#16 has a page-one panel involving a tear rolling down someone's face that will make you sick to your stomach from fear of what you'll see when you turn the page, but the surprise that awaits is only the first of many shocks spilling from the sleeves of writer Scott Snyder and his art team captained by an ever-evolving Greg Capullo.
The following pages boast some of Snyder's finest inner Batman monologue yet as The Dark Knight talks his way through what he hopes to be the smartest path along Arkham's darkest corridors. A path that will give him, at least, some element of surprise against The Joker.
But as soon as we discover the devastatingly depraved source of a distant flicker, we -- and The Batman -- can only accept that the joke's on him and always was.
Action rises to match the horror, with Capullo giving us the same kind of clear, exciting, energetic melee we saw in the opening pages of his run with Snyder. But Arkham won't be conquered this time, with new harbingers of horror unveiling themselves at every turn. The story slithers under your skin, hooks you with its poisonous claws, and drags you across a floor of nails to an ending that saves you from slipping into hopelessness only by zapping you back to reality from fury that you can't read the next issue immediately.
And that's just the main story. The backup co-written with James Tynion IV may contain the nastiest reveal of all, but we don't get to see what it is...
BATMAN #16 Cover by Greg Capullo
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The dastardly details of Capullo's pencils are expertly accented by Jonathan Glapion's inks, with colorist FCO Plascencia wisely splashing some of the darkest moments with the most color, making the proceedings every creepier. (Of particular note are the flies beginning to swarm around The Joker's progressively rotting face, making him seem more than ever like an ancient plague who rose like a leering thorn from the bowels of the earth.) Letterers Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt give appropriate voice to every word, building on the haunted house aesthetic with an art thatís all their own.
Artist Jock and colorist Dave Baron provide urgent lines and a pastel punch to the backup, particularly excelling in the way they assist Snyder and Tynion in conveying their own take on an iconic exchange from THE DARK KNIGHT.
And you know what the best part of all this madness is? Hearing Batman be this focused, and watching him fight as capably and with as clear a head as he does here, it's impossible not to find at least a sliver of yourself thinking that The Joker's twisted thesis might be right.
Yikes! - John Bierly