Written by: Scott Snyder, Pencils by: Greg Capullo, Inks by: Johnathan Glapuon, Colours by: FCO Plascencia.
Bruce Wayne: billionaire, philanthropist, playboy. By day, he’s the CEO of Wayne Enterprises, a company his parents founded for the betterment of Gotham City. A city which since their untimely death has spiraled out of control: crooked police, mob rule, and the growing emergence of criminals with a propensity for the theatrical. By night, Bruce and his family are the protectors that Gotham needs, they are the Bat-Family run by Batman himself.
It’s been a year since the last Joker sighting, but the Bat Family have been busy with other things. Now the Joker is back, and he’s looking at Batman like he’s weak. He thinks Batman's emotional ties to his Bat-Family have made him weaker, so Joker intends to deal with them, one by one. . .starting with Alfred, and he won’t be happy until Batman is all to himself. With references to 1988's "A Death In The Family", will this arc finish in a similar vein?
It’s a masterful continuation from writer Scott Snyder, who manages to encapsulate all the best and worst of the Joker. It’s written in a way that I just can’t help but imagine Mark Hamill’s lips flapping at the invisible exclamation mark at the end of every “Batttttttssssss”. Snyder shows here that not only can he create brand new villains that have now become legendary within Batman lore, but he’s also very comfortable writing a classic villain and doing it a complete service. This Joker is probably the most violent and insidious version we have seen, with his cunning, well thought out plans. Yet it feels authentic to the character. His motivation makes sense (which I’m now wondering could be a problem). He’s been interacting with Batman for all this time and they are tied together permanently. Destined to do this dance forever. He’s looking at his rival with pity, and knows that the only way to bring him back to his roots is to rid him of the emotional connection. Perfectly mirroring the classic tale, but not straying too far from the character. He even has one of the best lines that just clearly defines his motivations: “The ones who’ve ruined my dear king. I mean look at him! He can’t even cage a few old owls without your help anymore.”
Going through this run reminds me of how stupid I was to drop the Batman book from my pull list at the start of the New 52. I thought I should change things up and start collecting Detective Comics. Not only was I silly for doing that, but reading it now almost 10 years after its release, I’m starting to think we were blessed to have comics this good. I dropped off of Tom King's run edict was after this, and now I barely collect his books anymore, and what I do get just doesn’t hold a torch up to this. This series so far has felt like the perfect balance of nostalgia and contemporary, with characters like Batman and Gordon rejuvenated and villains like Riddler (who shows up a small amount but even then clearly demonstrates why he’s the caped crusader's most intelligent villain). Then we have Joker, who by most comic standards isn’t as villainous as he is here, by going after Batman’s family. Obviously this feels more targeted rather than Jim Starlin's arc, which was a crime of opportunity. Snyder has this way of writing him that makes him just as endearing as he is diabolical.
Greg Capullo’s art is just the perfect complement to the writing. When we see Batman his posture is more rigid, like he’s standing firm against everything being thrown at him. Compared to Joker who is more elongated and has a menacing presence, even to the point of grotesque and horrific, that’s without the fact that he has his face stapled on after he had it cut it off in an issue of Detective Comics. Which leads me to the most fascinating and possibly best part to the book. Joker's face actually degrades and decomposes throughout the run. Starting off looking relatively fresh and white from make-up, by the end it is green from its natural decay. This just accentuates the horror element to the character, and I rather enjoyed watching it change as the pages went on.
For a book that is almost a decade old and still hold up this good just shows either the quality of the writing then, or the lack that we are getting now. This arc easily holds itself as a potential sequel to the classic arc. It also furthers the story for the New 52 Bruce and does it with villains who aren’t completely changed to fit the narrative.
For that reason, I just cannot fault this book and I’m struggling why I can’t give it a definitive 5 POPs. Possibly the only thing that could be confusing is if you haven’t read Detective Comics, then you wouldn’t understand why he has his face stapled to his head, so for that I think it’s fair to give it 4 POPs out of 5.
The New 52 Batman: Death of the Family trade paperback was released by DC Comics on 20th May 2014, and is available from your Local Comic Shop as well as comixology
Andrew Carr was blessed to grow up watching the animated series of Batman, X-Men, and his favorite, Spider-Man.This started his dive into the comics world, which resulted in meeting his amazing cosplaying wife Imogen. They live in England with their Sinister Six dogs.