The Ninjabot

Kings and Jesters: Death of the Family So Far

Posted on December 16, 2012 at 12:19 am by Tyler Waterman

When my editor first approached me to write an article about the Death of the Family crossover event going on now across all the Bat-related titles, at first I hesitated. I couldn’t help but ask myself, is this an article better saved until the story was complete? However, when I considered all that has happened so far, and all the significance it’s held, I realized there was more than enough to discuss. In fact, I couldn’t help but feel that taking it apart now may even benefit my understanding in preparation for the second half.

This complexity is exactly what makes DotF so compelling. In fact, it’s even bigger than that. That complexity and the sheer amount of content being delivered in every issue is indicative of the effect that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have had not only on Batman proper, but also directly on all the other Bat-family books. Snyder’s writing is meticulously detailed, and Capullo’s distinctive style never fails to capture every bit of it. Rarely do we get to witness a team of two people whose passion for their product is so obvious in everything they do.

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Instant goosebumps

Of course, Death of the Family crosses all the Bat titles, but I truly believe the exceptional quality seen in all of those books is directly related to where these two have set the bar. In this saga, Capullo and Snyder aren’t just spinning one of the darkest stories in Bat history (which is no small feat), they’re challenging everyone working on a Bat book to do the same, and that challenge has been met head on. At the same time, they’re also solving one of the most difficult challenges of telling truly great Batman stories: appealing to his two extremes.

Every Batman story is inherently a tale of two people, and I don’t mean Batman and Bruce Wayne. As has been said by countless comic minds greater than mine, Bruce is just the mask that Batman wears. This is especially true since the reboot, as the “new” Batman is far more dedicated to his crusade than his personal life, as opposed to the frequently-dating Bruce of old. When it comes to Batman, the two distinct personalities involved in the character aren’t the hero versus the secret identity. It’s a tale of two Batmen; the avatar of vengeance seen on the streets, versus the dedicated head of a family seen in the cave.

While many of the greatest Batman stories have embraced this concept, it may have never been highlighted so well as it is in Death of the Family.

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I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I’ve heard Batman say “I was afraid,” and this is a man who is exposed to fear toxin on a pretty regular basis. I can count even less occurrences where I saw that kind of expression on his face. This is the true human side of Batman. It’s not billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. It’s not even “head of Batman Incorporated” Bruce Wayne. It’s this man here, this man without a father who’s become one to so many people, who’s been forced to care for so many when he never wanted to care about anyone ever again. And that fear in those eyes exists because this Joker threat is truly like no other.

I could explain his motivations myself, but it would be better to let you hear the words straight from the madman’s mouth, best explained in Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s exceptional Batman and Robin:

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Joker has always been Batman’s most dangerous threat, but his motivation here sets this far apart from any interaction they’ve had before, a bold statement to make about a man who crippled a Batgirl and killed a Robin. This isn’t about Joker committing crimes, or even just terrorizing the populace of Gotham, though he’s done both quite effectively throughout this story. This is about a systematic dismantling of all the Batman holds dear, of all the kindred spirits that have been a part of his quest for justice, and what makes that so disturbing is that Joker is doing it out of nothing more than love for Batman.

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In the superhero world, the accusation is often made that the villains only exist as a reaction to the heroes, and nowhere has that accusation struck closer to home than the relationship between Batman and Joker. In Death of the Family, that discussion has come to the forefront. People are dying because the Joker is hell bent on returning Batman to what he considers to be his finest form: a solitary Dark Knight. Joker views each member of the Bat family as an albatross around the neck of his greatest opponent, and now that he claims he knows all of their identities, his promise to remove them from Batman’s life seems terrifyingly viable. Plus, this is a different Joker than we’ve ever seen before. If the fact that he’s wearing his rotting face as a mask didn’t tip you off to that, even Harley Quinn is afraid of him now. I think that actually frightens me more than the rotting face.

So where do we stand, here at the halfway point of Death of the Family? We stand at an intersection, where the height of Joker’s madness crosses the pinnacle of Batman’s humanity. I stated earlier that the greatest stories tell the tale of two Batmen, and never before have his two sides been brought closer. This is a story about a superhero stopping his nemesis, but this is also a story about a man protecting his family from someone with the power to destroy it… and failing.

Perhaps most importantly, this is a story you should be reading. Whether you’re a DC fan or not, a diehard fan of all things Batman or just have a passing interest, you should be on board while this story unfolds. Every major storyline emphasizes that “nothing will be the same” once it’s over, but I don’t think I’ve ever believed that as strongly as I do with Death of the Family. Halfway into this tale, we’ve seen more damage done to the Bat family than we ever have before, and never forget that the Joker always saves the worst for last.

I just pray that whatever happens, Alfred is here to see it… hell, I just pray Alfred can see at all.

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You can follow Tyler on Twitter @BatmanIncVP.

    • Yeah the Joker is super creepy in this story. After I read Batman #13 I turned to my wife and said the book was terrifying and she should read it. I'm just worried the ending is going to suck. There hasn't been a single cross-over ending I have ever enjoyed. They always come up short and disappointing. I hope DotF will change that.

    • Tyler

      I think it will, I have all the faith in the world in Capullo and Snyder… though I'm guessing the ending isn't going to be of the "happy" variety hahaha

    • What's weird is that I agree with the Joker in an odd way. I have argued with other comic-book afficianados for years that the extended "bat-family" devalues his place in the DC Universe. So I am very interested if they will kill off some of the silly spin-off books as a part of this event.

      The work Snyder (and Gail Simone over on Batgirl) has put in on this is absolutely fantastic, and Capullo's new Joker is truly terrifying looking. If you haven't listened to Kevin Smith's podcast "Fatman on Batman" with Snyder as a guest, do it now. It is a fascinating 2 hours!

      I am still trying to decide if the Joker really knows the identities, or if there is a lot of coincidences happening. Either way, I fear for Alfred.

    • Tyler

      I really can't decide if he knows or not… if I was a betting man I'd say no, but clearly he's coming close to home, and the events in Batgirl make me think he just might.

      Someone is definitely gonna die, and I feel like it might be Tim or Jason. Dick is just too important, and Alfred dying is too obvious. Of course, since Gail just got canned off Batgirl, maybe Barbara is on the chopping block…

      • I'd be fine if Jason, Tim and Damien all ended up in the wood-chipper… (Now I am starting to sound like Justin)

        • Fargo is one of my favorite movies, HAHAHA, I saw it in the theater 2x. True story.

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