Spoiler alert for every issue of the Death of the Family event.
It is quite difficult to find a problem in Batman #17. Snyder sets the tone impecibbly. The reader is terrified for Batman’s life, even though we know he won’t die. In comics today, where we have solicitations months in advance, this becomes harder and harder to achieve The same goes for the rest of the Bat-family. When it comes to Batman and his status quo, it’s hard to have lasting ramifications from events. They can’t be like Marvel’s, which are undone by the next event. Instead, Snyder goes for smaller, personal ramifications. I’ve been reading Nightwing and Batgirl, and the last few pages make me more excited for those titles than I was in before reading this issue. Batman is a hero that always has a plan, but Snyder writes one hell of an unprepared Batman. Bruce is having a hard time keeping his emotions in check, leaving the reader genuinely clueless to what he is going to do to the Joker. That is a Batman I want to read more of.
The thing that I will take away from this issue though is the way that Snyder writes the Joker/Batman relationship. Many writers have written them as two sides of the same coin, and both insane. But Snyder’s writing adds a layer of love to the relationship. The Joker actually loves Batman in a way. It goes back to “you can’t have one without the other,” but it also goes deeper than that. Joker sees Batman as his soul mate. He would love to spend the rest of his life with Batman, even if it they spent it kicking the crap out of each other. Snyder puts this into Bruce’s dialogue as well, although it isn’t as strong as Joker’s, The flashback scene only reinforces this, as Joker doesn’t acknowledge the person he “loves.” When the family go their separate ways, Snyder seems to write Bruce as someone who just got out of an abusive relationship. He is on the other side, and can acknowledge that the old ways were not working. It is a very interesting plot development, and one that I hope other writers build upon, be it Snyder or someone else.
Capullo turns out one of the best issues of his career. The actions flows like a dream, and every character is full of life and personality. When the Joker starts to show his love for Batman, Capullo shows the Joker’s heart breaking in his eyes. The creepy heart diagram with the faces is disgusting, but you can’t look away. Many writers have said that the Joker is dead in the eyes, but it has never been conveyed this way. When the Joker looks at Bruce outside of his costume, there is nothing but emptiness. As if he was hoping to see his lover when he turned around, but is disappointed instead. When Bruce is talking to Alfred near the end, Capullo sells Bruce’s realization. It is a combination of disappointment, resolve, and determination. Bruce hates what he has done to his family, and needs to do better next time.
Batman #17 is going to be one of the best issues of the year. If you haven’t been reading Death of the Family, go pick up the issue right away. The Bat-books know how to do an event.
Batman #17 gets 5/5