Earlier in the previous issues, we get secondary mini-stories where the Joker convinces other players to join in so we have the Penguin, the Riddle and Two-Face thrown into the mix, dressed as bishop, strategist and judge respectively. There were ever appearances from Mr. Freeze, Clayface and Scarecrow for a good extra measure.
The entire issue was packed with action sequences which have a great rhythm to them, page after page. Batman meets every challenge and obstacle with his trademark resourcefulness and ferocious quick thinking, which the Joker never forgets to commend on. But every little shenanigan and death strewn across this elaborate joke only serves to build the punchline that's about to hit Batman hard. The main purpose of the exercise after all is to show him that no matter how strong and capable he is physically and as Batman, he will always lose because he had other people like his Robins and Batgirl whom he cares about.
That eventually will be his undoing. The Joker wishes not only to expose this but to tackle its long-term effects and consequences in Batman's career as a crime-fighter. That's how concerned he is for his darling Bats. To the Joker, his king needs to sit his ass on the throne and prepare to get rid of the people that tie him down.
Castle of Cards had a lot of bustles and whistles from the very first page to the last, but the bulk of its substances manages to shine through nonetheless. Capullo was also able to provide us with gruesome if not memorable images (Batman-Joker look-alikes locked in a dancing position; a flaming horse running towards Batman; a dozen of dressed-up knights being beaten by Batman; and a gross tapestry painted on human flesh). The visual feel of this issue is astounding in scale.
For the first time I finally got the flair and flamboyance back in this new version of the Joker. He still hasn't made me laugh but I think he's getting there. Truly, the Joker aspires to outdo himself in this scheme, and both the Penguin and Two-Face can only watch in awe and grimace as the Joker presents them with a taste of what's to come.
Cordially invited to attend a dinner party with the rest of the Bat-family, the readers will surely not come prepared at all for what will be served from the Joker's menu.
* A delightfully creepy topsy-turvy issue worthy of the Joker.