Written by Scott Snyder. Penciled by Greg Capullo and inked by Jonathan Glapion.
“Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight? … I always ask that of all my prey. I just like the sound of it.”
– The Joker (Batman, 1989)
The cover of Batman #16 by Capullo and FCO Plascencia is incredibly creepy but misleading. Joker is at his slimy best, but Robin and the rest of the Bat-family don’t appear until the latter pages of the episode. The main story begins with that Batman and the Joker appearing to have a tête-à-tête. Actually, the Joker has caged pairs of guards in cells and have them dancing. Batman scores a point against the Joker and prevents the guards’ deaths. Gotham’s polar opposites of justice will have their moments with each other later.
After several months of set-up, Bats finally gets to find the Joker within the eerie walls of Arkham Asylum. Batman is very careful not to allow any distractions and proceeds to run through Joker’s special gauntlet. The Caped Crusader gets to tango with Arkham inmates, familiar villains, and even a surprise opponent.
There are various motifs used in this issue. The Joker has taken a liking to the theme of royalty. Arkham Asylum has become Joker’s absurd play-world and Batman is bestowed a kingly challenge. Obviously, Batman is a crimefighter and an agent of justice, but this issue has memorable moments with horses where Bats almost becomes a literal dark knight.
Ever the showman, the Joker has even made a royal court, the final stage of Batman’s gauntlet. Will it surprise anyone that he’s the jester? One on flank, the Joker has familiar foes set up as “advisers.” On the other side, some civilians are dressed as the classic DC superheroes. To test Batman, Joker has made a deadly version of an Arthurian obstacle. In the end, Batman, to Joker’s delight, has accepted his “regal” fate.
There’s also that moment when the Bat-family appears that I’m supposed to be compelled to buy the rest of the DotF event. I think that the events of Batman and Robin #16 take place before this. I’ll get to that comic later. I’m satisfied with the main story as it is.
Joker continues to show to his fellow advisers how deadly he can be in the back-up story, “Judgment” featuring the artwork of Jock, which continues from the main story. By the time I was finished, I’m convinced that the Joker in superb in his intellect. If followers of Batman: DotF have fallen asleep then Batman #16 is a wake-up call.
Preview Batman #16 at Comic Book Therapy!
Coming soon: Batman & Robin #16.