Scott Snyder continues his writing for DC comics with Batman: Death of the Family, a story featuring an unhinged and brutal version of the Joker.
In the previous issue, Joker trapped Batman in a steel vat, and started pumping glowing green chemicals into the cylinder. This is the same event that originally created the Joker.
The worst part was Harley Quinn, streaming mascara running down her face, whispering to the Batman that the only reason she was going along with the Joker’s plan was she hoped the chemicals would turn Batman into a new Joker – and she would then start over as his Harlequin. New identity is theme of the story surfacing in this issue.
As an example, the chemicals damage Batman’s costume, and burn the outer fabric from the kevlar, like he is shedding skin, or losing his identity. The Joker has literally shed skin, and what he has done to his face is an example of the dark turn Batman is taking into the Horror genre. Jim Gordon, bleeding from heparin poisoning, and scrabbling to hold onto Batman as he collapses, is a another gory example.
There is a showdown between Batman and the Joker, which is a welcome break in the tension established so far. The Joker talks about his plan to rid Batman of his lengthy list of allies. He says that “Bat Family” – Nightwing, Batwing, Batwoman, Catwoman, Batgirl, Robin, Red Robin, Red Hood, and Alfred – are “true villains” who have ruined Batman.
Scott Snyder has talked about the idea behind the story – that the Batman’s family are weighing him down. The Joker reveals two major points in his plan here. He knows a secret Batman has kept from his friends and he has recorded this information, along with other insights, in a book bound in the skin of a bat. Again, a reference to skin.
The art team have captured an itching insanity with top class penciling, inking, and colouring. Shadows are menacing and inescapable, and the only sources of light are not white, but acrid green and burnt orange. The Joker could be a ragged zombie, drawn as something increasingly less human by Capullo.
It feels as though there are still more important events and twists in the coming issues to see before the themes of the story become more clear. I am definitely looking forward to where this original Batman story is going.