Review of Batman #14

“Taking Alfred, you think…you think Joker knows? “

***Contains Spoilers***

Thanks to a protective mask and his utility belt, Batman is able escape from the vat that Harley trapped him in before the corrosive mix could eat through his suit. Harley however got away. With no further leads and his batsuit badly damaged Bruce returns to the cave. The first thing he notices is a lack of Alfred. Alfred usually meets him at the cave. As he heads into the mansion to look for him he finds a purple package with green ribbon. Before he opens it he knows who left it. Inside is an audio tape, on the tape is Joker taunting that he has kidnapped Alfred. He claims he needs a butler for a special celebration. He also hears Alfred’s defiant voice. He is alive, but Joker says he has burned his eyes with ammonia, he does it again on the tape. Bruce smashes the tape player in his rage.

Batman’s first stop is to a very nervous, very jumpy Jim Gordon. Batman tells him that Bruce Wayne’s butler has been taken by the Joker. Batman also believes that Gordon is the next target due to a clue on the tape’s label. He insists on taking Gordon to a secure bunker, but Gordon refuses. He has already lost nineteen men and the memory of what happened to Barbara is still fresh in his mind. In the middle of protesting Jim Gordon starts bleeding from every pore in his body and collapses. Batman is able to stabilize him, but Gordon is going to be out of it for a bit.

Bruce turns to one of the people he trusts most, Dick. At first they speak in code, speaking as if they are not Bruce and Dick, but Batman and Nightwing. Dick gets frustrated at Bruce’s attempt to talk about the issue like it doesn’t bother him. In a rare moment Batman seems to lose control. Alfred is his oldest friend, and is like a father to him. Bruce then asks Dick to not tell the rest of the family(I assume this is why Damian Could not find Alfred in Detective Comics #14 and Bruce side stepped the question). Bruce wants them to keep their focus is worried that their emotions would run too hot if they were told. Bruce sends Dick to the Aqueduct while he heads to the reservoir. He is assuming that Joker will continue to rehash his old tricks.

Joker is waiting for Batman at the reservoir. Joker begins to recount how events played out last time and decides to cut to the chase. He detonates a bomb at the aqueduct just as Nightwing arrives and tells Batman that he has already killed the people the live closest to the reservoir. Batman charges toward him but is caught in a snappy mouth and rope trap. Then comes the crazy monologue. Joker explains that he knows who they are. Bruce, Dick, Tim, Damian, all of them. He sees them as the villains, weakening Batman. You see Joker doesn’t want Batman dead, he wants the rest of the Bat Family dead. He claims to have a secret that Batman has been keeping from everyone, the freak even has it in a bat skin bound book. He also claims that Batman is going to be the one to kill the others.

We also have an interesting back up story that involves Penguin and Joker. Personally I love stuff like this. I love seeing Villains interact when they aren’t fighting the heroes. The Penguin walks into an old church outside of town and notices that the church is full. Full of dead bodies, the top lieutenants of every crime family in Gotham. Joker then kills Penguins guards, with an umbrella. He killed all of them with an umbrella. Penguin is of course pissed, because now every one in Gotham will think he was behind this.

Basically Joker did this to force Penguin’s hand. He wants Penguin as the crime boss of Gotham, Bishop of the Dark Kingdom as he puts it. Joker offers to spread some of his DNA around and publicly take credit for the attack and all Oswald has to do is deliver an invitation. This was he gets to still have a stronger position in the crime world, but doesn’t have to deal with the messy war. The story is continued in the next issue.

Well, now we know a few things. #1) Alfred is alive, for now. I suspect he will not return home to Wayne Manor. #2) Joker know the Bat families secret identities. Now in Red Hood and the Outlaws #0 we found out that Joker at least knew Jason Todd and Bruce Wayne’s secrets. I assumed he probably knew them all. This just confirms it. Earlier in the issue Dick asks Bruce if he thinks Joker knows their secrets. Bruce said he didn’t think so. #3) the reason the Joker is back is to thin the herd. He wants all former and current sidekicks and partners gone(for good). He only wants to play with Batman.

Both Greg Capullo and Dave Baron do an excellent job of making the Joker look fucking creepy. Capullo usually does god artwork so I am not really surprised there. I am curious to see how the Joker is going to try to manipulate Batman into killing the Bat Family. I also want to know this supposed secret that he has. What dark secret has Bruce been keeping from all of them?

My only real problem with this crossover so far is the timing. It seems like Detective Comics #14 takes place after this issue(the mention the attack on police HQ and Damian asks where Alfred is), but in that issue Batman doesn’t seem overly concerned about Joker. Also Batgirl #14 takes place before Nightwing #13. There does not seem to be a clear read order as of yet. This is something I hope gets better or easier to read as things progress.

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