With Joker and Batman surrounded by the police, things don't go as planned for Bullock and the others, as Joker has a bunch of his henchmen in the trees with heavy duty weapons. Bruce eventually gets free, and lunges through an explosion at the Joker, punching his face in. Joker had planned for that as well, as through a small cut on Bruce's knuckles, Joker's blood had poisoned him... how Bruce got the gauntlets off to cause this, I don't know... I assume when he slipped from the ropes? Regardless, Bruce passes out and gets kicked into the river below.
Bruce wakes up to find himself surrounded by his "family." Dick, Babs, Tim, Jason and Damian. The Joker's been taking care of apparently, and even Alfred is back... only he has green hair, is wearing his skin as a mask, and is wielding an axe!
Bruce then really wakes up to the same situation, sans Alfred, plus all the costumes. The Family wants answers, and well... Bruce hardly gives any. All the kids tend to believe that Joker is telling the truth, pointing out that he has targeted people close to them like Raya for Dick, and Barbara's mother, but Bruce, really headstrong, tells them they're simply falling for Joker's plan, and not seeing how he thinks.
Okaaay, fine, then what's the secret. Bruce then tells them that many years ago, before them, after his second encounter with the Joker, or somewhere around that time, during a conflict he lost Joker in the bay. While he dragged a blimp containing toxin out to sea, he returned to fine no one. So he goes back to the cave. A few hours later, he's by the boat and finds a joker card on the floor in a puddle. He tests it to find it's simply just a playing card... but the real question is, was Joker in the cave?
Bruce doesn't believe so, saying sensors would have picked it up, and it was literally impossible for him to hold on to a boat going 50mph, underwater, and a bunch of other scientific reasons why it couldn't have happened... everyone is all pretty "what the fuck?!" though.
Damian pleads with his father to let them help, asking what they're supposed to do, stay in the cave? Jason snidely remarks "Like it's secure." Bruce assures Jason that it is, to which Jason refers Bruce to Alfred's current state.
Bruce goes back on the hunt for Joker, having traced the cell signal he used to call his men to a burner bought a few days ago at an electronic store. Batman finds the man who bought the phone eating with his family, and it's soon revealed that Joker has blackmailed all the Arkham Asylum guards into cooperating with him... and sure enough, Bruce now knows where to go.
In the back up, Joker invites the Riddler to his little party, to which Edward is a tad bit hesitant to attend... until Joker sticks a gas canister into his cell, forcing Riddler to break out, and join the fun. What was great about the back up was Joker playing to Riddler's vanity a bit, reminding him that he's best when he's keeping Batman on his toes, as his mental equal... really looking forward to what team Batman does with Riddler coming up.
Pretty much everything that has been good about all the previous issues... Sorry, that's a bit lazy, I know, but if you know me, you know how much I'm digging this story.
Unfortunately, there were a few small things that just bugged me... First, the cut in Bruce's skin. I think he slipped the gauntlets off to get free of Joker's trap... but it isn't really that clear. Then, he just says "Toxin... No..." and puts the Joker down. Um, WHAT?! He's been infected by Joker toxin how many times? You got a few seconds Bruce, knock him the fuck out, and then pass out, or whatever. No... he puts the Joker down, who then kicks him into the river... That's just weird.
Next, I don't believe this is the secret Joker is referring to, but say if he DID get in the cave... So, what does the rest of the family care? Bruce said it was before any of them... Okaaaay then.
The big thing that really bothered me was Bruce's portrayal during the family scene. Now, let me preface this by saying that I know he's intentionally being headstrong to make it seem he hasn't let his emotions get the best of him in front of all his allies, he made this point the last time he spoke with Dick. I know that above all else, he's probably the one scared the most, and is lying to himself to keep his mind off things. You almost get that in the monologue... but he just comes off like a total asshole to his allies. Dick and Babs' points about their loved ones being targeted is REALLY good, but Bruce doesn't even acknowledge them, just says "damn it, you're not understanding how he thinks." It's really frustrating in a way. I think what that scene was missing was a little closing beat where all but one ally leave, and Dick, Tim or Babs stay behind, having noticed something with Bruce and just ask "you alright?" or "are you worried?" Something to let me know that outside of the monologue, someone has noticed Bruce is really stressed out... he wouldn't have to even answer aloud, I just need something to humanize him a bit.
The Bottom Line:
I never like saying I took issue with some specific parts in an issue of this series, but whatever... nothing is perfect. All things considered though, this book is still awesome. This was a calm before the storm issue that gave hints as to what "Death of the Family" really means, and what could possibly be coming up later with the Riddler. As always, Capullo and Jock were both on their game as well.