Face Off: Thoughts on “The Joker: Death Of The Family”

Dammit, I tried.

I had me a long, honest discussion with myself. I said, “Well, Phil–doesn’t this look good? Haven’t you been intrigued by the New 52 and quite enjoyed Batman Incorporated?”

I said, “You’re right, voice. Also, I enjoy spooky. Spooky is good.”

So I picked this trade up (I read trades now–my premade explanation goes something like “I’m an adult”) and I took it home. It felt like a dishonest purchase because I had already been fairly unimpressed with the storyline behind The Joker’s (ahem) facial reimagining. But I figured, hell–just go with it. Sometimes the stalest cookie provides the most gratifying gas.

batgirl14What followed the next couple of days was a frustratingly uneven experience–like a broken electric blanket that leaves you warm and womb-like one minute and delivers painful bolts to your scrotum the next. As we passed from one book and author to another, there was a numbing yo-yo effect that somehow marred even the good authors assigned to it. Gail Simone’s take on Batgirl was, as always, nearly perfect. On the other hand, I went into the book unsure of whether or not Teen Titans would ever be worth reading, and came out the other side with an answer I won’t spoil for those of you who haven’t enjoyed a cocktail with me (hint: I do not like the Teen Titans and never will, apparently).

Hell, near the final few books, it felt like they were just re-telling the same storyline over and over again. Joker tricks our fearless hero, babbles about weakening the Bat while our fearless hero stares at him fearlessly from his or her fearless bonds. Usually he kills someone you love (who was probably introduced an issue or two before).

Oh, and he shows you a gore-spattered covered dish just in time for the POV to change. That’s apparently a very important part of his designs.

But when it’s good, it’s just so good. I’ve mentioned Simone, but John Layman, Peter Tomasi, and Scott Snyder are really solid writers, as well. But the brass they’re polishing is attached to a bloated, overthought, and underwhelming ship that may or may not require further Titanic metaphors in the future.

The faceless Joker is your girlfriend’s Jagermeister tramp stamp that she got on spring break. I mean, it looks okay now that she’s young and taut. But years later when you’re looking for a house and she’s asking you to pick her up a bottle of calcium tablets on the way home from work, it’s just going to look kind of confusing and out of place.

It’s a massive build up to a conclusion that leaves you anything but stirred. All of the Joker’s horror-filled escapades–they mean nothing in the end. All of his horrible threats are snatched away far too easily. There is no consequence, and in the end, no one has learned anything, no matter what the dreamy epilogue suggests. And no, before you ask: that isn’t the point.

So, oh well–ho hum. This could have been done so much better. If they wanted to shock us, couldn’t they have just gone with subtlety and detective work?

jokerUpsideDown

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