Batman #13
Batman #13
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciler: Greg Capullo

If this comic has one flaw, it's the die-cut cover that makes the issue impossibly frustrating to hold while reading. Other than that, Snyder and Capullo's kick off of the Joker's return is just what I needed to get in the Halloween spirit.

One of the things that most impresses me with Scott Snyder is his ability to immerse readers into the story with his narration. Narration in comics is by no means an art, and while there are writers who can craft great, witty, and unique narration, a lot of the time it merely reveals mood and conveys exposition. Snyder brings a real literary flair to his narration, setting the mood, immersing you in the story, and as an added bonus, most of the time it's pretty educational. The amount of thought Snyder puts into developing the world of Gotham is evident from just how detailed and all encompassing the narration he writes is, and this issue is no exception.

After properly setting the mood, Snyder unleashes his new version of the Joker on the unsuspecting officers of the GCPD. In a truly chilling scene, the Joker taunts Jim Gordon with bad jokes as he skulks around a pitch black room snapping the neck of beat cop after beat cop. His goal? Retrieve the face he allowed the Doll Maker to slice off of him back in Detective Comics #1. Following this harrowing debut, Batman is quick to begin the hunt for his most dangerous adversary, although he can sense that there's something different about the Joker this time around.

I think one of the best elements of Grant Morrison's tenure on the bat books was the idea that the Joker is so mad that every so often he decides to completely reinvent himself. Not only does it explain the myriad portrayals of the character over the years, but it incredibly magnifies the terrifying unpredictability of the clown prince of crime. Snyder takes full advantage of this here, as the usual frustration Batman experiences in trying to predict and outwit the Joker is compounded by the fact that he still doesn't quite know what Joker he is dealing with yet.

Greg Capullo continues to prove himself as a quintessential Batman artist. His redesign of the Joker is absolutely terrifying. It's the kind of image that sticks with you long after you close the pages of the book. I almost wish the Joker's appearance was confined to the main Batman title for awhile, because I'm not sure if every artist is going to be able to capture the kind of gruesome menace Capullo pours into the character here.

I'm continually impressed by how many panels Capullos can pack into a page without my noticing. Some pages boast upwards of 7 or 9 panels but the artwork never feels claustrophobic or busy. Rather the many small panels allow Capullo to match the pacing of Snyder's script and add to the atmosphere of suspense.

Snyder and Capullo's biggest contribution to the bat mythos thus far has been infusing the book with a healthy dose of horror story sensibilities. With year two now underway, they continue to ratchet up the tension by delivering a Joker with a rediscovered air of predatory menace. Much like Heath Ledger's portrayal of the character in The Dark Knight, Snyder and Capullo's will be used as a definitive take on the character for years to come.

Grade: A-

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