When current Batman scribe Scott Snyder had a child last year, his overwhelming joy was met with crippling fear. No longer responsible for just himself, he is now carrying the responsibilities of a father. Each step his child will take, every scrape, every fall is now his responsibility. To care for another life such as that, so unconditionally, is absolutely terrifying, so terrifying in fact that you would almost wish someone could remove the burden. Well, what if someone heard that wish?
This Wednesday the Batman event Death of the Family, spanning issues 13-17, reached its long awaited conclusion. The terrifying tale has been met with overwhelming praise and rightfully so. When the Joker finally returns after a yearlong absence, Batman and his world is turned upside down. Over the years, Batman’s lone mission of justice has grown to include a stable of close colleagues, his ‘Bat-Family’ if you will. Batman has grown himself over the years, understanding that there are some things you just cannot do alone. The Joker, meanwhile, has grown as well, though in an entirely different and creepy way. Seeing the Bat-Family as a weakness, the Joker longs for the days when it was just him and the Bats. What follows over the course of five issues is an intense and horrifying thriller as the Joker opens psychological warfare on what he perceives as the Batman’s one weakness; family.
Snyder juggles a number of themes with his event. But at the center, like all great Joker stories, is fear. Fear of losing those closest to you, fear of becoming what you hate, fear of being wrong. Snyder is a master of the horror genre and his handle on the character of the Joker is unparalleled. This is the Joker at his most unhinged, but Snyder adds in another element that changes how one can perceive the entire Batman/Joker relationship; love. Like a playground crush where you can only show you care by pulling your crushes hair, the Joker is just trying to show how he feels.
The thought that the Joker’s motives stem from love gives a sickening tone to every venomous word that slithers through his teeth. How could Joker bear to see Batman lose his family, knowing that death is inevitable for each and every one of them? It’s this twisted logic that drives the Joker’s plan. He’ll free Batman from the burden of family and in the process, win back the undivided attention of his favourite plaything.
To be a comic fan for the release of this story, to understand the weight of the themes and the true consequences of the Joker’s actions is astounding. The feeling must be similar to those who were around to purchase Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns or Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke when they were released in the eighties. Scott Snyder has given this generation their Batman classic, a story that will no doubt be discussed, loved and even adapted for years to come.
But the weight of this monumental event does not rest on Snyder’s shoulders alone. Greg Capullo, already an industry legend, has created an atmosphere of dread, terror and detail. Capullo’s work is nothing short of perfection. You can tell the care and commitment that went into every line he put to paper. The character designs of both the Joker and Batman will outlive us all and no doubt serve as cannon, and Halloween costumes, for years. It’s hard to believe that either character ever existed before his masterful touch. Inker, Jonathon Glapion, and colourist, FCO Plascencia, have obviously put in as much love as Snyder and Capullo. Death of the Family’s style is unlike any book out there. The whole creative team deserve applause.
Death of the Family is a rare creature. A hyped up event that not only surpasses expectations, it shatter’s them. This is a psychological thriller, on par with anything David Fincher has filmed, that will haunt readers for years to come. Terrifying, original, and thought provoking, Death of the Family is a flawless story and an honour to read.