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Caliburn24 here with the conclusion of the Death of the Family storyline has come with Batman #17.

This was trumped up in the New52 after the success of the Night of the Owls storyline by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. The return of the Joker was central to the Death of the Family as was the die cut covers with the Joker’s face overlaying the cover with the hero. The Joker’s face was removed by the villain Dollmaker in Arkham Asylum in Tony Daniel’s New52 Detective Comics #1 (2011). He then went missing until Batman #13 where he slaughtered police officers while retrieving his face from the Gotham police department. Batman also fails to stop the murder of Mayor Hardy and police officers assigned to protect him. Then, he goes to the Ace Chemical Factory to face the Joker at their first meeting place. He faces the Red Hood and finds out that it is really Harley Quinn. The back-up has the Joker forcing Harley Quinn to dress as the Red Hood. It is revealed in Suicide Squad #14 that at the funeral of Deadshot, the Joker uses his toxin in a rain that knocks out the Suicide Squad so he can take Harley.

The next issue has Batman escaping a chemical vat set up by Harley. He finds that Alfred is kidnapped by the Joker and warns his allies. Batman finds Commissoner Gordon in time to get him to the hospital. At the Gotham resivoir, the Joker confronts Batman telling him he knows his identity and about the Bat cave. Catwoman tangles with the Joker who is amused at her new turn as a hero. He has her dressing in an uniform that stencils bat tattoos on her body, but tires of playing with her. Batman #15 picks up the confrontation at the resovoir, where the Joker sends Batman into the cold waters. All of the Bat family is assembled with Damian having friction with Red Hood. Bruce recalls the first meeting with the Joker where he took the batboat back to the cave and found a Joker card next to the boat. Bruce insists that the Batcave is secure.

Batgirl’s involvement with the Joker of course has a great impact since the Joker had shot her in the classic Batman: The Killing Joke (1988), the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. Her mother is taken by the Joker’s henchmen. The next issue has her going to a skating rink where the Joker offers his hand in marriage. She beats him up and again faces the Joker at a church. It is her brother that knocks her out. In Nightwing #15, the Joker infects Grayson’s friends with his toxin to bring him in his trap. He tracks Joker to an amusement park, but is knocked out by his former circus family infected by the Joker venom. Batman and Robin follows Batman’s son and sidekick, Damian, tormented by the Joker. He faces what he thinks is his father at the Gotham Zoo. Damian defeats him and is knocked out by Joker gas. Jason Todd of course was almost killed by the Joker in the famous Death in the Family storyline. He is tormented by the Joker in Red Hood and the Outlaws #15. Teen Titans #15 has the Joker facing Red Robin as Batgirl helps the other Teen Titans. Red Hood and Red Robin are captured by the Joker, they manage to work together, but are knocked out by Joker gas.

Batman #16 has the Joker using the Batcave to torture Bruce with henchmen in police armor, villains from his past, and finally Penguin, Riddler, and Two Face as well as a sad grouping of people in Justice League uniforms. He has Batman sit in a chair that electrocutes him. This of course leads to Batman #17. It features a cover by Greg Capullo that has Joker dancing in a rainy night with a empty, bloody bat suit. Batman revives as the Joker uses a bat skeleton to taunt Batman. He opens his eyes to see a dinner table in the Batcave with all of his allies bandaged around their faves. The scene reminds me not a little of the scene in Hannibal, the Silence of the Lambs sequel, except without the silly acting. This is revealed in a two page spread that is covered by a third of the Joker toying with the heroes as close-ups of flies buzzing around Batman are seen. The Joker rings a bell to summon Alfred now corrupted by the Joker virus. The Joker opens the dinner covers as the heroes mumble under their bloody bandages.

A full page has the Joker holding a two-headed cat revealing the dinner plates with the faces of the heroes on ice. The Joker tells Batman that his chair is rigged so if he moves it, a fire will consume the heroes doused in gasoline. The Batman leaps with the chair before the Joker brings a match to them. He frees himself and then throws a charge that sends a river of water down to extinguish the flames. Batman removes the bandages to find that his allies are untouched. Batman rushes off to face the Joker as the other heroes check on the cat with its second head pulsing red. It explodes sending Joker gas infecting all of them. The Joker attacks Batman with an axe as his allies fight each other and Alfred. The Joker tries to escape and in a long panel nearly plunges off a waterfall in the cave. Batman threatens the Joker by revealing everything about him. The Joker hits him with his electrocuting joy buzzer and plunges off the waterfall with his face floating in the air. He is returned to custody to Arkham Asylum and Batman returns his Joker card to him. Snyder has really built another great storyline for Batman. Can’t wait for Batman Year Zero.