One of the most anticipated issues of the year is finally upon us. After DC unleashed the New 52, Batman’s greatest rival, The Joker, disappeared after one issue, but Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo brought him back in their line-wide event, ‘Death of the Family’. Since ‘Batman’ #13, the Clown Prince of Crime has been methodically terrorizing the Dark Knight in ways we’ve never seen before. The villain returned much more sick and twisted than he’s ever been, and it’s resulted in possibly one of the best Joker stories ever. Now, with issue #17, the storyline comes to an end and we finally discover what The Ace of Knaves has up his sleeves.
When we last left Batman in issue #16, he was traveling through the halls of Arkham Asylum and dispatching the threats set up by Joker and his henchmen, as well as other members of the Caped Crusader’s rouges gallery that were enlisted for this scheme. In the end, Batman was faced with a choice: The Joker kills the Bat-family of sidekicks that Bruce has collected over the years or the hero sits in “his throne”, which is actually the electric chair. Thing looked pretty bleak for Batman and his associates on the last page.
Now, Joker has everything in position for the grand finale of his plan. As we saw in the preview for this issue earlier in the week, Bruce, Damian, Dick, Barbra, Tim, and Jason are all tied up to a table that’s rigged to go up in flames if Batman gets up. From there a battle of wits commences between two of the most classic examples of good versus evil in all of literature. Not only do Batman and the Joker come to physical blows, but there’s definitely some lasting emotional and psychological damage done as well.
I don’t even know where to start with this review. I had to stop and take a minute numerous times throughout my reading of this book. Snyder takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster. At one moment, I’m relieved. The next, I’m completely speechless. Then later I’m grasping my hair proclaiming, “ARE YOU SERIOUS?!”. To put it bluntly, there is some sick thing going down in this book.These scars won’t heal very quickly.
What Scott Snyder did with this story was create an incredibly new layer on top of the existing Batman/Joker dynamic. Both characters are forever changed because of ‘Death of the Family’. The Joker pushes Bruce Wayne to his very limits this time and now that he’s gone this far, he can’t really go back. But not only is Batman changed, but his Bat-family is changed too. Due to the events that unfold in this issue and this entire story, they and their relationship with Bruce could never be the same either.
Everything the writer did with this tale was deeply psychological. We’ve gone deeper into the brains of Batman and The Joker than we’ve ever been before, thus making these already complex characters even more so, which makes me as a reader not want to stop reading them. ‘Death of the Family’ is a work of art worthy of display in exhibits dedicated to this sort of thing. Yes, I’m referring to the amazing artwork throughout this run as well, but I really mean that the writing is the shining star of this magnificent opus. The metaphor of the faces and pulling back the facades to show what these characters are really made of is just mind-boggling. I almost wish that there were a class somewhere that I could take where we would just discuss for two weeks what Scott Snyder did here because even a day after I read the book, I’m still trying to wrap my head around exactly what happened here.
The aftermath of ‘Death of the Family’ isn’t something that’s going to be resolved in a single issue. These effects could be long lasting, and that is something very rare in comics these days. The only thing left to say about it is bravo. Compliments of the chef. Scott Snyder’s name should be among the modern era greats like Grant Morrison, Ed Brubaker, Neil Gaiman, Brian Michael Bendis, and the rest who have elevated the medium of comic books to more than cheesy puns and colorful ‘Superfriends’-esque adventures. He deserves to be looked at as a creator who can take things to the next level because this story will be talked about for years to come right next to Joker stories like ‘The Killing Joke’, ‘A Death in the Family’, and the character’s origin.
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, & FCO Plascencia
Cover by Greg Capullo & FCO Plascencia