Death of the Family Review: Batman #17 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

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Review:  Batman #17

“The Punchline”

Published by DC Comics

Written by Scott Snyder

Art by Greg Capullo

Coloured by Fco Plascencia

The Plot

We open with Batman slowly coming to while the Joker is continuously goading him.  He opens his eyes to find his allies at the table with hoods over their heads.  The Joker then summons Alfred who is in a bad situation, but Batman is relieved nonetheless.  Alfred then pulls back a rope revealing what’s under the hoods much to the horror of Batman.  It gets even worse when the Joker shows each of them what is inside of the serving plates.  The Joker continues to taunt Batman with how they make him weak and how he will kill all of them with one of his own (Joker’s) pre-set traps.  Batman is able to utilize his knowledge of the cave to escape one of the traps, but then has the unenviable task of seeing what is underneath the bandages.  He then rushes after the Joker who has set yet another trap on Batman’s allies.  They have a brief fight, but then discuss what Batman’s allies mean to him.  The Joker attempts to escape, but is stopped by Batman who is about to make a tremendous revelation to him.  At the last instant the Joker makes his escape(ish) with his face left blowing like dust in the wind.  Batman then utters the words, “I close my eyes…only for a moment then the moment’s gone.”  Then the Joker says, “Dust in the wind…all we are is dust in the wind” as he disappears with a tear in his eye.  Okay, I’m completely lying about that last part, but Batman does watch him disappear and then tends to his allies.  The next morning, Bruce is tending to Alfred much to Alfred’s chagrin.  Bruce then reveals the secret of the card and later finds yet another gag hidden within the new toxin delivered by the Joker…and then for some reason a fly buzzes onto the screen.

The Breakdown

This was the finale to the somewhat controversial storyline that has overtaken the Bat books for the past few months.  Some readers have loved it while others have been very underwhelmed by it.  I understand the points of both sides and I feel that it the hype was perhaps too strong heading into it due to the success of the Court of Owls storyline.  Nonetheless I did enjoy this conclusion.  The intercourse between the Joker and Batman was very well done in this issue.  Of all of their many, many encounters this one stuck out to me because of what Batman did at the end.  He turned the tables on the Joker in a way that I did not expect.  Issue #16 wore on me at some points because you knew the whole time that the Joker was two steps ahead of Batman the entire time and it was going to lead to him in some sort of predicament.  Yet it seemed to take so long to get to that point.  I knew that Batman was going to be at a disadvantage throughout the entire arc because like I said before, the Joker had a long time to plan his attack.  Seeing Batman turn the tables was a rewarding conclusion for me this time around.  He always gets the better of him, but I liked how he went about it this time.  I also liked the payoff with the mystery of the card found at the bottom of the Bat boat.  It was a simple explanation, but it really went to the heart of the Batman/Joker relationship.  I enjoyed Bruce looking after Alfred at the end as he was truly worried about his wellbeing.  I couldn’t help, but notice the contrast in his approach with Alfred over in The Dark Knight title.  After fighting the Scarecrow, Alfred was worried and Bruce showed little regard for his feelings by joking about it.  However, Bruce’s approach with Alfred in this issue was touching and humorous.  I also liked how Alfred understood what Bruce was saying in this scene with relation to the card in the cave.  This scene also showed why Alfred is the most valuable member of his family.  It was kind of cool seeing Batman literally nearly taking the Joker’s face off with a solid punch.  Another visual that I enjoyed was seeing the Bat-family sitting in the water during the aftermath of their battle.  It was kind of goofy looking, but I found it amusing.  I did enjoy Capullo’s storytelling in this issue and out of all the titles in this arc I liked his rendition of the Joker the best.  Plascencia’s colours were pretty solid and I liked the effects with the bandages.  This was a good read.

BUT…

The conclusion to the Batman’s allies make him weaker argument versus the Batman’s allies make him stronger argument kind of ended with a thud.  I expected Batman to make a bit more of a convincing argument to get the Joker to provide the reaction that he did.  It just seemed that this part of the conflict could`ve went a bit deeper.  After all, it was apparently the basis of the Joker’s attacks during this storyline.  I didn`t care for everyone blowing off Bruce at the end, especially in light of all the revelations.  Perhaps this was due in part to everyone overreacting to the card situation a couple of issues ago.  If anything, most of his allies annoyed me during this storyline.  It’s difficult to explain why I’m annoyed at everyone blowing off Bruce because I’m going as light as possible on the spoilers.  I just thought that Bruce got crapped on unnecessarily.  I know that it’s the “death of the family,” but I just didn’t quite follow them from point a to point b.  Maybe if so much of that part of the story didn’t depend on the tie-ins it could’ve been more effectively done.  There were a lot of Joker storylines that could’ve been told later on, but they told them all right now and that’s kind of unfortunate.  This is more of a personal gripe that might not bother anyone else, but I really wanted to see the Joker’s face…without his face.  Also, I expected the Joker to provide more of a physical match for Batman this time around.  He was so vicious in Detective Comics #1 that I thought he might build upon that, but it just didn’t happen.  He always gets schooled by Batman in a physical sense and I just wanted to see something slightly different in this regard.

Buy It, Borrow It, Shelf Read It, or Ignore It?

Buy It.  As a story itself this was a good one.  I personally could have done without all of the tie-in issues because it just made me tired of the whole thing.  I’m glad that the out was provided for the Joker, which will obviously lead to his return in the future.  It’s an unselfish move that allows other writers to tackle this character after Snyder moves on.  Some writers try to make their mark by making a finite end to a character’s story.  The fact that Snyder didn’t do this made me enjoy the storyline more.  The Joker’s gag within a gag within a gag at the end provided some interesting questions.  I think that the anticipation was so high and that certain expectations (body count, etc.) definitely affected their reaction to this storyline.  It was pretty much decided that it was going to be a blockbuster hit well before it hit the shelves.  There were some lapses along the arc, but all in all it was a pretty solid story.  Due to a snowstorm I was unable to pick up my comics on my usual Wednesday so I decided to re-read the Batman part of the storyline.  This made me enjoy the story as a whole because I treated it just like a regular arc in a comic book.  All in all I did enjoy Batman getting in the Joker’s head this issue and it added to my enjoyment of it.  I am anxious to see where the next story goes from here without all of the hoopla that accompanied the current one.

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