I have to address one of my greatest pet peeves of all time in regards to comic books… There is a large group of people, many of whom have made fun of me in high school or work in my local library or what have you, who believe that comic books are one of two things. A. That comic books are only meant to be read by little kids, and B. That comic books are an inferior form of literature when compared to a printed novel.
I have had several arguments with this group of people, and am proud to say I’ve shown some of them the light, but still, these people continue to persist in their misguided beliefs.
Well, this issue thankfully gives me some ammo in both arguments. Not only is this comic something that a child under the age of… let’s say 13, should never ever read, but it is also better written than most things I’ve read from critically-acclaimed authors. Today, we’re looking at Batman #16.
Recently, Batman’s greatest foe, The Joker donned his previously severed face and returned more disturbed than ever to wreak havoc on Gotham City and The Batman Family. Having already severely injured Alfred and Commissioner Gordon and made numerous death threats against Batman’s closest allies, Batman goes alone to Arkham Asylum to deal with his enemy once and for all.
The story begins with a brilliantly framed series of panels that make it look like Batman and the Joker are waltzing with each other. What’s really happening is that Joker has dressed various Arkham employees this way and has forced them to dance. The narration is brilliant too, The Joker talking to Batman over the intercom, discussing “Batman’s” dancing ability and readers see thought boxes from Batman trying to keep his mind grounded in reality.
The Joker continuously calls Arkham Asylum, and by extension all of Gotham, Batman’s Kingdom. The inmates of Arkham are meant to be his royal knights, who confront him with flaming swords. After that, it only improves.
Batman sees the Royal Tapestry, portraying scenes from Batman’s various battles with the Joker, painted on the back of what at first appear to be corpses, but are actually living people sewn together. It’s disturbing and shows that things are really getting serious. Even Batman and his disciplined mind are given pause by this grotesque creation.
Next up, the inner-circle of Batman’s royal court. His Groundskeeper (Mr. Freeze) his Royal Player (Clayface) and his Royal Physician (Scarecrow) are all dispatched fairly quickly until he reaches the throne room. In the so-called throne room, readers see that the Joker has gathered The Penguin, The Riddler and Two-Face together to bear witness to the Batman’s ultimate demise.
Before that, Joker murders several innocents dressed as members of the Justice League to illustrate how other heroes are unworthy of enemies like the Joker. Batman nearly defeats them, but Joker shows him that he has nearly killed Batgirl and the others and in order for them to live Batman must take his seat on the throne which is really an electric chair.
This is an amazingly written story that perfectly demonstrates the dynamic between these two iconic characters. Batman’s belief in absolute order and Joker’s belief in absolute chaos are both perfectly on display.
The artwork is incredible in this issue. Greg Capullo has an outstanding talent for blurring the line between reality and nightmares with his artwork. Setting this issue in Arkham Asylum was a stroke of absolute genius as it has always been depicted as a place that can slowly drive even the most mentally sound man insane.
I absolutely love the man’s attention to detail. Special praise goes to his design of the Joker who is now wearing his face. (In another comic, The Joker’s face was cut off by another criminal) His eyes look dead and soulless, but still very unsettling. His skin is slowly beginning to decay and become surrounded by flies and despite his face literally being locked into a single expression, he is still able to display a wide range of emotion.
I would highly recommend picking up this issue. A simple review cannot do it any real justice. This is an absolute work of great literature with clever writing and stellar artwork that should be thought of as a superior work of art and not just something that only children should read.
Wes Serafine can be contacted at