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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

EVC -- Batman and Death of the Family's ending

Eric: So we got the finale to the Death of the Family storyline, and I’m not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed. The build up to it was fantastic, and the methodology of how the Joker was able to separate himself (thematically) from the other members of Batman’s rogue gallery was great, but the end product seemed a bit lacking.


Michael: I can understand that reaction. It’s funny,  in the den of hatred that is 4chan (where the entire comic was scanned nearly two days before release) the sentiment that jumped out as somewhat reasonable was “this just restores the status quo”. I tend to disagree with that statement, however, and really enjoyed the issue. My perspective is that modern comics depend so much on the “ending” of an arc setting up future issues and Batman #17 did a fantastic job at that.



Eric: But for the most part, the only thing that changed was some hurt feelings on the side of Batman’s “family,” and we got to see how much Bruce really trusts his cohorts. While this is a nice sentiment, I don’t really feel like this is a message that needed the influence of a deformed villain, such as the Joker, to bring out in the group. The Joker’s methods seemed like they all hinged on this “gotcha!” moment with their fake faces in the serving dishes.

Michael: That’s where we differ again. I strongly believe Snyder used Joker to play the trick - or gotcha moment as you refer to it - on all of us. Just because there isn’t a death doesn’t mean nothing happened. In particular, the panel where Dick assures Bruce they will be fine without him is equal parts touching and as serious as it gets. After thinking their faces were cut off and Joker’s great monologue about how Batman must not love them if he can’t kill the man who keeps doing these awful things to them, the unspoken line was: “Prove the Joker wrong. We’ll understand if you kill him, Batman. Hell, some of us want you to.” Of course, this sets up Batman’s walk of shame...

Eric: How is this any different from anything we’ve seen before? Why Batman doesn’t kill the Joker has always been put into question, and has had some very interesting and well thought out answers as well. The Dark Knight Returns is probably my favorite event involving this, outside of one of the many “academic” books like Philosophy and Batman, or something else along those lines. If anything, I feel the end of this merely served to better point out the frustrations with Batman’s code.

Michael: I can see all of that but I just tend to think this is direction allows better stories for Batman and - perhaps more importantly - the rest of the Bat-family. We’ve seen tension between the “kill” and “no kill” camps but no one showing up to Batmans’ party at the end of issue #17 finally gives it some weight. After Night of the Owls and Death of the Family, I’m all for breaking up the band a bit and seeing what these characters (and don’t forget writers!) can do on their own.

Eric: Yes, but many are primarily Batman readers, and watching Batman have to reaffirm his code after an event where he kills Joker makes for a much more interesting story, in my opinion. Not only did we, the readers, want to possibly see Batman fail his own ethics, but it was encouraged with Jason and Barbara, who have their own obvious reasons, as well as through Damian, who probably has the most practical view on why the Joker should die. In many cases, I feel Damian is used to personify underlying criticisms with how Batman operates.

Michael: I want to pick up on what you said about Damian. He’s the most likely to take the direct solution of the bunch. Remember he was introduced in Batman and Son as the child not only capable of taking down then-Robin Tim Drake but straight up killing the bad guys. But its his excessive need for Batman’s approval that drives Batman further towards his paternal instincts - one of which is setting the example for Damian so the kid is less of a psychopath. So was it stereotypical or cliche of Batman to not want to literally show his son killing is fine but only when daddy does it?

Eric: Well, I wouldn’t count taking down Tim Drake as one of the hardest fights in the Batman Universe. It’s been shown that each of the Robins is a different aspect of Bruce’s abilities, and Drake has definitely proven himself the best Robin when it comes to detective work, but not combat; that lies with Jason.

Michael: Damian was ten years old.

Eric: Point aside, I do agree that it was probably best that Batman didn’t kill the Joker. However, I do think we should have seen him go beyond his usual stopping point. Also, if Batman was trying to set an example for Damian -- SAY SO! I feel like that was a missed opportunity there. Yes, this underlined the importance of what holds them together, but if what the Joker said wasn’t strong enough to break up their relationship under his toxin, then what chance did his shared information have at driving them against each other when they have their wits about them?

Michael: Definitely. I could see it being a weaker toxin since the point was never to kill them. Still, that panel where they were all holding hands is too Superfriends for my taste. On the Damian/parenting point, I’m not sure Snyder will ever write that directly. He’s said in a couple interviews that much of Batman #17 is left open. Something else he’s said has really stuck with me too. Paraphrasing here but if he just killed someone in “Death of the Family”, then the entire story becomes the place that character died. Case in point: How many readers chalk up “Death in the Family” as the story where Jason Todd got voted off the living? On the other hand, Batman #17 is full of these little cleavages for us to work through and that’s why I think its a fantastic issue.

Eric: I would say most people view the original “Death in the Family” solely on Jason Todd’s death. That’s what made it so shocking, as people really hadn’t seen anything like that before, especially in the Bat-verse. This time around I feel like Snyder used the events from the previous version as a selling point to get people excited about another death; another major impact on Batman’s world like Jason’s death was. Todd’s death was something that haunted Bruce for a very, very long time. It’s even directly referenced in The Dark Knight Returns. I think myself, as well as others, wanted to see another major catalyst in the extensive maze that is Bruce’s psyche.

Michael: The name was misleading for sure but many people started to suspect this thing was going to end with no one dead - except the metaphorical family of course. If there is anyone to blame it is the DC hype machine. Hard to see how anything could live up to the buzz they created. The DC marketing machine has certainly kicked it into high gear again regarding this week’s Batman Incorporated #8. I’d stop reading here if I wanted to avoid spoilers.

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Michael with spoilers: So DC encouraged retailers to order more of Batman Incorporated #8 a few weeks ago. (Funny story, I tripled my order and won’t get the increased quantities until next week...thanks all involved!) It didn’t take a Tim Drake to figure out someone was probably going to end up the deads. This morning, many comic sites spoiled a New York Post article revealing the death of Damian Wayne. So Snyder gets what he wants out of Death of the Family and Grant Morrison gets what he wants in killing off Damian Wayne. I have no problem with this since Damian is a Morrison creation and he had previously mentioned Damian was going out in one redemptive act. Fortunately, Morrison realized the character had a lot more potential than just his four issue miniseries.

Since “Batman and Son” we’ve seen Damian - and Bruce - grow up and it has been an amazing journey. For those that don’t know, Damian is the illegitimate child of Batman and Talia - the daughter of one of Batman’s greatest adversaries: Ra’s al Ghul. Damian is caught between two (literally) warring parents. Morrison reveals in the New York Post article on the issue “
It’s all about the family and the family going to hell,” said Morrison, who threw in elements of his own parents’ divorce. “The two adults in the story are both culpable. The kid’s the good guy.”

Wow. Look, I’m the first to criticize Morrison when his work becomes a mess of jumbled timelines and esoteric references, but this? This is great stuff. Letting us watch Damian’s attempts to win his father’s approval, witnessing Batman becoming the flawed if well intentioned father and seeing both of them battle it out against Talia and THEN dropping in commentary about the culpability of both parents as an allegory for divorce? I am officially intrigued about this issue and not just because of a death. Well done, Morrison.

Agree or disagree with either view? Post below!

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