written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
This past Fall, DC Comics started another iconic story arc... hot on the heels of the Court of Owls story arc, the Bat Family was thrown into another bout of turmoil. To sum it up, the premise of this arc revolves around the return of the Joker and the speculation that he knows that Bruce is Batman and the secret identities of his long list of protégés. When DC launched the post Flashpoint NEW 52s, the Joker first appears in the first issue of Batman Detective Comics and after being taken to Arkham, he meets the Dollmaker and has him cut off his face (all Face/Off style) and leave it behind as he escapes. This is the last we saw of him until his return. After his return, the notion that the Joker knows the identities of the Family is further reinforced by calculated attacks on the loved ones of these heroes. This downward spiral of laughs and death starts with the abduction of Alfred Pennyworth, sets the family off in their suspicions that Joker knows their identities... but worse so, this creates a dissent in the ranks, leading the Family to question why Bruce never told them. One of the main themes of the narrative in this arc is essentially the idea of trust, it's very analogous to religion. If the Family are parishioners, then Bats is their God. Over the course of the arc, the only one to truly trust in Bruce and never question him is the boy who would be the current Robin... his son Damian.
In short, the Joker never knew who the Family was, he made it almost into the cave... he was right there and he could have easily walked right in and found out all of Batman's deepest and darkest. But he turned away, Joker never wanted to know who the antithesis to his special brand of madness really was. I can understand that, the Joker is nothing without Batman... and the Joker truly believes that Batman is nothing without him. The arc wrapped up really well, it left behind a bit of dissension in the ranks behind and in the subsequent issues of their individual comics (Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Teen Titans ) this theme persists, can they truly trust their mentor with such blind devotion again? Think of it like religion once again, a devout parishioner can follow their God with such blind devotion, taking on anything that is thrown at them with the trusting in him. But if that trust severs, even a little bit, this same devout parishioner can fall from his grace and start to doubt this blind faith.
This is what makes the next part of this post harder on the Bat and his family. When I first started reading Death of the Family, it immediately brought back memories reading Death in the Family. If you aren't in the know, pre-Flashpoint, the second Robin Jason Todd was murdered by the Joker. This was an iconic moment in comic book history since the fans were able to call a 900 number and vote to decide the fate of young Jason Todd, does he live? or does he die? Even though Jason was eventually resurrected by means of one of Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus pits, this death greatly affected Batman, feeding his reluctance to take on another sidekick. This is what made me thing that a member of the Family would die, but when you read into the title... though could even been seen as the death of all his soldiers. At the end, his Family is relatively unscathed (by unscathed I generally mean still breathing) which is why I raise a bit of an eyebrow to the events of Batman Incorporated #8... the Death of Damian Wayne.
The part that puzzles me the most is why they would kill him in a book like Batman Incorporated ? Among fans, this book is relatively unread and while books like Batman, Batman and Robin, and Batman Detective Comics are regularly read. I don't get why they chose Batman Incorporated as a good place for Damien to die. If any, I would have expected it during the Death of the Family arc, not shortly after in Batman Incorporated . I guess I can understand why, when I read issue #8 I was very surprised by the death of Robin. I look forward to seeing what follows, I remember the fallout from Death in the Family and how Batman became this dark shell of a man after Jason's death, I do look forward to see what he becomes after Damian's death.. it's more than just his little soldier or trusted partner... he now has to deal with the death of his son, and in a bit of Shakespearean-like tragedy... his son's blood stains the hands of Damian's own mother Talia al Ghul.
Only time will tell what they do with this, but personally I feel Damien will be returning sooner than later, in the DC Universe, death doesn't really act as the end all of a character... if one Robin can be brought back to life, another can. How? Just give it some time...