DEATH OF THE FAMILY: BATMAN 16, BATGIRL 16, BATMAN & ROBIN 16
Writers: Snyder, Tomasi, Simone
Artists: Capullo, Gleason, Benes
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
A King, a bride, a prodigal son and a silver domed serving platter seeping with blood: This isn’t a Don Mclean song; it’s the latest happenings in the Joker’s reign of terror against the Bat-Clan. “Death of the Family” is the panacea of how events should be run, with the sum being greater than the whole of the parts while not forcing readers into imbibing every mother-loving book to understand what the hell is going on. Synergy has also been the mantra of this series. Each book has kept chronology straight and truly built off the last and this week’s books are the absolute proof in the proverbial pudding.
Now, since I’m a completest I’m reading every tale, even the ever so tangential DETECTIVE, but this is my compulsion at work, not a mandate from DC. Every character has their beef with the Joker, and with only a few weeks left we now stand at the precipice of his grand plan’s fruition.
Before we pontificate, let’s SEE what these penultimate series of books have to tell.
Snyder delivers the most esoteric of this week’s offerings, with the motivations of the Joker still only being understood by him and him alone. He’s blathered abo;ut breaking up the family for issues now, so Bats could reach his full potential, but the means to accomplish this end seem haphazard at best. However, when dealing with a psycopath it’s probably best not to understand. When last we saw Bats he was on his upward climb into the mouth of madness that is Arkham Asylum. Now Bats is cowl-deep in the crazies following a maze of gore that lead to his throne. Yes, the King has returned and his court consists of Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler and of course the Jester himself. Why Joker is anointing Batman remains unknown, the joy in this issue remains firmly steeped in Joker’s twisted sense of humor. Endomorphic inmates dressed as the JUSTICE LEAGUE, flaming horse torpedoes, and a double cross on his accomplices are what keep the pages turning. The issue ends as all will this week, Joker gently lifting the lid on a silver domed serving platter.
BATMAN & ROBIN 16
Gleason still wins the award for creepiest representation of the Joker’s rotting Halloween mask. It’s attached, but not really. It’s intact, but not really. It’s creepier than Poltergeist’s Carol Ann in a movie with the two chicks from The Shining, really. While I’m still partial to Joker’s macabre puppetry with his flesh mask in last issue, Gleason does a great job of still making this the face of fear. Likewise Tomasi hits ever psychological chord expertly to make Damian believe he is in a mano-a-kido against dear old Dad in a fight to the death. Obviously it’s not, but Damian’s belief rips off his emotional scabs to reveal an epiphany that not all “bad” guys should be killed. As with BATMAN, the last page is the Joker serving Robin…something under a silver domed serving platter.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate an unraveling of the mind. No, not Joker’s, that ball of yarn has already been undone. Barbara’s sanity is what’s at stake in issue 16 as she becomes the wedded wife of Mr. J. Why is the Joker suddenly interested in betrothing BATGIRL, well, we’re still not sure. Again, it has to do with tearing the Bat-Clan asunder, but it’s still inconceivable “how” Joker’s scheme will all come together. Benes balances beauty with horror in this issue, giving us one of the best rendered Barbara’s we’ve seen. I’ll also say there are a ton of other artists on this book, but not once was the shift jarring or out of place. Each artist hand-off was so perfectly timed with the movement of the plot chapters; I honestly thought the changes were merely Benes making stylistic shifts for mood. This issue also answers the age old question about how long Barbara was Oracle (or merely wheelie-bound) in the New 52. The answer, about a year. Simone delivers her final piece of goodness in redeeming James Gordon Jr. (sort of). Since Snyder took Jimmy J on in DETECTIVE, he has become one of my favorite new Bat villains. And clearly one of the Joker’s favorites as well. This issue, as with all others this week, ends with the Joker revealing something to Barbara under a silver domed serving platter.
All right, now let’s speculate. The serving platter at the end of each issue this week is a pretty good indicator that Alfred is what’s for dinner. I find this to be too easy and convenient. I still don’t believe we are to take the “death” in “Death of the Family” literally. It’s too easy, and Snyder has already alluded to the fact Joker wants BATMAN separated from the family, but not necessarily shuffling off any of their mortal coils to achieve this end. Also, to kill Alfred would do anything BUT tear the family apart. Let’s be honest, they would band together to pound the Joker into white jelly if he touched one combed over hair on Alfred’s head.
Basically, we still don’t know Jack…or Joker.
If they kill Alfred (or cut his face off), it will ruin the series for me. It seems like the easy way out. They don’t have to kill any one of the lil bat-kiddies that have their own series, but they also can cause Batman plenty of pain and angst. However, that’s at the price of killing the only other member of his family (unless you count Joker) that comes close to understanding him, isn’t under 18, and actually had a place in the comics from the beginning.
Strangely, I have the same mentality as Joker about Batman being ‘made soft’ by the excess amount of bat-helpers he has. There are simply too many. He’s not a loner anymore. I was looking forward to a trimming away one or two of them (okay, maybe three) or a not so literal interpretation. So, the whole idea of Alfred’s death or gruesome mutilation being the ‘big reveal’ doesn’t appeal to me at all.
Other than this idea, I have absolutely loved the series so far. It really addressses the root of Batman and the Joker’s relationships and has dug some fairly large skeletons out of the closet. Amazing series. I just hope I can trust Snyder not to disappoint me.
I’ve had a few direct conversations with Scott about the series, he reads the reviews and the comments, he knows an easy way out is not an option. I agree on BATMAN being soft since his return, but this really is a cyclical thing or Bats. Back in the early 90s the same expansion happened, so far as he even had some Bat family members living in the cave. Dark and brooding is right around the corner, I can feel it.
That’s definitely a relief. I do trust Scott Snyder with the end of the series, since each issue is better than the last (and they’re all superb), but the prevailing theory on ‘the plate’ is that it’s going to be Alfred’s face. Of course I’m looking forward to getting back the brooding Dark Knight we all know and love, I just hope it doesn’t come at Alfred’s expense. I have a soft spot for the guy.
Nonetheless, I’m counting the days until the final issue! Whatever it is, it’s going to be big.