Since the beginning of the New 52, Detective Comics #1 reintroduced the Joker to the masses, and then his face got ripped off in the same issue and he up and disappeared from the DC Universe ever since. But one year later, The Joker has made his return in Batman #13 under the penmanship of Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo in Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family (The New 52). So for a 5-issues series on the Joker, Snyder asked the other writers doing Batman related series if they wanted to make some tie-in issues to the arc, similar to the Batman: Night of the Owls (The New 52). So aside from Batwoman and Batwing, every other Bat-title is involved with this event. Does it add anything to the main event? Not really, but it has its merits.
THE JOKER: DEATH OF THE FAMILY collects the following issues in order. The issues listed are complete unless listed otherwise for the purpose of piecing together the Joker related material for this collection, giving some sense of comprehension.
Part One: Batman
Detective Comics #16-17. Does not include the backup stories and issue #16 is edited.
Part Two: Catwoman
Part Three: Harley Quinn
Suicide Squad #14, edited.
Batman #13 backup story.
Batman #13, edited. Only a segment that involves Harley.
Suicide Squad #15, edited.
Part Four: Batgirl
Batgirl #13, edited. Ending only.
Part Five: Red Hood and Red Robin
Red Hood & the Outlaws #13, edited. Ending only.
Teen Titans #14, edited. Ending only.
Red Hood & the Outlaws #14, edited. Ending only.
Red Hood & the Outlaws #15.
Teen Titans #15.
Red Hood & the Outlaws #16, edited.
Teen Titans #16, edited.
Part Six: Nightwing
Nightwing #14, edited. Ending only.
Nightwing #15 - 16.
Part Seven: Robin
Batman & Robin #15 - 16.
Batman & Robin #17.
[For the purpose of the review, I will not grade each issue deeply for the length of the review. I will stick to the event itself.]
THE JOKER: DEATH OF THE FAMILY is a collection of tie-in issues plus Snyder and Capullo's Batman #17and a brief excerpt from the final pages of Batman #13. None of the key chapters of the core Death of the Family tale are here because the key chapters themselves are Snyder's Batman. So if you want the primary story, read Batman volume 3 instead. It is the prime and important part of the entire DOTF story. In fact, the actual starting point for the event is in Snyder's Batman #13 and #14 (you have to wait until Batman volume 3 comes out in two weeks to know that though). So basically, The Joker: DOTF is a collection that serves more as supplemental material for readers who already own Batman, Vol. 3 than an interesting, well-orchestrated tale spanning multiple titles. None the less, what is collected here is quite impressive from DC as they did with their Night of the Owls and Green Lanterns Rise of the Third Army books being a great deal of stories in hardcover and at a decent price is still startling to see and gives people a lot of bang for their buck.
So again, to be clear: Snyder's issues are all in volume 3, so this book is for those who want to expand the event without following the other Bat-families. A good deal of these issues will be in the various Bat-family volume 3's, especially Teen Titans, Red Hood, and Batman & Robin. If you are following those series, you are better off passing on this book and just getting those series with Batman volume 3.
Without giving too much away, I'll give you some idea of the stories presented. Joker goes after each Bat-family character in some shape or form to attack each member mentality and/or physically . Batgirl and Nightwing are some of the best stories and examples of the crossover. Batgirl because of Barbara's history with losing her legs (from the Killing Joke) and actually doing a great job showing her hatred of Joker, while maintaining a cool head of the situation. Nightwing gets assaulted through personal lose of friends and family that is reasonably well done. Damien and Jason Todd/Tim Drake are also good stories as well. Damien has no idea what to think of Joker other then being a clown, but see's firsthand why he really is one of Batman's greatest foes with some great and horrific artwork. And the Red Hood/Teen Titans crossover is basically both groups trying to calm Gotham down which I didn't care too much over, but it's Todd and Drake working together and bonding in a brotherly-like way is the highlight here. While we get to see the dichotomy of Harley Quinn to Jokers new and radical return, but it feels a bit too much. I didn't mind it, but I don't quite feel like it did enough to tie in to the event. While Detective Comics deals with Batman taking on a Joker fan group during the Clown Princes return in the city that was mediocre to me. And the Catwoman issues deal with Joker messing with Catwoman because of her past with Batman. This is the weakest issue because it didn't do anything, it was confusing, and it's too wild.
So in terms of issues, two of the books were note worthy, two were good, and three felt lacking.
As for the packaging itself, I do have to say I'm happy DC marketed this book better than Night of the Owls. By putting Joker instead of Batman as main title, it helps diverge the two, as well as not putting any writers/artist on the front or spine (again, like Night of the Owls did by putting Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo clear as day on the front and spine for people to get confused). So that was a better job on DC's part.
Now the bad. I'm giving this book a 3 star rating for the following reasons. Beyond the usual banter of some tie-ins being a bit lackluster and questionable why they are here and how they are affiliated with this event. Again, Catwoman and Detective Comics (even maybe Harley) might not have needed to be included for this event because they do no add much. Those three series do much better on their own. Batman #13 and #14 setup the event (again, they're in Batman volume 3), so you have to wait two weeks to understand some of the setup in this book. (Sidenote: DC was supposed to be release Batman volume 3 before Joker:DOTF by two weeks so this wouldn't happen, but it did and we now have to wait two more weeks until then).
The big factor to me why the score is 3 stars is the repetitive nature of Joker and way too fanatical way of Joker dealing with every Bat-member at one time. The Night of the Owls event at least was timed out throughout the night with each member getting their own Talon warrior, as well as each writer making their own Talons different from one another. Here, Joker personally takes on each member. I'm sorry, but that is just too far fetch to believe that Joker can do that or any other super villain be at more then one place at a time. It makes it seem hokey. And because Joker is in every series, you might get bored of him being here. He pops in and monologues his characters to death. It takes the thrill of seeing Mr. J on screen, basically harming Joker as a threat and pleasure to see.
And finally, do not read Batman #17 or Batman & Robin #17: epilogue until you've read Batman volume 3. REPEAT: DO NOT READ BATMAN #17 AND BATMAN & ROBIN #17 AT THE VERY END. They both give away the ending, so wait a few weeks. And for the people buying Batgirl volume 3, that too has Batman #17 in it, so wait it out.
So, THE JOKER: DEATH OF THE FAMILY is a nice companion book to Scott Snyder's Batman volume 3, once it comes out and if you choose to buy it to get the whole event, which is not necessary. It has some good stories, great art, and a lot of material in hardcover for the price...but the scattered stories, repetitive nature of Joker, and far fetched idea of Joker taking on every Bat-member is hard to swallow. If you are getting Batman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family and enjoy it and want to expand upon it, or if you're a completionist and desperately want every chapter good or bad then you can give this book a shot. If you read Batman volume 3 and already reading the other Bat-titles, then skip this book altogether and get those series in their own trades when they come out. Or get Batman volume 3 and not get this book. It is up to you what you want to do with your decision.