By: Matthew Rapier
Death of the Family kicks off in Batman #13 with Joker infiltrating the GCPD and playing a clever game in offing many of Gordon’s crew. He ends up kidnapping Alfred Pennyworth and leaves Bruce Wayne a message with sounds of Alfred being tortured in the background. Batman deduces that Joker is re-creating some of his most famous past events with the Bat-family only with slight alterations.
No one is safe from the Joker here as he threatens the entire group of bat characters, abducting Batgirl’s mother and even going after Catwoman in the process. By the end of Batman #14 the Bats and Joker meet face to face on a bridge, but the Joker has seemingly planned ahead and blown the Aqueduct of Gotham causing the water to be poisoned also revealing a group of innocent people dead in the water below them.
The first six issues of Death of the Family take place in Batman, Batgirl, and Catwoman #13 & #14 of each book. This is a really solid start to a very hyped event that sees the return of Batman’s most famous foe. I’m sure there is no surprise that the strongest issues in dialogue are with Snyder on Batman because he has found a voice for Joker that is familiar, but also carries a new sadistic weight to it. It feels like he is more informed of who Batman actually is under that mask and causes paranoia with Dick Grayson that Joker is coming after their true identities.
As strong as Snyder’s writing is, the Batgirl and Catwoman issues are no weak link though. Gail Simone is known for a twisted sense of humor if you read her work on Secret Six, so she has no problems finding the right tone for Joker. Things are extremely personal for Barbara Gordon as she was once paralyzed by the Clown Prince of Crime and now he’s abducted her mother with a nail bomb set to explode around her. Ann Nocenti gets a more light tone with her book, being that Catwoman is a bit playful. That’s not to say the threat doesn’t feel real, but this was a good break between the darkness to have someone throwing wit back to the Joker.
Capullo on Batman, Sandoval on Catwoman, and Benes/Samere on Batgirl all handle their duties quite well. There is certainly a darkness in tone across the three books, which helps this feel connected. Jokers face constantly looks loose and gross as it should with someone who is trying to hold their skin on by strings. No one has quite nailed his new look like Capullo though, which is why his likeness will be the first New 52 Joker figure released.
I can’t find any negatives here that would deter me from thinking this event will end up flat when it ends. The creators involved seem to have great focus with each other and where the story needs to go. This event could be one of those talked about years from now that new readers MUST pick up the trade to read.
Overall Grade: 9/10