Review Round-Up Special: Death of the Family Finale!

Posted: February 13, 2013 in DC, Reviews
Tags: , ,

The cover to Batman 17 is great. Greg Capullo really nails the atmosphere and tone for the event. Property of DC Comics.

By Alex Headley

Note: Spoilers are on for this week’s review of Batman 17.
Batman 17
This is it! The end of Death of the Family and the final chapter is… Kind of a mixed bag. It’s not bad though, Snyder still delivers great dialogue and Capullo’s art is still stunning (seriously, this guy may be my favorite Bat-artist ever). It’s just that the events don’t really live up to the hype. Nobody dies, nobody is horribly disfigured or even hurt for any period of time. And that’s fine, death and dismemberment is kind of useless in comics these days but DC promised a shocking twist and a brave new status quo. It’s just not there. Yes, there’s a bit of a wedge driven between the Bat-Family, but its nothing shocking or monumental in scope. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the event over the last couple of months and I still think its one if the best Joker stories since A Killing Joke but the big ending just doesn’t deliver. It really falls prey to the hype machine surrounding modern comics ( which I guess this blog contributes to a bit. Interesting.)

And of course there’s the big payoff, the death of the family. Yes, the group is a little more mistrusting of Bruce and seem to want to distance themselves a bit, but how much we’re they really interacting anyway? Batgirl has crossed paths with Bruce once in the New 52 and Batman has had barely anything at all to do with Jason in Red Hood and the Outlaws. The same goes for Tim and his adventures in Teen Titans and Dick in Nightwing. And Alfred is just fine by the end of the story. The only one strongly tied to Bruce at the moment is Damian and because we know he has some big things happening over in Batman Inc. I think he will be okay. In fact, we see in Batman and Robin 17 (spoilers: it’s great), also out this week, that Bruce, Damian and Alfred are getting along just fine.

What does work though is the Joker. This event fails to really redefine Batman and friends in any meaningful way, but it casts the Joker in an incredibly interesting new light. Joker’s always been a complicated villain but here its taken to another level. The whole Bat-King and the Jester angle really nails the dynamic between the two and the Joker’s innuendo towards Bruce is both disturbing and appropriately funny. Joker’s complete obsession with Batman and complete disinterest in anything else makes him so much more personal and terrifying and I’m glad that DC’s premier villain is back in the picture and very excited to see what he does next. Joker’s return and new attitude is the real gem in Death of the Family and in many ways, he is also the character that suffers the most. He rejects Harley early on in the story, essentially leaving her for Batman. But Batman, his true love, completely scorns him, choosing his family instead. It’s interesting to see the Joker so clouded by sentiment, something we never associate with such a horrifying villain, that he chokes up on his big plan. It’s that sentiment that keeps him from defeating Batman and it seems like, in his current mental state at least, he’ll never be able to. The flashback seen late in this issue offers tons of interesting insight into the Joker’s psychosis and will likely be a point that is used in future stories to great effect.

Disappointing  though is the resolution of Joker and Batman’s fight in the cave. The whole ‘villain falling off a cliff and the body is never found’ gag is the oldest trick in the book and really comes off as lazy.  It’s just a little too cliche and familiar to be interesting.
There are a couple of interesting bits here in the ending though, such as Joker’s little black book being empty or the Hahnium element in the toxin used on the Bat Family that delivers a great final page. Overall, I think Death of the Family has been a great little event and a brilliant look into the dynamic between two of comics’ most iconic and powerful characters.  Batman 17 just isn’t the story’s strongest chapter.

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