By: Scott Snyder (writer), Greg Capullo (pencils), Jonathan Glapion (inks), FCO Plascencia (colors), Richard Starkings & Jimmy Betancourt (letters), Katie Kubert (assistant editor) and Mike Marts (editor)
The Story: Batman and Joker have their final conflict.
Review (with SPOILERS): This issue is very well done. I loved it and I can’t imagine many Batman fans not enjoying it. It’s really amazing to think that 2.5 years ago, DC took a chance on this newer writer named Scott Snyder and now he’s produced – in succession – The Black Mirror (pre-New 52), The Court of Owls and now Death of the Family. Those are three “all-time classic” quality stories. They’re things you can hand to a non-comics friend who “wants to try a Batman comic”. Maybe they won’t be hooked on comics, but at least you won’t have to be nervous about the material: there’s no issues drawn by Igor Kordey in the middle, no weird events that you have to explain to them, etc. It’s just good, good comics with a pantheon-level character.
What makes this issue – and story – work so well is how Snyder defines the Batman-Joker relationship. I really like the idea that Joker is just this deeply insane man that enjoys playing with Batman, and he doesn’t like it when Batman spends time with any of his other friends or just ignores him. Ignore Joker and he’ll lash out at someone just to make Batman pay attention; it isn’t so much that he wants to kill average Gothamites, but that he wasn’t Batman to focus on HIM. It was also nice to see how Bruce/Batman backed away from that obsessive ledge that the character sometimes teeters upon. Bruce doesn’t want his life to be defined by Joker, but by his crusade for justice and his friends. That’s the tone I want in a Batman book.
However, there are elements to this story that I don’t enjoy as much. To be clear, they don’t make it a bad story or anything like that, but they do affect the overall enjoyment. This whole “Why won’t Batman just kill Joker?” trope is tired and I don’t like seeing a writer as talented as Snyder using it. We KNOW why Batman won’t kill Joker! It has nothing to do with Batman’s personal code of ethics and everything to do with DC being able to market another Joker-centric story 2-3 years in the future. And that’s why I don’t like the classic villains. They are as safe as Batman himself and that removes a lot of drama from the story. It isn’t that Death in the Family is more poorly executed than Court of Owls, but in CoO Snyder and Capullo were playing in a much larger sandbox. DotF is trapped in the Joker’s closet as all Joker stories are.
Again, the art is superb. Capullo is – of course – awesome. But, we already knew that. What I’m respecting more and more about Capullo is his professionalism. He never seems to put his inker and colorist in a lousy position. That means that Capullo is cranking these pages out on a fairly regular basis and getting them to Glapion and Plascencia with enough time that they can do their respective duties. It can’t be an easy job to ink Capullo – there’s a lot more than “tracing” going on here – and these pages look as crisp as the first page of Batman #1. Ditto for the colors. Why doesn’t Plascencia get more comic work? The guy is awesome!
I guess the thing I really appreciate about the art is how this art team has seized the brass ring. These guys have all been around comics for a long time, but THIS gig on Batman was their shot at big time acclaim that they would never get working on Spawn or Haunt or Anna Mercury or whatever. I LOVE it when you see people get a shot at the “big time” and nail it and then continue to nail it over an extended period of time.
Conclusion: A very fitting end to the Death of the Family story. The only flaws are those inherent in working within the confines of classic villains who must live to fight another day.
– Dean Stell