Monday, June 9, 2014

Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #15 [Death of the Family]

Tomasi's most absolutely marvelous issue yet, and by this point since his completely undesirable shift in tone and atmosphere from the tenth issue down to the fourteenth for Batman and Robin, this crossover event tie-in regarding the Joker's return is an astounding accomplishment for everyone who loves Damian Wayne, especially his characterization in Tomasi's works. Now I own a copy of the entire Return of Joker tie-ins edition and I read B&R issues 15 and 16 there a month ago so this review will serve as an expansion of what I thought because I really enjoyed this one a lot and it's worth discussing further.

This is a visually compelling adventure teeming with a lot of gruesome imagery. Just when you think Capullo's illustrations of the Joker's peeled-off face are spooky in Snyder's Batman run, B&R artist Pat Gleason made his depictions more traumatizing to look at. There are pages upon pages of the Joker wearing that skin mask upside down so that the eye sockets end up on his mouth and the perpetual clown grin would rest on his eyes. It was just...mortifying. It was so repulsive that I admire Damian for being able to keep a straight face while talking to the Joker the entire time. And that kind of visual horror was also enhanced by the great combination of colors offered in the panels. I always rave about beautifully drawn comic book issues in my reviews, and this one is definitely one of them!

I always take time acknowledging the visual appeal for every comic book issue, most especially if it's an excellently drawn one, and issue #15 Little BIG man was no exception. I've always had a problem with Gleason's lack of detail in his previous B&R issues so it pleased me to no end that he had learned to improve on that flaw so what the readers got is pages of highly stylized illustrations of the Joker and Damian having a very intimate conversation across the backdrop of a very nightmarish landscape. It's the best thing about this issue!

Let's move on to the story now. Damian Wayne was once again asked by his father to sit out the mission to find the Joker because Batman cares about his son's safety so he and the rest of the Bat-family had their own personal encounters with the Joker (in the other tie-in issues you can learn about HERE). Damian is livid about this so he goes out on his own to rescue Alfred who was abducted by the Joker earlier in Batman issue #13. Damian, now costumed as Robin, headed out to the zoo where he beat up rabid hyenas that turned out to have toxins in their fur so he was incapacitated to a certain degree which allowed the Joker to do all sorts of things to him when they started chatting.

Those "things" are my favorite scenarios for this issue. At one point the Joker had Robin lying on a huge cracked egg while he was discussing about birth; on the other he had him hanging upside down by his legs while he talks about solar eclipses and that he and the rest of the Bat-family are the moon eclipsing the sun that is Batman in the Joker's life. I love how Gleason had to showcase Tomasi's dialogue through symbolic imagery which fits with the Joker's sense of theatrics. My most favorite had to be when the Joker had Robin land on a pile of insects and worms because he's named after a bird so he deserves to feed on those creatures. Robin did end up almost eating them and had to choke them out. It was so vile which highlights the Joker's general disapproval of Damian. 
It's worth noting that Damian is not afraid of the Joker at all because he belittles his historical importance as Batman's foremost nemesis. I actually can accept that because Damian is a ten-year old highly trained assassin whose lineage is also al Ghul. To him, the Joker is nothing but a tacky villain in a clown get-up. He had faced bigger and more brutal enemies than that. His complete disregard of the Joker shows a lack of respect which the Joker does not take lightly. However, I feel like the Joker is also finding himself quite fond of this new Robin. He was very violent and abusive with his encounters with Batgirl and Nightwing but that for him is his way of enjoying a reunion with old playmates. But with Damian, the Joker seems like he's interested in getting to know Damian and what makes him tick--and it makes me wonder if he knows or would even care to learn that this Robin is also Batman's own son and heir.

While I was contemplating that, I turned to the next pages and saw something coming out of the repugnant pile of insects and I gasped when I realized it was a drugged Batman who was almost unrecognizable; not with that murderous look in his eye as he's getting ready to attack Robin. The Joker somehow knows that this is Damian's primal fear.


* Heftily illustrated and enticingly written, Damian's encounter with the Joker is something not to miss!

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