance some kind of decades-long narrative, or is it enough to restate the themes of that narrative in a new context? I think there’s definitely room for both. I definitely see the appeal of the former, but I’ve come to expect the latter to such a degree that I’m not let down when that’s what we get.

      To me, Batman and Joker are such elemental forces that, unless one was actually going to win, there really isn’t much that can be done to advance the conflict. Instead, new stories can add, subtract, twist, change, magnify, minimize and otherwise re-contextualize aspects of their conflict in hopes of revealing something interesting. Looking at it one way, that makes for a very one-note conflict, but it doesn’t take much to see all Batman stories, or indeed all stories, in a similar light. That perspective can be enlightening, but it doesn’t make for much excitement when reading new stories. Instead, writers (and readers) have to aim for a sweet spot where the characters and conflicts are familiar enough to acclimate new readers, but with enough newness to make them interesting to longtime readers.

      I personally think Scott Snyder does a great job of balancing those occasionally conflicting ends, but I could see how you might see this as derivative. I guess my point is that derivation isn’t inherently bad, especially in comics. None of this really negates your disappointment — you’re totally entitled to your opinions — but I wanted to say that, while your points have a lot of merit, I wasn’t really bothered by them.

      • Yeah, I will say that it wasn’t the fact that elements were derived from previous work that bothered me exactly (like you’ve said, it’s the nature of comics) and I never felt that his rumination on the themes of Joker were a rehash – they are absolutely a refinement. It was way more of a feeling that “there’s something missing from this” than an attack on the things that were done. The things that were done in the book were done very well

        • Sure. I wonder if this is because my first exposure to Batman was the Animate Series. I’ll totally accept that Joker will show up and fight Batman in almost the exact same way he did last week. I don’t always favor comfort over risk, but I just have a soft spot for Batman. That said, I think the re-contextualization that Snyder pulls off here is pretty momentous, effectively shifting our focus on their entire relationship. Even if you don’t buy Joker’s assessment, the fact that he could think it means that Bruce has kind of been playing to his hand all along. Again, that’s not a new take, but Snyder emphasizes it in a new way, which makes the repercussions pretty unsettling.

        • I’m sorry for blowing up this AC with myriad comments, but this issue is all that I can think about tonight. I just wanted to add that I do think Batman: TAS is one of the all-time great and most enjoyable versions of the character and mythos, and while I was aware of Batman before the show of course (had been a big Adam West live-action re-runs fan when I was 7, 8, 9-ish; one of my really great early TV experiences as a child, just before the 90’s X-Men cartoon hit) but that was probably what made me aware and enjoy the modern idea of Batman. And I think Scott Snyder’s action elements have a great deal in common with Paul Dini, I’ve noticed it several times. I think Snyder/Capullo might be a kind of adult-DCU version of Dini/Timm in a way but unflinching in their tendencies to veer towards an experimental Vertigo mindframe

  5. God I loved this issue. So much. This arc had such a strong payoff that I just sat back and pondered the meaning over and over in my mind for forty five or so minutes book still in hand.
    In saying that, Joker without his face is his own symbol. I think his goal was to demonstrate that he is the most honest person to Bruce. Underneath it all, down to the bone, he cares for Batman. So, it’s a statement. Snyder’s been hinting at it, and I think I finally nailed it down.
    -Like a fly on the wall, Joker is with you in the dark. The serpent, sitting, waiting, whispering back the quiet secrets you yourself push away. The ones that escape in the faintest breaths of defeat. The ones that are the raw truth. He wants to show you your true face.-
    Gordon’s a bleeder. Alfred is a joke to him. And the Batfamily are forced to live their lives behind masks. Faking everything. The world never sees their real face.

    But in doing so he’s infected Batman’s core. Hell, even the fly on the screen is saying a few things about Joker. “Not even your darkest, inner most caves are safe from me. I know you. And I’ll be here, forever.”
    The family is another matter. Being fed a version [or maybe the ACTUAL] truth, the Batfamily is suffering post traumatic stress, and I can’t help but feel catharsis with them. Not from what Joker has done, but from Bruce. It pains me that so many fans are torn on this ending. I think it is probably the most powerful single issue of Batman–or comics–that I’ve ever read.

    • Are we — as a comic fan community — torn on this ending? I haven’t read anything else yet (I understand it’s early still). To me, it’s an effective story that goes abstract in its finale, which is totally beautiful and sad and kind of oppressive in a very real way. If there are negative reactions, I suspect some of those people might be reacting to that feeling of oppression, which is a bad feeling.

      • People are so torn, Patrick. I frequently check up on Comic Vine, CBR, and Newsarama for comic news and interviews…and fans are so divided. Civil war divided.

        But in quoting the 5/5 review at CBR:
        “Truly functioning as “The Punchline” to “Death of the Family,” this issue will be received like many jokes: some will get it right away, some will need it explained and others will walk away with little comprehension of it. For those who get it, who have been dialed in to the setup, the delivery from Snyder and Capullo in “Batman” #17 pays off with a grand and satisfying conclusion to an epic tale the Batman corner of the DC Universe.”

        It seems those who dislike the ending were only excited for the grandiose scale and not ready for the quieter moments given. They don’t understand the actual rift and repercussions occurring, most likely.

        • I really hate to draw it up in those terms… though I realize that I sorta did in my comment as well… Telling someone that they didn’t like the ending because they didn’t ‘get it’ has such a nasty sting of pretension. If the story didn’t work for some people, but did work for others might actually mean that some of us are meeting Snyder halfway, and adding knowledge and feelings of our own to better fill in an incomplete story.

          I mean, I loved this thing and it sat right in the mental/emotional territory that I wanted. But the reaction does have me thinking. Is there a gory, actiony pay-off that could have been more satisfying?

        • Maybe, but only in the short-term. Snyder gave us an ending with the potential to resonate through this title for many issues to come. Personally, I find that more rewarding.

        • Ah, very good point. I really wasn’t swinging for any form of lifting my nose above others. But I can’t see this story wrapping with Alfred dead, or a former Robin dead, or even Bruce crossing his line and murdering Joker lasting. That just feels like a cheat then. I get the most suspense out of moments when you are just ready to have someone die in order to break the tension. When it does happen, that feels like the obvious story ending. And an unsatisfying one at that. I can’t think of a better way to complete an arc titled “Death of the Family” to leave a lasting impression over the obvious shock moments that gore would bring than what Snyder and Capullo presented.

  6. While I’m completely against the idea of giving the Joker a definitive origin I have to say that I like the idea that Batman knows who he was. The idea that Batman knows but doesn’t tell the family and leaves it out of his files(batcomputer) makes it so much more personal. That closeness in the relationship is really driven home by the fact that even the reader doesn’t know.

    One issue I had was with the art. Don’t get mean wrong I absolutely adore Capullo’s art most of the time, I just have an issue with the way he sometimes draws faces. The big(fake) reveal with the faces was a bit ruined for me because of the way they’re drawn. They look too much like a faces as opposed to the skin from faces(I understand that’s worded rather weird). With that and the solicits that are out I found it hard to believe the reveal. Also since they’re fakes then either A, Joker took the time to make molds of their face or scan them or use some method of making a realistic duplicate while they were all unconscious or B, The faces used to be attached to the heads of other people, so how didn’t the bat-family recognize that those weren’t their faces.

    I think this “event” would have been much stronger if it didn’t have the tie-ins. Their existence kinda bogged down the over all tone that Snyder seemed to be going for and the “Joker’s fucking everywhere at once” thing made it hard to believe. It also gave the chance for Lobdell to . . . .I’m going to say that Lobdell was being Lobdell.

    One final note. We can assume what was on all the platters at the end of the tie-ins, but what was on the platter that the Joker showed the other villains in the back -up of last month’s issue Batman.

    • Yeah, it’s fun to have the Big Story here reach out and effect various corners of Gotham, but there’s just no way / no reason to expect that it would change the fundamental nature of those series. Batman and Robin was still Batman and Robin, Catwoman was still Catwoman (and as you so appropriately noted, Lobdell was still Lobdell). I don’t know that I’d be all that interested in the alternative — that is a single writing team writing ALL the issues together — but it’s a simple fact that the presence of Joker is not going to turn shit into gold.

    • To your point about Lobdell’s role in the crossover — what was with his suggestion that Joker “created” Jason? We still don’t have a definitive answer on that. Was Joker delusional? Did he do it, but it doesn’t matter because he doesn’t actually care? How does any of that fit AT ALL with the conclusion here?

      • I’m….just going to say Joker was lying. Gah, that entire idea is just complete BS.
        And it proves just how weak Lobdell’s additions to the crossover are [for those who haven’t read them to know that]

        I’ll hold out a small hope it is addressed in the DotF epilogue Red Hood has in #17 and #18 before the hand off to Tynion.

      • Lobdell also said that Jason would give the Joker a huge beating . . . which didn’t happen. Also the whole “I have your daddys” and “wouldn’t it be a shame if your friends didn’t find out your real name” thing completely contradicts the Joker not knowing who they are. Unless Lobdell is proposing that the Joker can know the identities of the Robins but can’t make the leap to see who Batman is is kinda stupid. Sorry for complaining about the guy so much but he just agitates me something fierce.

        • Hey, if the complaints are valid and backed up (which you’ve clearly done here), then by all means: fire away.

          Also, great having your voice in the comments! Thanks for finding us.

    • In regards to the faces, think about the effect that would have on the Bat-Family. You’ve been drugged and unconscious for who knows how many hours, you can’t feel your face at all, and then you look down and see it on a plate? I can’t even begin to imagine what that would do to a person.

  7. Now that it’s over, I was remembering one of the little joys of this whole experience that I almost forgot was the cop who was using the Joker-face-skin to haze a rookie in that DetCom backup

    • Ah yeah! Harvey Bullock, Gordon’s right hand. Heh, man, Joker defused Harvey in one confrontation just by revealing he was possibly falling off the AA wagon again. Poor Harv.

  8. Question: How much do we appreciate the misdirection in this arc? I was thinking a prime disappointment that I had was in the Alfred-related misdirection; and it’s absolutely NOT the case that I want to see Alfred harmed, because I don’t, but that there was so much direct tension revolving around the fact that Alfred is missing (and through several books, not just Batman) that to find out he’s been Joker-gassed and is easily cured off-panel was one of my major let-downs. Also that there was so much hooplah around the platters that to quickly discover that the whole platter cliffhanger was a big fake-out made me feel that the whole platter scenario was just to bring all of the tie-in books into one final sequence that the tie-in writers had to write their character back to in order to keep the story in order. It felt to me like it was a function of making the unnecessary ammount of tie-in writing work rather than a big cliffhanger that serviced the plot in any way. Another bit of misdirection: Joker was missing a year, he cut his own face off, and disturbed even Harley with his new attitude. That really had me expecting something LARGER than Joker had ever attempted before. He’d never gone through such a noticable ammount of planning (much less self-mutilation) to my knowledge – he’s always come up with his brilliantly evil and in-depth plans rather effortlessly. In the end I feel like I very much enjoyed the issue that I read but it was actually a lot of serious misdirection purposefully applied by Snyder that ended up leaving me with an anti-climactic feeling. Did he not consider this, or was it intended to feel this way.

    • What’s interesting about the Alfred misdirection is that Batman sort of explicitly tells us not to worry about him, and that he’s just been taken because he has a connection to Batman Incorporated and not because he has an emotional connection to Batman.

      No question that there are a lot red herrings throughout, and we’ve all generated pretty good lists of unanswered questions at this point. I know we’ve been talking a lot about LOST lately, but I think there are some parallels between the end of that and the end of this arc – primarily that some of our logistical questions are ignored in favor of giving us an emotional experience. Those moments of misdirection that pay-off with little more than a “phew, Alfred’s okay” or “phew, that’s not his real face” sorta are narrative cheats, but I can’t argue with my emotional reaction to the set-up of all these horrible things. Alfred’s okay, but was my heart racing when I thought Joker was burning his eyes out and possibly murdering him? FUCK YES.

      I mentioned this sort of thing somewhere above, but I want to elaborate on it here: bad series are going to be bad no matter what crossover they’re participating in. Meaning that the misdirection moments they set-up end up being confusing and shitty, instead of just red herrings.

      OH AND THE FACE THING. I still feel like Snyder was being a good sport by dealing with that bullshit. Snyder didn’t write “Joker chops of his face! Yay!” He had a Joker story and Tony Daniel was like “oh, I cut off that dude’s face in issue 1, so…” It’s an sensationally stupid idea, which means it’s impossible to ignore. So Snyder worked it in, and even let it fill that sort of OMFG role, making it the single stupid detail on which we all fixated. But, that was never the angle Snyder intended to pay off.

      (Mogo, this is precisely the kind of conversation I wanted to have about this issue. It is valuable and important to talk about why this worked more for me than it did for you. Thank you.)

      • Hey, thanks for the lengthy response Patrick. It’s funny you should mention LOST because I also feel very similarly about that show, and was kind of a naysayer (and incidentally stopped watching at some point during the second season.) And the similar thing is that I could tell that nearly every facet of the production was a classy, quality program – but I could never get passed the writing format of piling up questions faster than answers. A few close friends of mine seemed to get an immense ammount of enjoyment out of the show, though, and I kind of envy that – there’s just a hang-up I have with genre narrative where I want it to function perfectly like a machine. I’m a big Hitchcock guy, basically. I will say that Batman 17 worked more to suiting my tastes than LOST did but it was that exact element that ended up putting me off just a little.

      • Oh, and I absolutely agree that the effect of just NOT hearing or seeing anything about Alfred except for the eyeball phonecall was a tremendous ammount of dread as a reader. I thought they used some very clever maneuvers in this thing – the pupil dilation bit was one of the great open/close bookends I can remember from recent comics; the assault on the GCPD and the omens were fantastic mood-setters for the arc, too. It’s funny how the more perfect a comics arc is the more heavily I begin to scrutinize the things that DIDN’T work for me. The fact that I loved it so much can get lost in my desire to analyze the other bits, but it might just be that I’m quieter about the parts I really appreciate

    • Personally, I totally buy those bits of misdirection as Jokerisms rather than something Snyder did just to goose tension. I know writing off a character as just crazy can void their actions of any meaning (freeing them up to be just another plot contrivance), but the nature of the tension and release felt specifically like jokes. Snyder has been dissecting humor a lot in this arc, and I think the “made you look!” fake-out face-gag, makes sense as something the Joker would do, even if it isn’t particularly funny.

      One thing we didn’t mention at all was that the bat-family serves as pretty good audience surrogates in that scene. They don’t know anything more than we do, and are essentially just spectators. Damian is even kind of incredulous that it was just a joke, which again, feels like speaking for the fans. I read that as Snyder’s way of acknowledging that, yeah, it was cheap, but it was Joker being cheap. That distinction might not matter to anyone else, but it was enough for me to make those red herrings enjoyable, rather than frustrating.

      I trust that Snyder had a very good sense of our expectations, and that he very willfully subverted them. I don’t think he intended for the ending to feel anti-climactic, but I think he did want us to be guessing about much more dramatic endings than he ultimately delivered. He kept us guessing right up until the truth was revealed on those fronts, which is all we could really ask for. I never really thought he was going to kill anyone, but the fact that my heart was pounding so often during this issue is a testament to just how close Snyder got me to believing that it could happen.

      That said, Snyder can only account for so much as far as our expectations are concerned. The marketing for this event, or the fact that it crossed over into so many titles could have led us to think his story was bigger than he ever intended. I can see people expecting something very different out of this issue, which would understandably lead to some frustration. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m really glad I kept my expectations smaller for this event — I’m perfectly satisfied where others seem wholly disappointed.

      • To your third paragraph, about Snyder willfully subverting our expectations: I agree! Drew and I are strong supporters of the “questions are better than answers” philosophy, and one of the things Snyder does with bravado in this event is make us generate our own questions. And then sort of staunchly refuse to answer them – very much the “made you look” you mention elsewhere. I think it’s fair to say that Joker wants to be misleading, and we are meant to be a little bit disappointed that those plates don’t have Alfred’s balls on them.

        • No, I’m sure you’re right. I don’t mean to take anything away from Snyder, and chances are that he’s done exactly what he intended. I think it’s just a divisive ending to what has to-date been a nearly universally-beloved run of comics. In comparison, I don’t know a single person who had a complaint with the Court Of Owls ending (which was open-ended, but to a much lesser degree.) I think we have something a little close being the comic book equivalent of The Sopranos’ finale; artistically what its creator had envisioned, but publicly accepted as being wholly satisfying by some fans and not by others

      • I totally will give Joker being crazy and brilliant at the same time a lot of credit for his actions in most instances, but there were a few things that felt off to me here. For instance, if Joker is lucid enough to create the compelling argument that Joker isn’t exactly losing if Batman lets him live to kill again then why isn’t he lucid enough to realize that Batman isn’t exactly losing if Joker single-handedly captures and binds the entire Bat-family and then pretends to cut their faces off so that they can go fight crime again. And how dangerously is a crazy guy who will cut off his own face and let his enemies free without harm? It’s almost Bizarro, ya know?

        • Actually, Joker’s body count was fairly high this story, I don’t mean to discount his danger level… it’s more of a matter of the idea that I can understand Joker wanting to keep Batman around (you know, for fun) but he could so easily torment Batman by doing terrible things to his partners, which his designs all seemed aimed towards, but he pretends to hurt them and pretty much lets them go (’cause since when has Joker gas actually ever stopped a costumed hero)

        • But I think that’s what makes them jokes. Joker has killed A LOT of people since he returned, so it’s really not out of the question that he might do something horrible to the bat-family — that’s what had us so worried — but thwarting those expectations is the very nature of humor. You know, he kills people when you’re not expecting it (like all those bodies at the reservoir), and he doesn’t kill people when you are. I can see that as being frustrating, for sure, but I think it’s an inherent component of Snyder’s take on the character.

        • Good read, Drew – it’s been outright confirmed. From Snyder’s interview on ‘Rama:

          “the Joker won in that he divided the family. And he could have cut their faces off, but he’s proving that he doesn’t need to. That’s his joke.”

  9. Wow… Sorry in advance, this is going to be a really long post. When this cross-over began, my expectations were sky high. I was just coming off cramming the whole Owls story-line which I loved and issue 13 was just soooooooooo good that it really made my expectations massive. I was also expecting literal death, although I knew it was an unlikely editorial choice. As the event went on however, and culminating in all the issue 16’s, my expectations turned almost to apprehension. This crossover was too big in my opinion; most of the titles detracted from the event as a whole more than they added to it, and they made it seem absolutely impossible that even Snyder could resolve everything in a single issue. Plus Joker’s love speech to Batman and his argument that his family makes him weak got way redundant as I read it in like 5-6 books each month.

    So I went into Batman 17 simply hoping that it wouldn’t be too big of a letdown. Now, I feel like I owe Mr. Snyder an apology for doubting him. From now on, I will stick to the mantra of “In Snyder we trust” because he managed to deliver an issue which does more with less. Sure no on dies, the platters turn out to be a fake-out (which I’m willing to accept because I can picture Joker laughing his ass off at the idea of Batman’s face at the time of the great reveal as he plans the whole thing). I adored it. Joker’s insight into Batman’s mind is fitting yet soooooo creepy, and it really makes you realize how intimately they know each other; they can both almost read into each other’s minds. I loved too that Batman was finally pushed to the brink, willing to put an end to Joker’s reign of terror à-la Dark Knight Returns but is robbed of it but Joker falling to his (temporary) death. It’s a perfect way to show that Bruce would have been willing to finally break his code without having to make him do it. Going forward, I really hope that what Joker told the family while Batman was out gets slowly revealed, maybe not in its entirety because the mystery is appealing but just enough to let us sneek a look at how horrible those few hours have been and how/why the family decides to take a step back from Bruce. I’m especially curious to see how it affects B&R since all the other books don’t tend to be all that Batman-centric anyway, but Damian lives at Wayne manor so his relationship to Batman as time goes on will be the one we see the most of (unless he gets off’ed in Batman inc.)

    In the end, I just hope that both Snyder and other Bat-writers will make this separation of the family something important that doesn’t get relegated to the background; I want to see it affect Bruce on a personal level for a long time to come. In that vein, my only complaint about Snyder’s run thus far is how little lasting effect the owl’s story line seems to have had. I mean, Lincoln March was running for Mayor and now he’s (maybe) dead, a bunch of high-profile Gothamites were supposedly not rescued in time during the night of the owls, and we really haven’t seen that have much of an effect on Gotham since the events. Also, we haven’t heard from Bruce’s restoration plans in a while. I hope that Snyder will give us an idea of the effect of all his run’s events on Gotham and Batman as time goes on, that’s the only missing piece so far to make this run perfect. Ok, I’ve said enough, to all who bothered to read my entire post, thank you!

    Tl;dr – I loved it, hail Snyder.

  10. PS. @ Patrick: About Jason’s face, he has been shown in at least one instance in RHATO to wear a domino mask beneath the hood, however, if Snyder and Capullo are much smarter than I am (and they probably are) they’ve skipped over RHATO this entire cross-over and thus were probably unaware of this detail. Plus, with the bandages and the brown jacket, he kind of looks like Hush which is funny, if pointless.

  11. Pingback: Best of 2013: Best Issues | Retcon Punch

  12. Pingback: Batman Eternal 25 | Retcon Punch

  13. Pingback: Batman 36 | Retcon Punch

What you got?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s