"Batman" #13 kicks off "Death of the Family" as Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo introduce their take on the Joker. After a year's absence from the DCU, the Clown Prince of Crime returns to bring his deadly humor to Gotham and the Bat family. Joker is the obvious choice for a Bat villain and most "Batman" creative teams take a shot at the character. With this weight behind them, Snyder and Capullo manage to craft an intensely horrifying and delightfully creative set up for an amazing Joker story.
The issue opens with a worried Jim Gordon, whose fears come to gruesome life when the Joker suddenly appears in Gotham City Police Department as the lights go out. Snyder's densely structured action makes readers feel the palpable tension and violence of the moment. Pages run up to twelve panels to slow down each beat of the Joker's maniacal plan within the darkness around Commissioner Gordon. Snyder emphasizes that while the Joker's presence is one of brutal violence, the true underlying terror comes from knowing the psychological manner in which he destroys his victims. It's a shiver-worthy moment when the Joker reveals how close he is to his marks.
Snyder offers a familiar and comfortable, yet completely new, take on the Joker and keeps the brutality on a high stakes level. The scene of the Joker on television re-enacting his first threat to Gotham is delivered in a terribly dastardly way -- a testament to Snyder's handle on the character's voice.
Over the past year, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion have demonstrated their profiency in the world of Batman. Snyder's story allows them to depict an even darker edge of Gotham and they bring the horror. Brilliantly, the art doesn't try to revel in the goriness of the danger, but rather the underlying visceral horror of the mind. Capullo and Glapion give a peek at how the art team renders the standard Joker in an early panel, which makes the shocking reveal at the end all the more frightening.
The back up co-written by Snyder and James Tynion IV with Jock on art is superb. It's difficult to compare a six-page tale to the 20-page main feature because each is structured to do something different. The bulk of this issue starts an arc and sets all the pieces in motion. The co-feature is like a deleted scene presented for more character background. It's set between the raindrops of the main title, which means the reader knows what is going to play out, but the story is more about how it all takes place. "Tease" is about the Joker bringing Harley Quinn into his plan with a pace and razor edge tension that creates an example of a perfect back up. It adds more to the main tale while not being overtly necessary. This is a perfect vignette in every single way.
"Batman" #13 is the sort of introduction every story deserves. The Joker is dramatically presented and reintroduced across multiple scenes. Snyder and Capullo deliver some excellent sequences of terror that cut to the quick of the Joker as a real threat. Apart from a few slower pages, this issue zings along with threats and terrible moments of sheer glee at a villain being the worst. The Joker is out to kill the whole Bat family -- and this issue makes it feel like he might be able to pull it off.