Batman: Death Of The Family, An Autopsy
I cannot claim to be anything close to a master of all thing Batman but I do dabble in comics, movies and games and regard myself as something of a Batfan. It was thus with giddy trepidation that I awaited Scott Snyder’s Death of the Family arc in his run with Batman in DC’s New 52 comics.
Having read the arc in its entirety, I can say that it is one of the best Batman stories I’ve ever read but only really after ruminating and contemplating its ending and the significance of said ending. It was a moment akin to walking quite comfortably along a path only to look down and realise that the path is 50cm wide with a cavernous drop on either side. Suddenly everything comes into focus and takes perspective and you sort of just take a step back and go “woah.”
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Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself here and perhaps I’m assuming far too much considering this is a gaming site and I’m suddenly talking about comics. You see, once in awhile each staff member at eGamer goes slightly off the rails and usually we just lock them up in a dark room with an internet connection and possibly water. They normalise and we retrieve them. It’s been that way for four years but now we’ve decided to let everyone go off-topic once in awhile just to sate that psychosis. It happens to each of us roughly once a month (it’s not what you think!) so brace yourselves.
Well that explains the why, let’s address the what. I’ll be talking about the Batman series of comics written by Scott Snyder in DC Comics’ rebooted wave of comics dubbed New 52. More specifically, I’ll be looking at the second major arc to come out of this series, namely Death of the Family. What does it mean for Batman and what is its significance? I’ll also try my best to keep this article spoiler-free for all those of you who may want to read it yet.
Snyder’s first arc was The Court of Owls which gave us a very interesting insight Batman’s view of Gotham as well as telling a personal story and making Bruce Wayne question what he knew about his city, the city he defended. While it was full of action, it also offered a more cerebral and psychological analysis of Batman’s character and gave us some understanding of how he viewed the world around him. In a sense it was a character deconstruction by assessing what makes Batman who he is. It looked at some of the nuts and bolts underpinning the persona of Gotham’s prime vigilante.
Death of the Family continued in much the same vein but with a greater focus on the Joker’s relationship with Batman. It puts a spotlight on what makes it functional and also takes aim at the psychological aspect of it rather than the physical. There’s no Joker getting hyped up on Venom and brawling with Batman or any of that, it’s almost purely a series of mind games with some physical manifestations. From a certain perspective and through the quartz-tinted lenses of a pretentious bastard one could construe that this is a ballad of Joker’s love for Batman. Do I need to say ‘no homo’ or will you stop giggling by your own accord? Instead I’d like to think it’s an up close and personal look at Batman, the way he deals with those close to him (the family) and most importantly the bond he has with Joker. Each one feeds off the other in a twisted symbiosis and for more than just compelling storylines.
This is Joker’s first story in awhile and with a character so big, so influential, you’d want him to only appear now and then. It makes his appearances so much more significant and memorable. Also, when he appears then you know something big is going down. As a self-proclaimed Batfan I’ve read all the major Joker stories from The Man Who Laughs to The Killing Joke (one of my personal favourite graphic novels) to Death in the Family. The similarity in arc name is no coincidence Death in the Family is the arc in which Batman experiences his ultimate failure and loses Jason Todd to the murderous hands of the Joker.
Those are all Joker stories and regarded as some of the best out there. Death of the Family easily has a place amongst that list for the simple fact that it achieves a lot without actually doing much. You see, Joker returns in a manner most menacing and true to his style before launching a full-on attack on Batman and his so-called family of like-minded vigilantes such as Nightwing, Red Hood, Robin and Batwoman. The motive is unclear as with most of the Joker’s plots but it is soon revealed that Joker wishes to rid Batman of his burdens in order to make him great again. Joker doesn’t want to see him dulled and restrained by them any longer.
That’s as far as I’ll go with the plot but suffice to say that Joker gives us some food for thought regarding Batman’s attitude towards the family and we begin to wonder whether he might be right and more frighteningly whether Batman knows that Joker is right. There are not only some amazing character moments throughout this arc but also some truly memorable interactions between Batman and Joker, particularly during the epic climax of the story.
We almost get a chilling look into some aspect of Joker’s psyche and by association a deeper glimpse into Batman and the way he regards Joker, the thoughts that drive him and we see some of the darker aspects of Batman’s character. The events of Death of the Family will have reverberating repercussion on the connected Batverse and cause a rift between Batman and his associated allies. Perhaps the best part is that while Batman may win, as he always does, Joker still has the last laugh. I won’t go into further detail but suffice to say that Death of the Family is not only a excellent comic story to read but also a masterclass in moving a series forward without physically doing much rather carrying all the progressive work out in the realm of dialogue and mind games rather than what punches were thrown and rounds fired.
For anyone who loves a good Batman story, I strongly recommend Death in the Family.