Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo
For those not in the know on the New 52, it should be noted that one of the big early initiatives was giving many of the books new villains (Darkseid is the only old villain I know of that appeared in an initial arc). To apparently make a point about this, in the first issue of Detective Comics, Joker got his face cut off. Of course, old villains came back into the books as they went on, and anybody familiar with the Joker knows that it takes a lot more than losing his face to even make it appear that he’s died to readers. With Death of the Family, Joker comes back in a big way, threatening to kill off Batman, the Robins, and Batgirl.
There’s honestly not much to talk about storywise besides what’s already been said. After all, this is the Joker, and part of the fun of any Joker story is finding out exactly what his plot is. Yes, he wants to kill Batman, but you’re never entirely sure of what he’s doing. The book makes sure that most of the information is conveyed to the reader only when Batman knows it, and that means that everything the Joker is doing just seems that much more mysterious. Even with some side-stories in this book focusing on the Joker, we only get glimpses of how he interacts with the other Bat-villains, not any reveals about his plans.
What this book does best is reminding us what a threat the Joker is. Everything he does is meticulously planned, and everything is just as likely to be a joke as it is to be an actual threat. And what makes him more dangerous than ever here is the information he has. He seems to finally know everything about Batman, the secret identities of him and the rest of the Bat-family. And of course, it’s teased whether he actually knows anything at all. Batman can give everything a logical explanation, but it’s clear that even he’s starting to shake, even he fears that everything he’s built up is just going to crumble down. Probably no coincidence that this arc comes right after the Night of the Owls, where an urban legend ended up being a major threat to Gotham. It flipped what Batman thought he knew on its head, and again, the man who prepares for everything suddenly feels like he hasn’t prepared well enough.
Death of the Family can take a place in the pantheon of great Joker stories. It’s so easy for him to be overused with little thought, but Snyder has clearly crafted a Joker story built for the clown prince of crime, giving him plenty of new ground to terrorize.