Today’s release of Batman #17 has already generated a lot of buzz. The fanboys love it, the critics hate it; one thing they can agree on though, it’s definitely not an ending anyone saw coming.
This issue concludes Scott Snyder’s Death of The Family arc, touted as the biggest modern day Joker story in recent memory; and with his first major appearance in DC’s New52iverse, expectations were certainly high. As we saw earlier this week, when comics news enters mainstream media, hype and expectations go through the roof. Snyder does a great job in the overall story drawing upon Joker tales from the past, even incorporating them back into Digital Age continuity. In a world where characters are constantly being retooled, rebooted or otherwise re-imagined it’s nice to know Bat-history can remain intact. It was speculated that somebody wasn’t going to survive this event, fueling months of debate on just who might not be returning to the DCU after Batman #17.
****WARNING SPOILERS BELOW****
Would DC take the opportunity to surgically remove Damien Wayne from the roster? Could Jason Todd possibly die a second time by the Joker’s hand; or would he take the opportunity to enact some revenge of his own? Well the answer was much more subtextual than that. Snyder instead used DOTF to not redefine the Joker (though some added psycho-sexual interactions seemed awkwardly placed and unnecessary beyond adding to a general air of creepiness) nor mark his return with any real dramatic cornerstone.
Rather, his reemergence was a chance to remind us as to what actually defines the Joker. Just like the Batman his actual identity is not important, his essence much more than skin deep. He is the unknown, he is unpredictability, he is fear personified. We as a collective audience have become lax or complacent in a world that contains a Joker. With an air of putrid brutality Snyder reminds us that our stomachs should always be in a knot with the mere knowledge of the existence of a figure like the Joker. The story takes many unexpected twists and turns in an attempt to instill doubt and derision between the Bat-family; and in that respect this tale is more than successful. The relationships are definitely not intact, but many are not happy with an ending with this little closure.
With all the weapons at the Joker’s disposal, the punchline never hits very hard or direct, just with a looming feeling of doubt: doubt in the trustworthiness of those closest to us, doubt in our own abilities, even doubt in our own perceptions of the outside world. Over time the definition of family has greatly changed from simply ones blood relatives to being those upon which we place our greatest trust and admiration. So, while no physical bodies are laying on the floor at the end of this confrontation, in essence everyone the Joker makes contact with is a victim. Those expecting a big dramatic ending will undoubtedly feel this is a cop out; and honestly it took me a few readings to fully digest. However the ending was staring us in the face from the very beginning, it wasn’t the death of just Robin or Red Hood; but rather, no matter what the effect of the Jokers lingering presence, it was the Death Of The Family.