Batman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Snyder and Capullo

Batman, Vol. 3: Death of the FamilyBatman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m coming into this book with a whole lot of expectations. I’ve heard everybody rave about it, call Scott Snyder the heir apparent to biblical powers, and want to bear his children (or at least his heavy MacBook).

Plus I’ve read the earlier Snyder Batman books and liked them, even if I took an unreasonable dislike to his Iron Man Noir story. I generally respect his work and want to like it.

So to say the least, I was ready to be blown away – AND to be punched in the gut by a sweet mess. Hype is such a delicate flower eh? I’ve raved about some books to the point where I winced when friends couldn’t understand me when they hated them so much. I know that feeling, and I braced for a dose of my own medicine.

Does not disappoint, at least up to the climax. Aside from so many great layers in this horror story, Snyder wallows in the psychological – Joker’s unbelievably shattered mind; Batman’s self-torture at walking the tightrope of protecting others, curbing his instincts and desperately trying to catch up to something well beyond his usual methods; and the pain others have ladled on their plates by these two cooks in the gallows kitchen.

I’m fascinated by an experiment that this run does with shorter main stories and eight-page backups. It takes the same effort for Snyder to write all those pages (maybe more for the context switch), and it obviously gives Capullo some breathing room so he doesn’t fall behind his monthly deadlines. However, these backups aren’t just quick filler – they’re deepening the menace and brooding tone of the storyline, and the art is by Jock, a first-rate madman in his own right.

The reason the Joker in these tales is so fucking scary is he plans ahead at *least* as much as Batman does. He’s Batman in an insane suit. Scratch that, in a homicidal insane suit (as Batman’s clearly insane as well). Joker’s real power is he is playing the board ten moves ahead, and doesn’t telegraph his moves. Few other villains can match Batman’s OCD and make him pull out some other aspect of his warped persona with which to beat them.

Snyder writes one of the most eloquent, thoughtful and perceptive Jokers I’ve ever seen. The insights into Batman’s psyche – he’s as deep in Batman’s head as Bullseye ever gets in Aaron’s Punisher MAX. It’s truly beautiful to listen to Joker talk – and terrifying to imagine how Snyder got that far into character.

Couple of reasons I find this story disappointing:
1. No fun. No comic relief, no zaniness, just a slow constant build-up of horror, madness and excruciating raw psychological confrontation.
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SPOILERS AHEAD
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2. In the end, Joker pulls away for no sellable reason. He’s clearly shown he’ll kill dozens just for show, and commit horrid acts when he feels like it. But when he kidnaps together the Bat-family (including one he paralyzed previously), and makes a show of sawing off their faces, suddenly that was just a ruse? As a matter of convenience for storytelling – for preserving the immutable beauty of our heroes – I get why this couldn’t really happen, but as an act Joker couldn’t stomach/wasn’t willing to commit to, it’s so obviously retarded I thought Snyder must’ve had a stroke.

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SPOILERS BEHIND
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Capullo earns every accolade he’s received – his art is clear yet moody, grand in action and minimalist in creating moments, and absolutely creepy when showing us the Joker up close. The skin mask is almost rubbery – at one point Batman gets a corner trapped in his fist, and it slides askew on Joker’s face like a big piece of cellophane, like the layer below is fresh meat slick with ooze.

Batmanv3-JokerMask

View all my reviews

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