I love Batman comics. When I was a child, I read a couple Toys “R” Us comics that introduced me to the characters, and fell in love. We stan an angsty billionaire in this house. This story is actually a really big deal, though, and I’m so glad that I finally read it!
This piece has spoilers for both The Killing Joke and A Death in the Family. You have been warned.
This story follows The Killing Joke. If you haven’t read that, I’m going to spoil the heck out of it right now, so maybe stop reading.
The Killing Joke is a Joker-based story by Alan Moore. Moore is an interesting writer because he writes compelling stories, but they very much are not for everyone. Much like Moore, the Joker is not for everyone. He doesn’t give a single heck who you are – if you get in his way, he’s ready to destroy you.
And he does just that, to both Jim and Barbara Gordon. At this point, Jim is still GCPD Commissioner, and Babs is Batgirl. But by the end of this book, the Joker has paralyzed Babs from the waist down, taken compromising photos of her, and forced Jim to ride a carnival ride filled with the images.
To be honest, it’s fucking awful.
So knowing the ending of A Death in the Family, I was worried that it would be too much for me, like The Killing Joke was. But instead, it’s incredible!
The thing with A Death in the Family is that readers chose the ending. It is a four-issue story, and Issue 3 had a phone poll in the end; should Robin (Jason Todd) survive?
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
A Death in the Family is a cool story. It follows two story-lines; Batman’s and Jason Todd’s. Batman decides early in the first issue that Jason needs to step back from the cape for a minute, because he is being driven more and more often by revenge instead of justice. Angry, Jason goes for a walk, and ends up in his old neighborhood. A neighbor recognizes him, and invites him in to give him some items from his dead parents’ apartment.
Once back at Wayne Manor, Jason finds out something wild – the woman that he thought was his mother wasn’t! He uses the detective knowledge (and Bat-Computer) to deduce that his birth mother could be one of three women. Regrettably, they aren’t in Gotham. So Jason Todd takes a bit of a world-tour. He heads off for another country, with barely a note to Bruce and Alfred about his whereabouts.
Meanwhile, Batman finds out that Joker has escaped Arkham (we’re all shocked), and has headed overseas with a nuclear warhead. He pursues, and crosses paths with Jason as he tries to find his mother. They work together to find and ask questions of two of the three women, before Joker leads them directly to the third.
Batman follows the Joker, while Jason goes to the woman who may be his mother.
I’m not going to spoil too much more, but the fans got to choose what would happen in the end. Would Jason Todd survive or not? They included a phone poll; call one number if you want Jason Todd to survive, and another if you want him to die. In a world long before Instagram polls, this was wild. Also, leaving a life to the fans is also wild! I have always been so blown away by this concept, and what happened.
I think that this story is so rad because it’s a huge change to the tone of The Killing Joke, but still makes sense as being related. If you have any interest in this, I recommend grabbing the collected copy here. It includes the history of this situation, and that is well worth the read.
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