The fatal flaw of Death of the Family is the same problem with the ending of LOST. The serialized nature of their respective mediums and the months in between each issue/season gave fans way too much time to speculate about and over-hype the ending. It was inevitable that the ending could only ever be a disappointment to some. If Death of the Family had been released as a graphic novel, it would have—and probably still will—go down as one of the best Batman stories ever. Without going into spoilers I think a lot of fans will be initially disappointed by the outcome of this story arc. That being said, this is a masterpiece. When the hype settles down and the entire story is read in trade paperback form, this will be regarded as one of the defining Batman/Joker stories of all time.
First, let’s praise the artwork. Greg Capullo has done nothing but outstanding work on his run of Batman. This is the issue that lets him cut loose and in my opinion showcases him at his best. The way Joker’s face hangs off his flesh and slowly rots has been done so well. This issue allows Capullo to illustrate a lot of action and the pace is pitch perfect. I felt that this entire story arc was rendered beautifully and I love the way Capullo draws Batman.
Snyder made The Joker as terrifying as he’s ever been. He did such a good job at it that it ended up working against him, as fans thought that anything could happen in this issue and began theorizing of all the worst possible scenarios. As soon as that happened, any ending that wasn’t what people had theorized became doomed to be a let down. We do find out what is under the serving trays, and it is horrifying. When I saw the reveal, it turned The Joker into the most evil creature that had ever lived. Everything gets paid off and there are still some surprises after the reveal which I’m sure will be the source of the controversy surrounding this issue.
The real story in this issue is in the dialogue. What Joker says to Batman is what this entire arc has been about. It’s about the relationship between Batman and the Joker and what it means to both of them. The Joker feels that the Bat-family has made Batman weak and all throughout the story has spoken of his love for Batman. It’s a philosophical conversation about the nature of these two characters and points out why we love them. The ending of this issue contains a fantastic battle between Batman and The Joker and we learn as much about Batman as we do about The Joker.
Snyder adds to the Batman mythos in a way that will leave you pondering about these two characters. It’s a profound ending. This issue felt like a great episode of Batman: the Animated Series in a lot of ways and I think after the controversy has settled, it will be a Batman story that fans will revisit for a very long time.
This story is immensely satisfying in a way that a lot of fans probably won’t expect, which is what will make it so divisive. Go back and read this story arc from beginning to end and what you will discover is that Snyder and Capullo have crafted an amazing read.
This article was first posted on February 12, 2013