True Horror is disturbing and unmistakably dreadful. Reading Batman #17 – the “punchline” – of Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Jonathan Glapion’s Death of the Family, I felt the weight of a strong dread build up inside me. This is true horror, and a comic worth tracking down and reading – not just for horror fanatics, but any reader who want’s to investigate the dark psychology of The Batman.
Batman fights against his restraints as Joker switches on the lights: he is trapped in a cave, his family similarly restrained and seated around a large table. Covered, silver platters sit in front of them. A puppet of a bat skeleton makes mild clicking sound as the Joker waves it around the room. A fly buzzes past – attracted by the Joker’s nightmarish, decayed face. The story lurches toward it’s finale.
The big question about Death of the Family was would Batman family of costumed heroes live? The question is answered, slowly, with suspense maintained throughout the final issue of the plot. It’s this suspense that builds up the feelings of dread mentioned above. Characters move in and out of danger like a deadly pendulum.
The art conveys and builds up the mood, tension, and suspense. Desperation and fear, in addition to relief and resignation are all clearly communicated through the pencil work on the characters facial expressions.
Panel arrangements are effective. The viewer is placed close to the horror -particularly on the final, closing panels as one last joke plays out. A deep crevasse in the earth is drawn to look as vertical as possible. The angle of the panel captures the height of the drop, inducing a slight sense of vertigo on top of the other emotions the comic elicits.
Despite the heavy violence at the beginning of the Death of the Family, the real power of the Joker’s ploy is the psychological scarring he has attempted, and most likely succeeded, in leaving behind.
It’s not stated exactly what the Joker told Robin, Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl, and Nightwing as he held them captive in the dark (while Batman was unconscious after the events of Batman #16).It’s clear, however, that some connection between the characters was lost at that point. Possibly, the younger characters have decided that Batman’s constant battles with the Joker are too dangerous – they have started making excuses not to join him at Wayne Manor. Scott Snyder will no doubt explore and expand on this now estranged family.