This book is a masterpiece of comic art. It not only has an excellent plot with very compelling artwork but it does something that many comics simply can’t; induce fear. I purposely sat in my living room with a low-lit lamp, alone, reading it in with perfect accompaniment of the heavy rain slamming on the windows. I was anxious and terrified all the way, till I closed the final page and then cowered into the corner with grief.

I feel I am doing the comic injustice by reviewing the writing and pencilling separately because they are so intimately related. That is the beauty of the book as there is just one voice and unfortunately it rings in the Joker. The plot focuses on the Joker’s return and the scene is set with omens in Gotham and discussions between various characters. The Joker first sets foot into the GCPD with harrowing consequences. The Joker’s violent tirade and Jim Gordon’s panic is displayed as it would be in a horror movie. The lighting going out, there are loud insane Joker quips, a screaming James Gordon and there is a suspense filled culmination to the scene. It’s so brilliantly written and drawn and I have rarely seen anything like it in comics. The issue is packed full of scenes and it is a testament to the creators that you cannot believe it is only one issue. Various aspects of Batman are seen; The family discussions, detective work, hunting down the enemy, being duped by Joker’s deceptions and a climatic big reveal ending. The anxiety and fear is palatable as Capullo is a master of subtlety. The Joker is not actually revealed in all his glory until the final panel but we see glimpses of his coming in reflections, footsteps, and shadows. Greg’s style is refined and detailed and Batman is drawn stoic, poised and emotionless while others breakdown around him, an amazing juxtaposition to the sheer recklessness of the Joker. When Batman is flustered and needs to express his discontent, it is done in silhouettes, a brilliant effect. The emotions run wild with the characters and the reader with an uneasy sensation deep in our bellies that someone we care about will get hurt, and they do.

I was watching a movie in my own mind as the book moved fluidly and my imagination was vivid with the artwork. Throughout all the recent Joker stories, I never felt as fearful of him as I do now. The thoughts of him meticulously planning a frightful return and the haunting image of his removed face in Detective comics, runs wildly in my head. The Joker has changed and he is one step ahead of Batman and Gordon all the way, his well-known unpredictability is less well known, his jokes are worse, his laughter more maniacal, and he wears his face with a belt. We are dealing with a new man, a new monster and a nemesis to Batman who may end up leaving him dribbling in Arkham. The genius of Snyder and Capullo is not just bringing back the Joker, but redesigning him to induce fear in all of us while doing so, in this perfectly crafted comic.

“Will you play with me like old times?” 10/10

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