Back in October 2012, Death of the Family began which was the second crossover in within the Batman Family featuring Joker’s return to Gotham City. Like Night of the Owls, Death of the Family, isn’t like the traditional crossovers because readers don’t really need to read each title in a specific order and the main story will be told in the pages of Batman. The other titles that tied into the story are Nightwing, Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Detective Comics, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Catwoman, Teen Titans and Suicide Squad. In Detective Comics #1, Joker was caught by Batman and sent to Arkham Asylum where the Clown Prince of Crime already put plans in motion to escape, but Dollmaker enters his cell and with Joker’s permission, Dollmaker cuts the skin from Joker’s face and he leaves it on the wall of his cell after he escapes. After a yearlong absence, Joker returns to Gotham starting with an attack on the Gotham City Police Department in order to retrieve his skinned face. During the attack, Joker kills many police officers after shutting the power down while taunting James Gordon and by the time Batman arrives, Joker is gone. Later while talking with Alfred, Damian, Dick, Tim and Barbara, Bruce witnesses a TV broadcast by the Joker where he uses the son of his very first victim as a puppet while announcing his plans to kill Mayor Hady at midnight. During a stakeout, the Dark Knight feels something is off and it eventually clicks that Joker has been revisiting his past crimes, discovering rather than killing the mayor, Joker has poisoned all the police officers guarding him with a variation of Joker Venom which causes frowns rather than smiles.
The toxin also contains three dummy chemicals that don’t contribute any of the toxin’s effects, but Batman discovers it’s actually a message with the first letter of each chemical spelling ACE so he departs for Ace Chemical. Shortly after arriving, Batman finds Joker dressed up in his old Red Hood attire, but soon realized the person in the costume is not the Clown Prince of Crime so he charges, only to be knocked into an empty vat which is locked and begins filling with the same chemicals that created Joker. It’s then revealed the person masquerading in the Red Hood costume is actually Harley Quinn who is actually distraught by the Joker’s behavior and unaware of Joker’s actual plan. As Batman demands to know Joker’s whereabouts, Joker brutally attacks Alfred with a hammer at Wayne Manor wearing his skinned face as a mask. After escaping from the vat, Bruce returns to Wayne Manor to find Alfred missing so he searches his home only to find an audio tape of Joker, which addresses Bruce and states he’s throwing a party so he needed to borrow Alfred. At the same time Bruce hears sounds of Alfred screaming in the background while Joker burns his eyes with ammonia and Bruce crushes the tape in anger, leaving to immediately search for Alfred. Batman then concludes Gordon is Joker’s next target and tries getting the Commissioner into hiding, but Gordon refuses, claiming he doesn’t want his men on the front lines while he hides.
It proves to be too late though because Joker managed to dose Gordon with a lethal amount of blood thinners which causes all his blood to begin emptying from his body, but Batman manages to give Gordon a coagulant and gets him to a hospital. While there, Bruce meets with Dick outside where he tells him about Alfred and recruits him to help stop Joker’s next plan to stop Gotham’s water supply. After splitting, Batman finds Joker waiting for him at the reservoir where he detonates a bomb at the aqueduct that Nightwing is at so Bruce charges Joker who manages to tangle him up in heavy duty wires lead by chatter teeth. Joker then begins revealing his true plan to take out the rest of the Batman Family with the idea they have made Bruce weak while addressing to the Family that he knows their identities. Joker continues to state he knows everything about them while believing them to be nothing more than a distraction to Batman while claiming to also know a secret that Batman has been hiding and also stating the Dark Knight will be the one to kill them all within 72 hours. When the GCPD arrives to arrest the Joker, he shoots at them with rocket launchers while poisoning Batman during the struggle and he falls into the reservoir. When Batman awakens, he’s in the Batcave with Barbara, Tim, Jason, Damian and Dick who are all looking for answers so Batman reveals after an earlier encounter with Joker, he returns to the cave to find a simple joker playing card in a puddle outside his boat.
Bruce believed Joker simply attached the card to his boat in order to taunt him, saying the evidence proved Joker had never infiltrated the cave or learned his identity, but the rest of the Family have a hard time believing Bruce who then attempts to reassure them before leaving to search for the Clown Prince. Batman then tracks down the cell phone Joker used in order to detonate the bomb, leading him to a guard at Arkham who reveals Joker has taken it hostage by black mailing many of the guards into working with him. In Arkham, Batman finds himself confronted with multiple trials set up by Joker and after making his way through the Asylum, he finds Joker waiting in Jeremiah Arkham’s living quarters along with Riddler, Two-Face and Penguin. Joker also has a number of civilians dressed like the Justice League trying to pull an electrified sword from a stone while Batman manages to get past the blockage in the door after Joker kills the man dressed as Superman, but before he manages to do anything, the Clown Prince alerts him to a number of screens which shows all the Batman Family defeated and captured by the Joker. With his Family captured, Batman is forces to obey the Joker and sits in an electric chair, which causes him to pass out. With Batman incapacitated, Two-Face and the other contemplate killing him, but Joker doesn’t allow it and dismisses them from his plans, locking them behind a cage door while Joker takes Batman away and also showing them the surprise he has in store under a bloody silver platter.
Barbara’s mother is attacked by three men in clown masks and Hawaiian shirts, referencing the Joker paralyzing Barbara and she later receives a call from someone she believes to be the Clown Prince of Crime himself, warning that men are also coming for her. Just then, three clown-masked men break in but Barbara defeats them and the caller also reveals they know Barbara is Batgirl so she changes and finds Joker holding her mother in a bowling alley where he had already killed all the patrons. After confronting Joker, Barbara learns the caller was actually her brother James and he led her to the Joker to save their mother. Joker then presents Batgirl with her mother’s severed finger bearing her wedding ring and asks Batgirl to marry him. Batman determines she is going to break Batman’s rule and finally kill Joker, later meeting him at a church, but James calls and threatens Joker to leave Batgirl and their mother alone, but Joker refuses which prompts James to travel to the church. After the wedding, Joker attempts to cut off Batgirl’s limbs, but James arrives and claims he has freed their mother, which allows Batgirl to fight Joker’s henchmen. James then betrays Batgirl by rendering her unconscious and trades to Joker in exchange for his mother’s life so when Batgirl wakes up, the Joker prepares to show her an unseen item on a silver platter.
Batman and Robin
Damian defies his father’s orders to remain in the Batcave and investigates Alfred’s kidnapping which leads to the Gotham Zoo where he’s captured by the Joker who accuses Damian and other members of the Batman Family of being a burden which holds him back. Joker then tells Damian his greatest fear is being responsible for the others death and presents Damian with Batman infected with Joker Venom, stating he must kill his father before he is killed himself. Damian is unwilling to kill his father and chooses death, but Joker kills Batman before he deals a fatal blow, while Damian passes out and this Batman is revealed to be a fake. When Damian recovers, Joker presents him with a silver platter.
Catwoman is hired to steal a large chess piece from a city-wide game of chess and after successfully stealing the piece, its revealed to contain a living person before exploding, but Selina saves the young orphan and is confronted by the Joker who is revealed as her employer. Joker convinces Selina to be captured in order to spare the orphan’s life and he repeatedly attacks her, accusing her of weakness and needing Batman to save her before trying to convince Selina to stop loving him, break his heart and leading him to be a more focused hero. Selina denies loving Batman and accuses Joker of in fact being in love with Batman to which Joker admits before parting ways.
Joker kills Dick’s best friend Jimmy at Haly’s Circus for resembling Joker and also breaks Raya out of Blackgate Prison which leads Dick to an abandoned aerospace facility. While there, Dick is confronted by Raya who has a face resembling the Joker and is dressed in a makeshift Nightwing uniform and she uncontrollably attacks Dick while Joker flees until she rejects the Joker Venom and dies. Dick then finds a message carved into her body announcing a party at Haly’s Circus where he is later confronted by the exhumed corpses of the circus members who have died. Dick then tackles Joker but is then shown the living members of the circus infected with Joker Venom and they attack Dick, knocking him unconscious. When Dick awakens, Joker prepares to show him an unseen item on a silver platter.
Red Hood and the Outlaws
Joker drugs Jason Todd’s lover and calls the police to his apartment, but Jason escapes and heads to warn Batman, but Joker predicts his actions and gasses him. When he awakens, Joker provides artifacts of Jason’s youth to include a bullet that shot his father as well as a recreation of how he found his mother dead. He claims to know Jason’s real identity and as he works his way towards the Joker, he falls through a trap door which lands him in a pit next to an unconscious Red Robin. Meanwhile Starfire and Roy Harper travel to Gotham in order to help Todd, encountering the Teen Titans. Together, the group recovers Joker’s pre-prepared antidote syringes and injects Joker Venom afflicted civilians which returns them to normal. Elsewhere, Joker paints Jason’s Red Hood mask and says he’s in for a surprise.
During Deadshot’s funeral, Joker kidnaps Harley Quinn and has her meet with Batman. He then attempts to dump her in a chemical bath, but Harley manages to escape and Joker attacks her with rabid Hyenas and incapacitates her before chaining her up in a room filled with skeletons similarly dressed as her. Joker states she’s not the first or last Harley so she bites open her own wrists and uses blood as lubricant to remove her chains, escaping back to the Suicide Squad, but when Joker learns of her escape, he states she might yet still become his Harley.
The Titans travel to Gotham to help Red Robin after he was captured by the Joker. After advice from Batgirl, the team explores Joker’s earlier crime scenes and Kid Flash’s super speed near run down apartment block activates Joker’s trap by agitating a chemical compound which becomes airborne and transforms nearby citizens’ appearance to resemble the Joker. The civilians begin mindlessly attacking the team while Arsenal and Starfire arrive to help while Jason Todd and Tim Drake work together to escape Joker’s captivity after he seemingly presents their father’s as hostages. Jason shoots the Joker who is revealed to be a body double and the shot triggers a gas release which knocks Jason and Tim out. When they awaken, Joker then presents them each with a bloody silver platter.
When Batman wakes up, he’s in a cave at a dinner table surrounded by the rest of the Batman Family who are tied up with sacks on their heads. Joker then reveals he’s doused the entire room in gasoline and placed flints under Bruce’s chair so if he tries escaping, the room will ignite. Joker also reveals Alfred to be alive, but infected with Joker Venom so he summons him to lift the sacks off the Family’s heads, revealing them to all be wrapped in bloody bandages. Under each platter set in front of them looks to be their faces as Joker continues to poke and prod at his relationship to Batman until Batman stands up, igniting the room, but blows a hole in the roof which allows water to douse the flames after realizing he’s in the cave system. As Joker attempts to escape, Batman attends to his Family, finding their faces to be intact so when Dick tells him to pursue the Joker, a trap at the table triggers which fills the room with Joker Venom and the Family becomes infected while attacking each other. Deeper in the cave, Batman confronts Joker and informs the Clown Prince he has discovered his true name, history and family much to Joker’s displeasure.
Bruce attempts to whisper the information he has learned to Joker’s ear, but before he can, the Clown Prince covers Batman’s mouth with an electric buzzer and falls into the abyss of the river system within the cave. Batman returns to find Alfred had broken through Joker’s venom and has also managed to stop the Family to cease fighting as well. After Alfred recovers, Bruce tells him shortly after taking Dick into his care, he visited Arkham and managed to break free of the group to find his way to Joker’s cell where he attempted to return the card left in the Batcave. Joker turned around to look directly at Bruce, but it seemed like it was more through him as if he didn’t care to see who Batman was and not even reacting to the reveal. Bruce then informs Alfred he invited the Family over to meet, but soon discovers everyone has declined with Dick being the only one to call to inform him so Bruce enters the cave and he sits at his computer with Joker’s face still has an Identity Unknown label on it. The computer then finishes deciphering an extra compound found in Joker’s recent toxin strain with the element Hahnium, whose element is Ha.
Overall, the series was pretty good, but the ending fell a little flat. Most people were probably expecting a larger ending with an unexpected twist (i.e. a death or severe injury) but that isn't what happened. The Joker was more menacing than he has been in a long time and definitely came back with a bang. This is the way the Clown Prince of Crime should be and I'm sure he'll be back with more psychotic schemes in the future. Other than the main story, the tie-ins were mostly good. The best tie-ins came from Batgirl, Red Hood and the Outlaws and Teen Titans. Batgirl was probably the best tie-in due to the fact she has a large past with the Joker after he temporarily paralyzed Barbara. If you're a fan of Batman, I would definitely suggest this story because it will keep you on edge. The art of Greg Capullo is also amazing so it's worth the read.