Friday, March 22, 2013
BATMAN #496 - Early July 1993
Credits: Doug Moench (writer), Jim Aparo (penciler), Josef Rubinstein (inker), Richard Starkings (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)
Summary: Joker and Scarecrow cause havoc at the Gotham River Tunnel, with Mayor Krol as their hostage. Batman arrives and is soon sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear gas. He fights his way through the effects and attacks the Joker, but their fight is ended when Scarecrow uses a rocket launcher to start a flood. The villains leave while Batman is left to rescue Mayor Krol.
Irrelevant Continuity: Jason Todd is still dead at this point, as he should be. The implication from this story is that this is Batman’s first meeting with Joker since the “Death in the Family” storyline.
Review: This is Moench’s best chapter of the storyline so far, as he finds the right balance between traditional superheroics and the heightened sense of mayhem that’s needed to sell “Knightfall” effectively. Joker and Scarecrow are given several pages to simply destroy everything in their path, a bender that’s noticeably violent, but not graphic or terribly dark. When Batman does confront the villains, Moench is able to convey Batman’s frayed state of mind and guilt over Jason Todd’s murder at the Joker’s hands without going overboard. Forcing him to see visions of Jason through the Scarecrow’s fear gas is another smart use of the characters, even if the scene is surprisingly short. And it’s also great to see Jim Aparo, the definitive Batman artist of this era and the penciler of “Death in the Family,” actually draw Batman’s rematch with the Joker. A rematch that consists of Batman just relentlessly beating him over and over again. This kind of stunt has been done to death by now, but I think at the time this was one of the few genuinely violent Batman/Joker confrontations in print.