Review by Paul Bowler
Snared in a web of chattering joker teeth at Gotham’s reservoir, Batman struggles furiously against his bonds as The Joker gleefully celebrates his victory by announcing how he knows who Batman and his friends really are. When the Police arrive Joker’s goons fire RPG’s at Bullock and his men, destroying the roadblock and taking out the Police helicopter which then crashes into the reservoir. Batman breaks free, launching himself through the flames to attack the Joker, beating him and demanding to know what he has done with Alfred Pennyworth.
But in his haste to get free, Batman lost his gauntlets, inadvertently allowing his exposed fists to be contaminated with a paralysing Joker toxin when he punched The Joker. Overwhelmed by the toxin, Joker sends Batman tumbling into the water, promising that nothing will stand in the way of the ominous celebration he has planned for The Dark Knight and his allies.
After succumbing to a delirious nightmare about Alfred, Batman wakes to find himself back in the Batcave only to be faced with answering some difficult questions about the Joker from Damien, Nightwing, Red Robin, Batgirl, and Jason Tood. Realizing that The Joker’s plans must involve a significant number of accomplices, Batman traces the cellular signal Joker used at the reservoir back to an employee from Arkham Asylum. The guard tells Batman how the Joker has secretly taken over Arkham, threatening to kill their families in order to ensure their obedience, conducting horrifying experiments deep within the shadowy halls of the Asylum as he prepares as special surprise for Batman. Sensing that time is running out for Alfred, Batman races to Arkham Asylum, pausing for a moment on the steps of the building as he contemplates what horrors await him inside…
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo take Batman #15 to new heights as Death of the Family moves into even darker territory than we thought possible. The opening and closing monologue from Batman himself bookends this frightening tale as The Dark Knight begins to peel away the nightmarish layers of The Joker’s plan, knowing that he must soon peer into Joker’s unblinking eyes and realize his own inner demons if he is to have any chance of saving Alfred from this madman.
One of the standout moments this issue comes when Snyder and Capullo masterfully delve into the enigma of the Joker’s twisted mindset. In a bid to convince them that the Joker was lying about knowing their secret identities, and his reasons for not telling them about Alfred’s kidnapping, Bruce recounts a story where he found The Joker’s “calling card” on the hull of the Batboat after Joker attempted to gas Gotham City and mysteriously vanished when he fell into the bay. A replica of that card has hung in the Batcave for years now, and as they stand before it, Batman’s friends are shocked to think that The Joker might actually have managed to cling to the Batboat after it submerged to make into the Cave. Although Batman is adamant this would be an impossible feat, even for him, it illustrates just how deeply engrained The Joker’s twisted games have become on Batman’s mind – and how much the rest of the Bat-Family still have to learn about Gotham Cities greatest menace.
Batman #15 brings last issues heart-stopping cliff hanger to an explosive end before slowly tapping the rich vein of horror that Snyder has continued to build on since The Joker’s return. Even the brief description of what Joker has been up to at Arkham is enough to make your blood run cold, as is the assumption that Batman has actually seen something in The Joker’s eyes before – something so horrible and unnerving that even Batman has to take a moment of contemplation before entering Arkham Asylum..
The art by Greg Capullo in Batman #15 is as enthralling as ever, it was great to see the entire Bat-Family reunited in the Batcave, and I really enjoyed how Jason Todd got to deliver some of the best lines as he openly voiced his doubts about the caves security. As the issue draws to a close we get our first glimpse of Capullo’s version of Arkham Asylum. The building looks more like some ancient fortress, almost resembling something out of a Universal Horror Film as Batman stands on the threshold, and we can only begin to imagine what nerve jangling horrors await within this terrifying institution for the criminally insane…
Red Light Green Light is another superb back up story by Snyder, Tynion IV, and Jock that gives us a further insight into Joker’s plans for Arkham Asylum when he enlists the help of The Riddler to complete his mad scheme. Joker needs Riddler to help him create a very special surprise for Batman, having drawn inspiration from Jeremiha Arkham’s Doctoral Diploma, something which even The Riddler cannot fully begin to comprehend as The Joker leads him away.
Batman #15 is another fantastic issue by Snyder and Capullo. Death of the Family continues to deliver on all fronts, and I’ve enjoyed every macabre and twisted moment.