Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso
As Scarface explains the reason why he killed Angel Lupo was because Angel's sister was his true love who was carrying his child, and as such Angel's murder of her was deserving of his revenge. We then see the story gets sidetracked by a visit with the Joker in Arkham, as the grinning villain makes it clear he was partially responsible for the murder of the couple in the alley. As the issue ends we see Batman discovers the person who killed this couple was the last person you would have ever expected.
I didn't care much for the Joker's seemingly arbitrary involvement in the story, but I will concede Brian Azzarello does deliver a wonderfully creepy Joker, and this issue meeting left we wishing the arc had dropped the Angel Lupo plot completely and instead focused its energies on how the Joker was able to get that child to gun down his own parents. I'm not sure if the Joker knows how Batman came into existence, but I can freely accept that he would see using children to kill their own parents as a wonderfully amusing gag that he could unleash in Batman's city. The issue also manages to nicely spell out the idea that the Joker needs Batman to recognize he's responsible for the latest tragic moment to occur in Gotham City. I'll also give this issue credit for its delivery of Scarface's anguished explanation for why he gunned down Angel Lupo, and this exchange is made even more effective when one remembers it was Batman who painted the big bullseye on Angel's head. The issue also manages to give us a look at why Batman would feel some guilt over the death of his parents as we learn that they wouldn't have been in the alley if he hadn't played the spoiled rich kid. Of course one does have to openly wonder why such an openly affluent couple would decide to go wandering through a region of the city with the rather ominous nickname of Crime Alley with their child, when they could've been driven to and picked up from the front door of the theater by their limo. Still it was nice to see Batman believes he played a role in their deaths, as it helps to shore up his life long obsession with his war against crime.
The art is wonderfully moody and it plays a large role my enjoyment of this issue in spite of its rather lackluster finish. I mean Batman in the early pages of this issue looks intimidating enough that someone would drop a gun when he ordered them to, and this sequence also delivers a powerful little moment as Scarface rips the head off his dummy. The follow up scene where Scarface openly discusses the fate of his unborn son was also well presented by the art, as his anguish is perfectly set on the character's face. The art also does solid work with the Joker, as the villain's madness is well conveyed, and his trademarked smile is quite unsettling. I also have to say I rather enjoyed the sorry state that Batman looks to be in, as far too often the art seems to forget that a character has been pounded on in a previous issue of the arc, and as they should be sporting the scars and bruises that come with such a serious pummeling. I also love his take on Gotham City as it's a truly nightmarish environment.
Okay, Angel Lupo's sister was killed by Killer Croc, who had been hired by Angel Lupo's girlfriend to perform the dirty deed because she was tired of sharing Angel's affections with another woman, even if it was his sister. Angel Lupo is killed in this issue by Scarface because he was head over heels in love with Angel's sister, and Batman's misguided efforts to locate Angel had everyone believing Angel was responsible for her death. The murder of the two people in the alley is the result of some deep seeded programming that the Joker had put in place, that had the child gun down his parents presumably when he came into contact with Angel's discarded gun. Now two of these three explanations hold up fairly well, as the story took the time to move the pieces into place and detail the motives of the various players, and then there's one explanation that feels like it was tacked on to the story when Brian Azzarello suddenly realize that he hadn't come up with am explanation as to how those two people ended up dead in that alley if it hadn't been at the hands of Angel Lupo. I mean what are the chances that Batman would be chasing an armed murder suspect down an alley, and the family that this suspect rushed past would have a child who had subjected to what I'm guessing is programming at the hands of the Joker. This is a clear cut example of a writer simply making this stuff up as he goes along, and hoping the readers aren't going to study this section of the story, and recognize it as a highly implausible story element that crumbles under the pressure of any real scrutiny.
Red Rum, Red Rum:
The idea that the child murdered his own parents isn't really fleshed out all that much, nor is the Joker's involvement ever really explained, so this explanation isn't all that satisfying, nor does it feel like Brian Azzarello put much effort into it as he seems far more interested in drawing parallels to Batman's own childhood tragedy, that he never quite gets around the one in the present day. However this issue does play host to a pretty effective exchange between Batman and the Joker, as we see these two are involved in a compelling battle of wits. I also quite enjoyed the scene where Scarface offers up his explanation for why he gunned down Angel Lupo, and given Batman was the one who constructed the false impression that Angel was his sister's murderer, I have to say it was interesting to see the character's reaction to the idea that his rush to judgment resulted in the death of an innocent man (or at least he was innocent of the crime that got his killed). The issue also offers up a little insight into the night where Bruce's parents were murdered, as we learn why Batman feels partially responsible for their deaths.
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