Review! The Joker: Death of the Family [Spoiler-free]

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After reading and reviewing all of the other character trade backs that are part of the “Death of the Family” storyline, I read The Joker: Death of the Family both to get a fuller picture of the entire event (as I did with Night of the Owls) as well as to check in with the Bat-characters whose trade backs I do not collect, such as Red Robin and Catwoman.

To some degree, I feel that I wasted my time and money, as I gained nothing from this collection.

The Joker DotF

THE JOKER: DEATH OF THE FAMILY, a collection of the character-specific crossover installments from the larger story, weirdly omits the Joker’s and Batman’s best appearances of the entire event, and as such, offers very little of value for those looking to economize their reading of the crossover.

As the crossover event really only requires breaking stride when you get to Batman #17, the editor of the Bat-family arranges The Joker: DotF in a series of character-specific chapters that echo each character’s solo book; for example, the Batgirl sections are published exactly as you might find them in the Batgirl, Vol. 3 collection that bears the same title. The same is true for each member of the Bat-family, and includes prior to the grouping of character-chapters a few issues of Detective Comics that tell of the aftermath of the Joker’s self-mutilation and escape from Arkham Asylum in Detective Comics #1. Once you’ve read all of these vignettes, Batman #17 appears as it does in each collection bearing the same subtitle, and ends with Batman & Robin #17, which was only somewhat related to the “Death of the Family” story when it appeared in its own trade back.

The issue with this volume isn’t in its collation of the material, it’s that the core narrative material of “Death of the Family,” the very story that makes it as great as you’ve heard it is, does not appear. Batman’s involvement in this collection is relegated to exposition and conclusion, but Batman’s investigation and run-ins with the Joker from his own book, collected in the superb Batman, Vol. 3, are nowhere to be found. This makes for a version of a masterful Batman story that almost seems to neglect Batman himself, and as a pricier collection in the trade paperback world, even the fact that the title doesn’t name “Batman” specifically doesn’t excuse the fact that DC is selling a story without its core component. I’ll raise the other eyebrow at the fact that the core component in question is a Batman story that will likely go down in the history of the character as one of the half-dozen finest ever told. Its absence is without warrant, and as such the context and value of the entire volume is greatly diminished, if not mitigated entirely.

BACKLOG PRIORITY
As with the other “Death of the Family” trades, this one is only necessary for completionists, but even a completionist might not need this one, should he or she be already reading these episodes in their character-specific collections. This volume simply collects issues that appear exactly as they do throughout the entire event, and as a reader of most of them I found this to be a decidedly unremarkable read and without a doubt the least value-oriented collection from the New 52 library to date. Even if the book is really about the Joker and not the heroes, the best content involving the Joker is the very content trimmed from this collection. I can’t suggest this volume but for those dead set on collecting all of the Bat-books from the New 52, as I count even myself among those who are disappointed for having invested in it.
PRIORITY RATING2/10.  Unless your shelf absolutely must include all of the published material related to Batman, I suggest saving the $20-25 you’re sure to spend on this volume.  The story is great, and the Joker’s appearances are all more-or-less memorable, but I would recommend another approach to accessing the “Death of the Family” story, starting with Batman Vol. 3.

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