Batman: Death of the Family, part of DC Comics’ The New 52 series, is a critically acclaimed Batman family story arc written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Greg Capullo. A homage to the classic Batman story-line, A Death in the Family (1988), this five part arc follows Batman’s greatest enemy, the Joker, and his return to Gotham City after an extended absence following a run in with the Dollmaker, which resulted in the Joker’s face being sliced off.
The Joker’s return to Gotham sends the entire Gotham City Police Department (“GCPD”) as well as the Batman Family on high alert as the murderous clown resumes his dastardly deeds in attempt to terrorize Batman into recreating the past. The arc follows the sadistic and twisted Joker as he cleverly reenacts his first few encounters with the Dark Knight in excruciatingly specific detail, involving the entire Batman family, including Alfred Pennyworth, Nightwing, Red Robin, Robin, Batgirl and Red Hood, to throw Batman off his game.
If you’ve never read a Batman comic before but have been waiting on the perfect title to get you started, then I’d recommend picking up the Batman: Death of the Family collection. Having not read a Batman comic in a long while, this arc was a great way back into keeping up with the Dark Knight’s activities. Snyder did well to encapsulate the very essence of the Batman-Joker dynamic, depicting the notion that perhaps the one cannot exist without the other. This is illustrated rather eerily through Joker’s continued insistence that Batman ‘needs’ him, that without the Joker, Batman has no purpose, and that at the end of it all, the Batman family are simply mere distractions that need to be eliminated.
The artistic style of Greg Capullo is certainly appealing. Together with the psychopathic, sadistic, thrilling narrative, the illustrations in Batman: Death of the Family will leave you either slightly queasy and repulsed, a sensation that I’m sure the creative team behind Batman: Death of the Family fully intended, or thrilled and captivated by the gripping story that will no doubt keep you on your toes, leaving you wanting more.
What I enjoyed in particular was the support that Batman, or rather, Bruce Wayne had. The Dark Knight of Gotham City has always been associated with being a lone detective, preferring to work solo rather than rely on teammates, depending on his young proteges only in dire situations. In Batman: Death of the Family, we finally see Batman showing great concern for his adoptive family and relies on their support to maintain his sanity. With the darker and grittier versions of Batman being produced lately, it’s certainly refreshing to see his humanity come out once in a while. Oh Bruce Wayne, you have a soft spot after all.
If you’re after a DC Comics title that will have you at the edge of your seat, eyes glued to the page and leave you wanting so much more, then Batman: Death of the Family is definitely for you.