Entering Arkham Asylum, Bruce finds all the guards dressed up like either himself or the Joker, in deathtraps, that he quickly gets them out of, to Joker's applause. Believing Joker must be holed up in Jeremiah Arkham's personal quarters, Bruce begins what could possibly be a death march to confront his oldest foe.
On Bruce's way to Joker, he's met with many, shall we say, "royal" obstacles. First a gang of his "knights" common thugs and inmates, dressed in riot gear, who all gang up on him. Though he struggles a bit, he comes out victorious in the end.
Next is the royal tapestry, constructed by the Dollmaker, out of countless (still alive) bodies, sewn together, with art depicting some of Batman and Joker's greatest hits. Laughing Fish, Death in the Family, and what I believe to be the part in No Man's Land with the infants...
Next, Bruce is confronted by his castle's "groundskeeper," Mr. Freeze, who manages to shatter his horse's head... Oh yeah, Bruce was on a horse... Forgot that. Bruce, being in no mood to play, easily gets past Freeze, placing a heating device on his suit, incapacitating him.
Bruce is then confronted by his "Royal player" Clayface, and his physician, Scarecrow, both of which he dispatches of, just as easily.
Bruce finally makes it to Arkham's quarters, where he finds his royal court, consisting of Joker (jester), Penguin (man of the cloth), Riddler (strategist), Two Face (judge) and a couple of saps dressed up like his subjects, the Justice League. Joker goes on to tell Bruce that he is his Jester, and could have served anyone, like the King of Metropolis, Superman, forcing the guy dressed as such to pull the electrified sword (chainsaw) from the stone, killing him. Before Joker forces the "Amazon Queen" to do the same, Bruce manages to break into the room, but not before a giant metal gate falls upon them.
Joker has a little surprise for Bruce, showing on a video screen the images of all his defeated allies, and warns his king that if he doesn't sit on his throne, he'll never find a single trace of any of them, and forced to live out his life wondering what happened to them. Seemingly proving Joker's point, fearing for his family's life, Bruce is forced to comply, sitting upon an electric chair, and getting shocked, knocking him out.
In the backup, the royal court inspects Batman's body, as Two-Face suggests they flip his coin on whether or not to shoot him, just to make sure he's dead. Joker has nothing of it, and basically tells the three of them to screw off, as their part is done, locking them behind him and Batman.
Penguin tries to get Riddler to figure out a way out of the cage, but Joker ended up lacing Riddler's clothing with drugs, knocking him out. Two-Face becomes infuriated, pointing his gun at Joker, who isn't the least bit threatened. Joker begins to tell Harvey how pathetic he believes him to be, asking him how he knows he didn't drug his suit to, or give him a gun that fires bullets backwards. Holding Harvey's gun to his head, Joker even mocks his soon to be made decision not to pull the trigger, as he'd pretend to have let the good side take over.
But, not to leave his willing players out to dry completely, Joker shows them both what he has on his platter, to which Two-Face says "You have to be joking," the word play not being lost on Joker.
What is there left to say about this book? I love the Snyder/Capullo team, and I love Joker... I'm also just a sucker for guest appearances, I don't know why, so I really liked this issue. But, in all seriousness, I love seeing Joker win, in a sick way. I mean... he won't... well, not completely, but in this issue he does, and he didn't even have to touch Bats. Joker is such a sick, demented freak, he already had one the day he came back, and with the gravity of the situation at hand, seeing Batman bend to Joker's will is almost horrific in a way.
The art, was again, top notch... I expect nothing less from Greg Capullo and company, and neither does he. Where Gleason made Joker's face look the creepiest, Capullo makes it look the grossest. By now, you can really see Joker's face decaying, with it covered in flies, and started to degrade around the edges. FCO's color work definitely gave it that extra mile, coloring it with a barf green/brown color scheme to illustrate the decay. Great stuff. Jock's art in the back up is nothing to scoff at either, as he continues to give the most unique portrayal of this Joker.
Loved every page. Nothing bad to say.
The Bottom Line:
This issue did a fantastic job at being the penultimate issue of the story. With that final tease (also seen in the rest of the DotF books) I immediately dreaded what was to come in the first few pages of next issue. All day I've been telling myself, hell, trying to convince my self "it's not going to be Alfred's head... It's not going to be Alfred's head" or face, or whatever... but man, I just have this terrible feeling in my gut, and the fact that this issue stuck to me like that is why it's so god damn good.