If you’re not a comic book fan, shut up and listen anyway. I’m not a frequenter of the genre, but my love of all things Batman and Joker made the “Death of the Family” story arc unmissable. I promise not to include too many spoilers in case you decide to pick up / download anything.
So here’s how this one worked: the main story happened in the Batman comics (#13-17) and the supporting story (tie-in) happened in Catwoman and Suicide Squad (Harley Quinn, Joker’s on/off-again girlfriend, is a member), as well as Batman and Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Teen Titans, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Detective Comics (featuring members of the Bat-family). You could theoretically read only the Batman issues and get the full story, but the tie-ins bring the whole thing home, and I recommend reading most of them. I say most because some of the issues were lacking and even seemed irrelevant to the overall event, but the character revelations are generally worth reading (notably Catwoman).
Now here’s the basic story (minor spoilers): the Joker returns to Gotham City after a year-long absence and targets Batman and his allies. Previously, Joker had cut off his face (what the hey-dilly, right?), and now he comes back to claim the skin that was his face, which he wears over what can only be some nasty scar tissue. He then goes after everyone Batman holds dear, claiming that Batman has become too reliant on his allies, and that his “family” is holding Batman back from being the brilliant caped crusader of old. What’s even worse is that Joker claims to know who everyone is underneath their mask, which means that no one is safe, not even Alfred.
This event broke my heart on numerous occasions. First of all, after reading a few issues, it was clear that this was not the same Joker that I had fallen in love with. Granted, I’d grown accustomed to the Mark Hamill Joker, but compared to that and previous incarnations, this Joker was meaner, crazier, and much less likable. Pain in my chest cavity. I went from highly anticipating seeing the Clown Prince of Crime to hoping I could get a break from the maniac (while also wanting more).
Overall, things just go from bad to worse to bloody hell, and you never get a break. It’s very draining, but you can’t stop reading. I thought I could buy a few issues every now and then, and I ended up buying them all almost at once. Guess I won’t be eating for a while (worth it). By the end of it all, I had so many mixed feelings, heartbreak and all, that I was left breathless and unsure of myself emotionally and physically.
Character development and revelations: Yes, yes, and amazing, but first, let me say that Nightwing got shafted. I wanted more Dick Greyson (the original Robin) and less Teen Titans (featuring Red Robin, the third Robin). Also, thanks to the 2011 reboot of the DC franchise, Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl), former paraplegic at the hands of the Joker, can kick crime’s saggy butt again as Batgirl, and the reappearance of the Joker her chance at revenge.
(By the way, in case you didn’t know, there are four Robins: Dick Greyson was the original, who is now Nightwing. Jason Todd replaced Greyson, but now he’s Red Hood. Todd was replaced by Tim Drake, who is now Red Robin of the Teen Titans. Finally, there’s Damian Wayne, Batman’s son and current sidekick.)
Everyone has some marvelous things that happen to them, that force them to confront who they are and what they believe, and the things that come out of their perils are so satisfying that I’m willing to overlook the sometimes long segments of comic that I have zero love for.
The dialogue was sometimes kind of terrible, and the artwork in some issues was definitely inferior to others, but whoo doggy, was it all spectacular at times. Specifically, I wanted to see Joker’s former face deteriorate as the story unfolded, and the artists delivered to my satisfaction. It was grotesque and sublime.
I’d love to talk in more depth about the happenings towards the end of the event, especially in Batman #17, but I will refrain (just in case). However, it is absolutely worth reading this story arc, tie-ins and all. Find a comic book store near you or download the DC Comics app and buy, buy, buy! At the very least, google search the promotional images for this event because they are incredible.