(a) Patrick Gleason
After two months of so-so "Death of the Family" tie-in titles, Batman and Robin #15 comes out swinging. Not only does Damian take center stage on his mission to find Alfred while Batman's off tracking down the Joker, but Patrick Gleason's interpretation of the new, faceless Joker might be the scariest and creepiest version of the Clown Prince of Crime yet.
Much of Batman and Robin #15 is a psychological game between Robin and Joker. Damian's only been Batman's partner for a short amount of time, and from what I've read in the 'New 52' so far, it seems like Damian's never encountered the Joker. That's a big deal. Damian already has a penchant for being egotistical and brash when it comes to his ability oppressed by Batman's paternal instincts. Add the Joker's snide attitude and loss of all humanity, and Damian quickly recognizes the Joker is seriously deranged. But when the youngest Wayne sees a video of Joker blinding Alfred by pouring ammonia in his eyes, Damian is all to quick to renounce his oath to not kill anymore by promising to kill the Joker. On the one hand, it shows how determined Damian becomes after he fully understands the terror of Joker's mental instability. On the other, the whole sequence feels rushed and somewhat lacking. If it had only been a page longer, it would have really packed a huge punch. Instead, Damian's promise to kill Joker comes across as childish from a boy readers know doesn't have any philosophical issues with murder outside his father's opinions nagging at the back of his mind.
But really, this issue comes down to one single idea: "Robin's greatest fear is being responsible for Batman's death, and Batman's greatest fear is being responsible for Robin's death." Joker lays it out as simply as he can because that's exactly what needs to be said. Strip away the insanity, the murderous tendencies, and the tricky dialogue, and what you're left with is a character who is actually speaking truths, however twisted they might be--Batman's allies drag him down. They make him weaker because he has to care for them instead of performing at peak efficiency. It might not be what we want to hear, but it's real. This isn't to say that Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood, and Red Robin should be done away with (though, I guess we'll see the status quo at the end of "DotF"), just that we, as fans, need to recognize that one of Batman's weaknesses is his family. Of course, when you add the crazy back into Joker, he wants everyone dead!
Batman and Robin #15 is by and far the best "Death of the Family" tie-in issue yet, and is simply one of the best issues of the series overall. Damian Wayne is brash and confident to a fault, and it comes to a head when he faces the Joker, a villain who feeds on traits like overconfidence and uses it to his advantage. This series went through a bit of a rough patch for a few months in the late summer/early fall, but these past few issues have been fantastic. Peter J. Tomasi comes in at a close second for best interpretation of the Joker. And really, the only reason for that is because Scott Snyder developed the Joker's 'New 52' persona, so he's kind of got the best hold on him. If you're looking for a good "Death of the Family" tie-in, but you don't want to go overboard with issues, stick with Batman and Robin.