Continuing from last issue’s clifffhanger, Batgirl faces off against the Joker. This is a much harder-edged Batgirl, but it’s understandable. Not only did the Joker assault her and put her in a wheelchair, but he now has her mother hostage and has cut off one of her fingers. She actually is close to shooting him with a captured hun when she gets reminded that he has men all over, as a sniper puts a bullet in the floor next to her boot, and Joker says the next one will be for Mrs. Gordon. Where is Joker getting all these men? We find out over in Batman, but if you don’t mind a spoiler (and if you do stop reading), Joker has managed to blackmail pretty much the entire staff of Arkham into working for him by threatening their family, friends, and the like.
Babs is forced to go along with Joker’s insane plan to marry her, and ends up in a trap at the end. Joker has apparently decided he’s going to keep his “wife” by cutting off her arms and legs, and a mob is waiting to assault her.
One of the things Gail Simone is doing so well here, and I’m going to miss when she leaves (nice call, DC) is the contrast of crazies in this story. The Joker is a loud, vibrant insane that’s like an evil carnival. On the other hand, Barbara’s brother, James, Jr, has the quiet menace of a serial killer, as seen so well last issue. In this one, he calls the Joker directly and tells him he simply won’t allow the clown to do what he has planned. It really takes courage to stand up to the Joker, and, even if he’s a crazed killer, James Jr is a brave man. I think the difference between the two is a great touch, the kind of character work Gail excels at.
I’m still not wild about huge crossovers, and I’m not buying any extra books for this one. But in the ones I do get (Batgirl, Batman, Nightwing) the Joker seems to be shown as his brash, utterly insane self. My LCS kindly let me look at the Suicide Squad tie-in, and he’s particularly harsh on poor Harley. I don’t like the new Suicide Squad, but, credit where it’s due, she actually stands up to him and fights back, which she about never manages to do. Of course, take points away from the reveal that he’s had “lots of Harleys” in the past and she’s just the most recent. Somehow, DC manages to consistently break their own rules: we can’t have Wally West because he’d take away from Barry Allen as the returned Flash, but now there’s a pile of dead Harleys? Come on already…
At any rate, this is a good issue, and Gail keeps the tension high while having characters make decisions that make sense. No, Babs isn’t usually a gun gal, but as I said, this is a very special circumstance, and her rage makes sense. I’m hoping they don’t use it as an excuse to break her away from the other Bats after the crossover ends, but then again, it is called “Death OF The Family.” I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next. I know it will never happen, and not in the Batgirl title certainly, but I admit a part of me would love to see James Jr kill the Joker.