Comic Book Review – "Batman: Death of the Family"

Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

Batman: Death of the Family. Photo via
Batman: Death of the Family. Photo via
In November of 2011, DC Comics shocked readers of Detective Comics (an off-set of Batman) by having the villain Dollmaker surgically remove the Joker’s face.  The Joker subsequently escapes from Arkham Asylum and wasn’t heard from for an entire year. However, that all changed in Batman #13 when the Joker made his grand return in “Death of the Family”, a storyline that has climbed its way to contend with others like “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader” and “The Killing Joke.”
The storyline opens with the Joker attacking Alfred at Wayne Manorthe. The integral butler, who serves as both a father figure and conscience to Batman, now kidnapped, serves as the call to action that rouses Batman to go after the Joker. Other members of the Batfamily immediately suspect that the Joker knows their real identities and, as Alfred’s fate remains unknown, the Joker continues to play on their suspicion that he knows their identities. Towards the beginning, the reader becomes aware that the Joker carries a tiny black book that contains all of the Batfamily’s secrets written and composed by Batman himself.
The Joker continues to toy with the Family: Dick Grayson, the first Robin, must save his family’s legacy; Jason Todd and Timothy Drake must determine if the Joker has their fathers; Barbara Gordon must save her mother while dealing with her deranged Brother; and Damian Wayne must go through the Joker’s insane trials that include killing Batman. The Joker’s entire plan consists of several different angles and causes the Family to undergo serious psychological and physical torment , and because he planned for an entire year, these different angles flow seamlessly into each other and allow the Joker to capture Batman for his epic finale. All the while, the reader still has no idea what happened to Alfred.
“Death of the Family” plays on the title “Death in the Family”, the storyline where the Joker killed the second Robin Jason Todd. From the initial start of the story, Scott Snyder, the writer, made it known that someone important was going to die and it left fans wondering just who it was going to be. Newsarama, in its most recent prediction article, put James Gordon, Alfred, and The Family as the three most likely to die as a result of the story; however, its true victim didn’t even make the list.
This Wednesday, February 13th marks the end of this twenty-three issue storyline with the death of one of Batman’s most iconic characters: the Joker. As a reader, the death wasn’t expected at all and the conclusion of the storyline was oddly poetic and highly satisfying. Snyder reveals that the Joker’s little black book was empty, which initially led to confusion, until Bruce told Alfred—who survived!—about a trip to Arkham Asylum. During the trip, Bruce snuck off and met the Joker; Bruce knew at that moment the Joker never cared about his secret identity because “that would ruin the fun” of Batman. Even in death, the Joker won by turning the Family on itself and left them scarred, which will be explored in subsequent books.
However, the Joker will forever go down in my book as the best Batman villain for getting the literal last laugh. At the very end of the story, in the last panels, Bruce discovers the entire Family was injected with harmless radioactive isotopes by the Joker. This unknown material turns out to be Dubnium, formerly called Hahnium, which has the atomic symbol of Ha.
The last page ends perfectly with the artist zooming in on the computer screen. And thus, the reader is left with the Joker’s last and final laugh.  Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.

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