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|"Castle of Cards"|
|First Published:||January 16, 2013|
|Previous Issue:||Batman #15|
|Next Issue:||Batman #17|
"Castle of Cards"Edit
Upon arriving in Arkham Asylum, Batman finds a strange display set up for him. In a number of cells, the Joker has dressed guards in the garbs of the Batman and the Joker, forcing them to dance for days in a pool of water. Guessing that the Joker intends to shock the guards using the water as a conductor, Batman activates an electromagnetic pulse, which deactivates the asylum's electrical systems. Unfortunately, Joker anticipated this, and there is an emergency power system available to him. As he prepares to permanently retire his dancers, Batman tosses devices into each cell that absorb all of the water, making it impossible to shock the guards remotely.
Knowing that the Joker will likely be in Dr. Arkham's personal quarters, which have a second command centre inside, Batman eschews the elevator shafts in favour of the corridors and passageways of the administrative wing, hoping to avoid being trapped. In those hallways, though, he encounters a flaming horse, charging toward him, followed soon by torches in the darkness. Having already anticipated his quarry's moves, Joker turns on the lights, revealing an armed and armoured retinue of soldiers - once the inmates of Arkham - to spar with their king.
A better fighter than any of his opponents, Batman beats them down, unhorsing an oncoming swordsman and taking the horse for himself. Intending to ride the horse to the Joker, Batman hears his enemy's voice encouraging him to look up and behind him. There, sewn together from still-living bodies, is a tapestry illustrating past memories of his relationship with the Joker. As the living tapestry, assembled with the help of Dollmaker, begins chanting "Hail the Bat King" over and over, Batman rides on with a cry of rage.
On the stairs to Arkham's quarters, Batman encounters Mister Freeze, whom Joker introduces as the king's groundskeeper - wishing only to dress Gotham City in ice and white blooms of death. Batman places a heating device on Fries' chest, warning that if he moves, it may burn through him. Further up the stairs, Batman encounters Commissioner Gordon, but breaks his arm, knowing it can't be his friend. The man reveals himself to be Clayface - the king's player. Batman uses Mister Freeze's Cold Gun to freeze Clayface on the spot. Soon, though, he encounters Scarecrow - the court physician - who doses him with fear toxin. With a rebreather over his nose and mouth, Batman knocks Scarecrow unconscious, surprising Joker at his effectiveness.
Hearing that Joker hasn't quite got ready for him, Batman intends to make the best of his advantage, and tries to blow the door to Arkham's quarters. Still, it is a blast-door, and pushing it open, he realizes that Joker has piled all of the room's furniture in front of the door. He does, however, manage to open the door wide enough to see a strange tableau arranged just for him.
In the middle of the room sits a stone, with a chainsaw's blade embedded in it. That chainsaw is attached to jumper cables. On one side of the room stand the Penguin, the Riddler, and Two-Face. On the other side stands the Joker, backed with a quartet of innocents dressed in costumes to mirror the Justice League. Joker introduces his cohorts, with Penguin representing the bishop, cultivating a religion of vice. Riddler is the strategist, who keeps the Bat-King's mind sharp. Two-Face is the judge, who shapes the laws of chaos that govern Gotham City. The Joker himself is the court jester. He claims that they could have served any hero, if they had been worthy of them. For example, Superman. He urges the man dressed as Superman to approach the chainsaw, and attempt to pull it from the stone, promising that the current courses through it randomly, offering a chance of survival. When the man places his hand on the handle, he is filled with so much electricity that his remains are charred beyond recognition.
Joker prepares to send the woman dressed as Wonder Woman to the same fate, so Batman decides to use his remaining strength to break through the door. Once through, he cuts the jumper cables with a Batarang, rendering the instrument of death useless. Even so, the Joker has more tricks up his sleeve, bringing steel bars down from the ceiling, to separate them from the Batman. Further, he directs Batman's attention to a set of screens on the wall, showing that each of Batman's allies has been defeated. He explains that while Batman may be as fast and as smart as he likes, but so long as his family survives, he will always, always lose. All that remains to do is for Batman to accept his true role, and to take his rightful place in the throne he has provided - an electric chair. He warns that if Batman does not play along, he will never find out exactly what the Joker did to the young bat-family.
Defeated, Batman walks up the steps to his seat, places the electrifying crown on his head, and takes a violent electric current straight into his brain.
With Batman having just been filled with a likely fatal jolt of electricity, the Joker's collaborators are unsure if he is really dead. Still, they are eager to get out of the asylum before the police arrive, so Two-Face decides to flip on whether he puts a bullet in the Batman's gut or his head.
The Joker warns him that such a plan is contrary to his game, and begins carting the body away for the next stage of his plan. Still, though, Two-Face claims that they have a right to be witness and participants to the Batman's final end. Rejecting that claim, Joker drops the bars down into the middle of the room again, blocking the three villains from interfering.
Before Riddler can deduce a way out of their cage, he suddenly collapses thanks to tranquilizers the Joker implanted in his costume. With that done, the Joker returns to dragging Batman to their dinner with the rest of the bat-kids. However, Two-Face points his pistol at the Joker, warning him not to leave. Mockingly, Joker states that Harvey and the others have no right to Batman's death, having chosen Harvey as judge because he was nothing. He abandoned his values after getting a vial of acid in the face, as if that were enough, and then took on the guise of a gangster. He dares Two-Face to pull the trigger, given that he may have tampered with the gun already. There is still a chance he might kill the madman - which might as well mean that he has switched sides. Crestfallen, Harvey lowers his weapon.
After hearing the Penguin's plea to hear reason, Joker agrees to give them a taste of what he has in store, and nothing more. He presents an entree platter, and removes the lid for them. What they see there confuses and disturbs them. The Joker explains that when it comes to jokes, he has to play with the audience's expectations, and then returns to his dinner preparations.
"Castle of Cards"Edit
- The Joker
- Mr. Freeze
- The Penguin
- The Riddler
- Nightwing (On a screen only)
- Batgirl (On a screen only)
- Red Robin (On a screen only)
- Red Hood (On a screen only)
- Robin (On a screen only)
- Freeze Gun