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Comics Today's Date:

Batman #13
writer: Scott Snyder
artists: Greg Capullo
and Jonathan Glapion

(This article originally appeared on Buzzchomp.com)

The Joker returned this week. Most of you probably didn’t even know he was gone.

When the DC Universe rebooted itself last year in an effort to boost sales, the Bat-titles started over with new first issues. What they didn’t do, though, was actually start over. A few details about Batman’s past might have changed to fit in with the rest of the comics universe he was sharing, but all the old recognizable villains still hung out in Arkham Asylum and had been struggling against the Dark Knight for years.

To celebrate a new continuity, however, Batman writer Scott Snyder introduced a new set of menaces to say, “hey, this is the 21st Century! Rules have changed.” But as any Bat-fan knows, no matter what’s going on, you have to let the Joker play. Snyder got the ball rolling a year ago by having new villain The Dollmaker abduct the Joker and — no, you are going to read this correctly — cutting off his face.

The Clown Prince of Crime then disappeared for a year, leaving his face in evidence at the Gotham City Police Department. And this week, he showed up to take it back.

It’s been a grim year for Batman, struggling against malevolent forces for the soul of his city. And the Joker has decided that his arch-enemy has lost his way in the struggle. Batman needs to be tested, to be strengthened, and, just like the Joker’s face, have his weakness cut away.

What are those weaknesses? Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing and many others that might even include Ace the Bat-Hound. So starting with this week’s Batman #13, the Joker steps out of the shadows, threatening Batman in an epic that will cross over into all the titles that can be associated with Batman called “Death of the Family.”

Snyder is laying out a storyline that reclaims all the high points of his past with the Joker. The title refers to the 1980′s classic “A Death in the Family,” in which the second Robin, Jason Todd, tried to take on the Joker by himself. Thanks to a controversial phone-in poll in the real world, Jason Todd paid for that with his life. (Though he got better.)

There are nods to the past, but it’s Snyder’s present vision of the Joker that is absolutely chilling. Not to spoil anything, but his taunting of both Commissioner Gordon and his own “girlfriend” Harley Quinn reveal a Joker that is not for the kiddies, but makes absolute sense in our modern world. The real world has upped the game for the Harlequin of Hate.

If you are interested in checking this out, start with Batman #13, which can be purchased with our without a bonus cardboard mask of the Joker. Also on the stands this week is Batgirl #13, which is listed as a “prologue” to “Death of the Family.”

While a strong book in its own right, only three panels tie in to the larger storyline. If you’re not already reading it, you can skip it.

But do not skip this revision of the Joker.

Derek McCaw


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