Batman #17: Death of the Family finale [freeform]

Batman 17

Published: February 2013
Publisher: DC Comics
Genre: Superhero
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Format: Single Issue
Pages: 40 pages

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Maybe it’s because I am so much more of a Batfamily fan than a straight-up Batman fan, but I thought this issue was fantastic, and I liked it more than anything else of Snyder’s run. I adored how literary it was (I love the visual aspect of comics, but I will always be a words person first and foremost), all the subtleties and nuances in the writing. I think the criticism of feeling “underwhelmed” is in large part due to people not getting the joke Snyder was playing on us the entire time. Don’t you see? The joke’s on you, the reader. Our experience reading this arc mirrors that of Batman and the dinner plate. God, that meta is brilliant.

Then again, maybe it’s just people having different ideas of what makes for an epic comic. I love action and adventure in every medium, but my favorite comics are always the ones that manage to artfully balance danger and heroics with quality character interaction. And I have this masochistic love for fictional stories that break my heart. The conclusion to the “Death of the Family” arc was so sad and so right. Gems like this:

Batman: I have faith in them.
Joker: Well… Well, you shouldn’t. They’re not your family. They’re killing you, you know. They’re making you—
Batman: They make me stronger.
Joker: LIAR! You know they don’t make you anything but.

I loved this exchange from the moment I first read it. Bruce’s conviction is so lovely. But upon the second read, it hurt, knowing that Joker is unable to make Bruce lose faith in his family, but he is successful in making everyone but Alfred and Dick lose their faith in Bruce.

As a reader, you know that Jason, Tim, Damian, and Barbara have issues. Lots of issues, plus varying degrees of issues with Bruce specifically. You know that Dick has plenty of issues with Bruce but that he has unconditional faith in him and is someone who’s eager to show his love for people and takes comfort in company. You know that Alfred is Bruce’s rock, no matter what. You know that Bruce is a pretty silly guy, taking all these kids (plus others!) under his wing and then being all cold and stoic and just totally failing at emotions. But this story uses the Joker as a catalyst and takes those basic tenets of the Batfamily and puts them at the forefront of the status quo, turning them on their heads and painting them in a starker, uglier light, to the point that they actually change the status quo. Bruce doesn’t reach out often, but this is one time that he reaches out. He just wants to see them, to talk to them.

“I invited them over to talk.”

And they turn him down. So he just sits there in the darkness, alone, brooding. What he’s known for, what he always says he prefers—but this was one time he just wanted to be with his family, and it’s with a heavy heart that he realizes that the Joker stole that from him.

You know what the worst part is? Dick is smiling when he calls Bruce, but he’s the one Bruce betrayed when he went to see the Joker in Arkham. Bruce tells Alfred that it happened soon after they took Dick in. Yeah, he betrayed the others by not telling them about that incident, but he straight up risked the life of the boy he’d rescued—just to satisfy his fucked up curiosity, to prove something to himself. UGH. MY HEART. That’s good writing.

Also, everyone should read Batman & Robin 17. It was a really great epilogue to this whole arc, and my god, I didn’t think it was possible for me to love Alfred any more than I already do.