Castle of Cards
I've not been as flabbergasted by Death of the Family as some. The story has its problems with overexposed and formulaic crossovers not to mentions a Joker who can apparently do anything he wants whenever he wants, but still, the core story has been a heck of a ride with brilliant art, solid story, creepiness galore, a couple intriguing mysteries, strong dialogue, cool aesthetics, clever themes, and fitting dialogue. On the list of awesome Joker stories, I'm not sure this one will end up at the top, but unless Snyder really bungles it in the last act, Death of the Family will make for a great addition to the Joker collection.
In addition to being just another part of a very good story, I expect this issue might have a big revelation. We know that Death of the Family ends with the next issue, so if Joker really does know Batman's secret identity, the end of this issue would be the place to reveal it. If Snyder reveals it any later, it would give Batman and the cross overs no time to explore the consequences. If Joker knows, we will know by the end of this issue. Does Batman 16 make our deepest nightmares come true, or does Joker's hell house of horror fail to deliver on promised dread?
In this issue, Batman makes his way through Joker's labyrinth.
And Arkham Is...
Reading various commentaries on the last issue, there was a lot of speculation on what motif Joker might use for his takeover of Arkham Asylum. Would it be a mad house or a slaughter house? Would it be a family dinner, a dance, or a wedding?
Well, Joker decided to stick with the theme of Batman as a Bat King. For this reason, Arkham is Batman's castle fully stocked with knights, horses, and generally medieval decorations. The aesthetics work well for the most part; I especially liked, though it took me awhile to decipher the equipment, how Joker gave the inmates the guards riot gear for a cool knight aesthetic. The classic rogues gallery is bought to the forefront in this issue and given a dark age makeover of sorts. The way the different villains figure in to the Bat King mythology is rather clever. I was a bit confused on the Dollmaker's tapestry. Specifically, where did that skin come from and what the heck did Joker mean by, “I thought dead would be better, but he put tubes in the stomach and voila?”
Altogether, the set pieces for this issue are brilliant. There are a few nods to classic Joker story lines, (it looks like Joker still killed Sarah-Essen) and every aspect of Joker's setup shows ridiculous amounts of planning on his part to make everything perfect for Batman.