Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I have to say that Death of the Family is in my top five favorite Batman stories ever, up there with Year one, DKR, Hush, and Killing Joke. The art was on a level that I couldn't believe was possibly, but aside from that, the book touched on my favorite aspect of Batman. I love seeing batman's relationship with the Bat Family. The tie ins to this one really bring out the fact that they are closer than a family because they have to be. Red Hood and the Outlaws actually made me cry a little, because the scene between Jason and Bruce was so good. Major props to all writers involved in that story. Zero year is fine, but it just so far hasn't lived up to the Death of the Family Masterpiece.
Your not along. I have DOTF up there on my all time favorite list. Easily best story arc of the year for me. I just re-read it as I got the trade for Christmas. Like you said the art was unreal and the examination of the relationship between the Joker and Batman was pretty awesome. The final page to me was brilliant.
I kind of feel like I'm alone in thinking that DOTF is NOT an all-time classic. I think it's pretty good, and has a couple of all-time great moments. I also think that it's far from perfect, and many of the moments that are intended to land heavily don't. And as for Capullo's art, it's definitely not to my taste, and I sometimes have trouble interpreting what's supposed to be happening or what order I'm supposed to read the panels in.
I'm really feeling like I want to articulate my gripes with the story. The following is basically me bellyaching about what I didn't like about the arc and doing a little fanfic as far as what I would have preferred. Also, it's all from memory, so forgive me if I get some of the details a little wrong:
My favorite parts are the quiet moments that illuminate Batman's relationship with the Joker, and how intimate it is at this point in their history. The final page of issue 15 ("what you saw those black points expand with... was love"). When Bruce Wayne confronts Joker in his cell at Arkham. And the final page ("Ha"). Kudos to Snyder for those.
I think issues 13 and 14 are pretty good, and don't really fall short in any major story-related way. There was a bit of confusion as to what exactly was happening when Joker blew the explosives on the bridge. The dialogue spelled it out to a degree, but the art didn't really illuminate it the way I would have liked. But, whatever. The idea of Joker taking Batman on a stroll through memory lane, reenacting his "best" crimes, and the idea that the bat family is coming between them are all brilliant. I do think it starts to fall apart when Joker starts getting into the King/court metaphors. It's a real stretch, I think, but Joker's nuts so I guess he can do whatever. I guess that metaphor doesn't really hold water for me, but maybe that's just a matter of taste?
Anyway, I think things really start going off the rails in issue 15. Snyder's preference for long stretches of dialogue really starts to cripple the momentum. So much of the story (in fact, almost all of issue 15) is Batman talking about doing something. (Edit: Rather than actually DOING anything.) The argument that Bruce has with the family in the Batcave that makes up a huge portion of that issue is interminable. My favorite comics keep things moving when issues like this are presented. In this one, though, it's pages and pages of the characters standing there, talking. More visual flashbacks would have been a great start to making this scene interesting and exciting.
Plus, there are so many of them in the room during this sequence that none of them have a chance to get their individual points of view across. After all of it, we don't have a real understanding of how each individual member of the family feels about Bruce keeping information from them. We just get a big "we don't approve of this" and it's never really revisited. (I've read a few of the follow-up tie-in issues, and it was dealt with there in some ways, but that doesn't help the core DOTF story, which is what I"m talking about here. The emotional impact of this was also undercut by the death of Damian, which coincidentally coincided with the end of this arc, but, again, I'm talking about the core DOTF story here.) The germs of all these ideas are very appealing to me, but I would have really enjoyed a slower reveal to us and to the family regarding the issue of Joker's "calling card" and a chance to explore the intricacies of what it meant to each member of the bat family. Maybe we could have had a B-story (or an issue of Nightwing) where Dick uncovers what happened and confronts Bruce. Bruce stonewalls him, so Dick turns to Tim, etc. Really dig into the way something like that can break down their relationship brick by brick, instead of that one info dump of a scene. It could have been very powerful, but it just wasn't for me. I wanted it to be, but it just wasn't.
After that Batman heads to Arkham, and has to run the Joker's gauntlet. Again, this is another cool concept that breaks down because of poor execution. I can appreciate the intent. I think that Snyder was trying to keep it tight, and didn't want this arc to spill out over twelve issues like the Court of Owls did, but instead of compressing the storytelling, he just has Batman shake off Joker's traps like they're no big deal. Batman runs through all of the Joker's traps and tableau's within one issue and it just made me feel like "all this buildup, and that's all it is?" There was tons of cool stuff, but it all just whizzed by. I get that we're supposed to marvel at Batman's determination, and it's a testament to him that he was able to make such short work of all of this, but If the story would have been dense and compressed, we could have had Batman really struggling to get through Arkham, getting hung up for a while, and then it would have felt like a triumph when he finally made it to Joker. Instead, we still have Batman at Joker's door in 20 pages, but I was left feeling like Joker isn't as deadly a threat as everyone's been making him out to be. And, Clayface, Scarecrow and Mr. Freeze looked like the biggest chumps ever.
So, Batman spends what feels like a half hour in Arkham making his way to the Joker, and he's already managed to kidnap the entire bat family. I mean, add the drive out to Arkham and that has to be, what, two hours, tops? Even if Snyder didn't intend the events of the individual kidnappings to unfold the way that they did in the tie-in issues, how is this possible? Why not delay Batman's completion of Joker's gauntlet to allow enough time for him to plausibly round up the family? Or make it so that Joker did this in the time between issues 16 and 17 when he had Batman captive and unconcious? I don't think this particular point is just a matter of my personal taste. It's a straight-up plot hole, and it's really easy to fix.
So, then, in issue 17, we get the big reveal: Joker's removed the faces of the Bat Family! Awesome. Even as a fake-out, it's awesome. But, the tension is resoloved so quickly. It seems so obvious that Batman (and the audience) shouldn't know that they're not actually disfigured til after his fight with the Joker. That would rachet the tension of the fight up so much more than the way it was done. (As I recall, Batman knows that Joker didn't really do it, he smashes a hole in the cave ceiling, and then the Joker gas gets let loose as Batman and Joker fight off in another nearby location. Is this right?) I do really dig how the confrontation between Batman and the Joker plays out. Pitch perfect in art and writing. So there is a lot of satisfaction there. I just wish I felt the same satisfaction from the story of how the Joker divided the Bat Family.
Maybe these big ideas are too ambitious for a five issue arc? Am I being too hard on it? Like I said, there's a lot to like about the story, but it definitely does not hold up to the all-time greats in the Batman cannon, in my opinion. I wouldn't have even bothered to deconstruct it to this degree, but it seems like the prevailing opinion is that it's a masterpiece. What do you guys think? I'd love for someone to convince me that I'm wrong.
Nobody things everything is a classic. It's still all personal preference. You don't have to apologize for your view there totally fair because they are your own. I enjoyed reading your post.
Thanks! I didn't write it because I felt like I had to apologize, though. I just wanted to sort out and express what it was I didn't like about it. Also, there was some hope that people might, god forbid, enjoy reading that mess. The greatest thing that could happen is that someone could challenge all of my points and turn me around on it. I like to like things, and I want to like this more. I still feel like maybe I'm missing something that others are seeing in it?
So I just finished reading The Killing Joke for the first time......wow......just wow
Given Grant Morrison's recent "revelation" about this book, what was your interpretation of the ending?
I first read the Killing Joke in the mid 90s, way before I was a regular reader of Batman comics, and I remember assuming Batman killed the Joker at the time. Afterwards I reasoned that he couldn't have done because I saw the Joker in other comics.
I like the ambiguity, and it's good to see how other people interpreted it on their first read.
So I just finished reading The Killing Joke for the first time......wow......just wow
as someone who has just read it, what do you make of the 'Grant Morrisson' interpretation of the ending?
Well i really don't think that's how it would have went down personally. I assumed that they keep the laughter up until the cops get there. Plus i don't think Jim would have allowed that. But isn't it Alan Moore that we should ask? All due respect to Grant.
He who is certain he knows the ending of things when he is only beginning them is either extremely wise or extremely foolish; no matter which is true, he is certainly an unhappy man, for he has put a knife in the heart of wonder.