The “Death of the Family” crossover extravaganza grinds on this month in Batman 16, “Castle of Cards.” I think the first issue of this in Batman was fantastic, with the Joker assaulting Gotham PD. I think that was a phenomenally well done, scary issue. And I think it set the bar too high and that nothing has lived up to it since then.
This issue features Batman fighting through Arkham, which Joker has improbably remodeled with no one finding out about. He saves a few hostages, despite the Joker’s best efforts. We get graphic images of a horse on fire, and another one that gets killed by Mr. Freeze. As an aside, is the DCNU anti-horse or something? The only times I can recall them showing up, they get killed, both here and in Wonder Woman. Sorry, let me clarify, only times they show up in the MODERN era. Horses in period pieces like Demon Knights and Jonah Hex seem to survive ok.
Anyway, Batman fights on, and effortlessly bests Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, Clayface, and even Jim Gordon. How he got dragged in here, I’m not sure. The climax comes in Jeremiah Arkham’s personal quarters. Here, Joker has remade the space into a throne room, with a few more hostages dressed as various Leaguers, as well as Penguin, Riddler, and Two Face. Joker kills yet another hostage while Batman tries to get through the traps in the room. Bats defeats a few booby traps, but then is shown his “family” under attack in various other parts of the city. At least one of the images highlights one of my problems with this event. As Joker stands there, talking to Batman, we seem to see Joker fighting Batgirl. Yes, maybe it’s a recorded image, but still, the point remains: Joker seems to be in too many places at once in this. These images are what Joker uses to force Batman to sit on the “throne” he’s prepared– an electric chair. Batman gets shocked and the issue ends.
The back up, called “Judgement,” is essentially Joker playing headgames with Two Face. It’s funny, to me: before the reboot, there were many complaints about Batman being too perfect, dubbed by some the “Bat-God.” In this story, the Joker manages to defeat Batman, his closest allies, and most of the villains, and no one seems to find it odd.
Overall, I think this event is going on too long. This issue could have been a lot shorter without losing impact. I’m not sure what we gain by seeing Batman wade through traps and henchmen so much of the time, unless they’re going for the “wear him out before the big match” which has previously been done by both Ra’s Al-Ghul, and later more famously by Bane. The crossover has some interesting ideas, but I think it really could stand to lose a lot of it’s bulk
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