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Death of the Family Review Part 1

Finally, a comic review. Toldja I was not dead though I bet some people wish I was! :P



Holy shit.

At first I was a big skeptic. Due to real life, cutting back on comics has been the norm for me. I have resorted to borrowing titles from the library as weekly trips to the comic shop took a huge piece of my check pie. Nonetheless, I was intrigued by this new Joker story that DC has been promoting these last few months. I checked it out on the premise that Scott Snyder is one of the few talents that DC has. He can craft a tale without going overboard and he has enough substance to keep the story engaging. Awhile back I read his series American Vampire. I enjoyed his sections more than the Stephen King sections. They had thought and depth. It’s been awhile since I read it which is why I cannot go into much detail other than the fact that I preferred Snyder over the King of Horror.

Death of the Family sounds like a title that has big shoes to fill. How many times have we as readers been promised a good Joker story or the next big event? I was talking to someone the other day who told me that one of the reasons she prefers manga and stays away from western comics is because there is always a battle going on. I cannot say that I blame her. I get fed up with these big events that DC promotes, thus reaping us college debted, Campbell’s soup eating, three job working geeks from our cash. This new storyline has impressed me in various ways. I intend to buy the entire trade when it comes out. To say that I have enjoyed the storyline would be an understatement. This is how comics should be written, folks. None of this BOOM! POW! action that leaves little to memory. I like my stories that are character driven. I guess that’s one of the reasons why DOTF has stood out to me: we get a closer depth of what drives the Joker. Okay, so it’s not exactly enlightening or groundbreaking but I personally enjoy seeing how he rationalizes his viewpoints. I really like how he concocts this complex spiderweb and affects the entire Bat clan. To me, he has not been this exciting since No Man’s Land. Maybe that is why they are doing reprints. The covers are beautifully crafted. I am actually excited about comics again. I actually stayed away and focused on indies and at one point visited Marvel. I still am but….it’s good to be home back in Gotham City.

The break down

Batman #13 and #14

The story begins with what looks like a series of plagues, i.e. warnings. You know that story of Moses in Egypt with the locusts and the Egyptian cattle dying? That’s what the opening scene reminded me of. Personally, I prefer my Joker as more ‘human’ than as a supernatural force. Snyder creates this wonderfully intricate beginning that adds just the right touch of ‘magic’ and realism. He does not go overboard with the ‘chaos incarnate’ version that some people prefer. It’s more like a parallel. Joker seems like an invisible force but the scary part is that he is ultimately meat and muscle. His power does not reside in using mystical powers though it seems that way. Gordon huffing smoke out from his nose reminded me of an angry buffalo bull ready to fight a lion that has invaded his territory.

We see the Joker really test Batman by kidnapping and possibly maiming Alfred in the process. The Joker’s goal is to BREAK Batman mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Joker does not attack with physical violence. He aims for the soul. One cannot help but feel worried about how the Dark Knight will get out of this rabbit hole. The Joker is making it very personal by going after those closest to Bats. We have all heard stories about how bitter exes go after someone’s family members to prove a point. To me, those kinds of monsters are far scarier than the ones you see on The Walking Dead or a zombie movie. It’s one thing to get grossed out by gore or violence. It’s something else when the villain takes it to a very personal level. Anyone who has a history of dealing with cyberbullying or abusive ex spouses will know what I am talking about. The Joker is the ultimate bully, the supreme narcissist, the apex predator.

Joker’s interactions with Batman take on a familiar role. The taunting, the teasing, the flirting….whoops, did I spoil it for some of you! :P The references to their interactions as a chess game while using other characters as pieces is a brilliant touch. I have personally never played chess but I know that is more complex than checkers and UNO. It’s about tactics, anticipation and ultimately distraction. The scary part is that Joker has pretty covered the bases. He has the other characters tied up (metaphorically of course). They cannot help the Batman because they have been compromised by the Joker themselves! I really liked the short stories at the end of the 13th and 14th issues. In Batman #13, Joker uses Harley to distract Batman. We see how he exactly does this in Suicide Squad. Everything is so connected. In #14, we see that Joker is getting the Penguin involved. In true alpha male form, J gets the Penguin to submit to his little game.

Catwoman

The Joker gets Catwoman involved in his web by taking something from her past. I have to say, I think Ann Nocenti is such a welcome change from Judd Winnick. The book finally feels like it has some direction. Back then it was all BLAST! POW! Zzzzz. Bo-RING! I never really had a problem with Guillem March’s art other than the exaggerated poses which made me think WTF. I was not going to pick a fight. It was just too flimsy for my taste but I tolerated it. This new artist I totally enjoy. Sure, he’s got the sex appeal going on but I don’t care. I feel like I am looking at a real woman and not a paper doll. As with Batman, the Joker goes after Catwoman in the most personal matter. He gets to her via a middle man who reminds me of the Broker back during Gotham City Sirens. Basically he is someone who stays in the dark about certain details and acts as a go between. I think characters like this should be more prominent and I think they will be given focus.

They are slippery and grey.

Joker and Catwoman’s interactions were the stuff of my fanfiction dreams. It reminded that I needed to get started on that Catwoman/Joker fic I have been trying to write for….awhile now? THIS is how I see them interacting on an extended level. Stepping on each other’s toes while trading jabs. It was so funny seeing Joker try to play strip poker with her. I can see him being this humongous flirt with both sexes. Personally, I wouldn’t put it past the Joker to have had fantasies of getting into Catwoman’s lady jungle. Why not? She’s a female Batman in a sense and I can see him totally getting off on her having an ambiguous morality whereas Batman is more black and white. There is a challenge there. I wouldn’t put it beyond him to want to exploit that.

Another reason what makes this comic so memorable: I can’t believe Catwoman actually said that Joker wants to be ‘Batman’s be-yotch’. Okay, I admit, I had fun last year when DC made Knight of Vengeance where we geeks (and especially slashers) were treated to the kiss that made the internet explode in KoV #3. Now, seeing Kitty possibly pick up on Joker’s….fascination with Batman well, I don’t know. I don’t think DC is stupid that they are blind about that aspect of Joker’s obsession. On the other hand, it is kind of scary knowing that they probably saw some Batman/Joker fanart and are POSSIBLY acknowledging it.

I thought it was intriguing that she said Batman was her ‘spoilsport’ and her ‘buzz kill’. She practically admitted that she could not stand being married to him. Clearly she is trying to throw Joker off her scent. That was her rook. Let’s see how this goes.
Suicide Squad

Now, it’s no secret that I abhor the Joker/Harley pairing. I think Mad Love is a classic story but how many times can you revisit the story? It’s like getting so many remixes of that one song we have all heard. Enough is enough. I was very much taken by surprise at Harley’s development and her interacting with the Joker did not feel forced or cliché. It certainly did not read as though it was pandering to the audience. I have not read that much SS for awhile but I can see that little Harley is growing up. I totally loved her funeral outfit. That steam punk look is totally Harley. In GCS we saw that she was a bit of a fashionista. The dress and hat ensemble=LOVE. Even better LOVE, her interacting with the Joker.

I personally believe that J never really gave a shit about her. I admit, his punching her in the face made my eyes widen. The wound was subsided when I saw Harley ‘talk back’ to her puddin’. What felt unusual to me was how their reunion did not really seem like one between two former lovers. It was two people that once knew each other. There was no warmth on Harley’s part. I am not saying it’s either here or there that she loves him but there was something different about her. I was thinking about how Talia is doing more and more on her own and she is not really under her father’s wing anymore. She’s a character that’s been around since the 1970s and yet, she is doing quite a bit on her own. Sure, there are appearances between her and her father, but lately it seems as though she has outgrown that role. Is Harley undergoing a similar transformation? I cannot say but I am nonetheless intrigued by this ‘new’ Harley. I am very pleased that she is not always this bubble headed idiot who says silly things. She can totally hold her own if she chooses to. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when Harley is like the humorous second mate. Think Smee from Disney’s Peter Pan or the hyenas from The Lion King. However, seeing this side of her, seeing her in a darker setting while still having her loyalties, I was impressed and eagerly anticipate more issues in the future.

As for the Death of the Family theme, I have a hunch that Joker will break apart the Bat fam by testing Batman's belief against theirs.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
psychedk
Nov. 28th, 2012 01:36 pm (UTC)
I didn't real the whole of this post as to not be spoiled too, much but since I'm out of the loop I have to ask: Which Batman is it? Has Bruce returned? I can't remember where they are now in the maze of the DCU! :D
jokers_circus
Nov. 29th, 2012 06:10 am (UTC)
Yes,
Yes, Bruce has returned. Damian Wayne, his son from Talia is now Robin. Dick Grayson's costume as Nightwing is red and Tim Drake is now Red Robin. Joker was gone for a year but is HIS storyline. I was a big skeptic and then I got the issues and....wow!!!

The new 52 promised us interesting changes. Harley's costume is another variation of the kind she has on the video games. I have gotten used to it. Get Suicide Squad. Oh and I KNOW you will love Batman 14 and Catwoman 14. Order them NAO!! :DDDDD
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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