Fangirls, I feel like I’ve missed out a ton, not having read this book. Batman: A Death in the Family by Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo, and Mike DeCarlo is a crazily controversial book about the death of Jason Todd. It’s controversial not only because he died, but because readers voted for him to die. There was a phone poll, that readers could call and pay 50 cents to vote if Jason Todd should live or die. The poll was incredibly close, and death won by by just 72 votes, so Todd was doomed to die by Joker’s hands.
The book itself is really quite interesting. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did, but part of it was definitely the pulp quality. The book I have was published in 1988, before comics were printed on glossy paper. The paper quality of a book can make or break an experience with me, and though I’m used to the glossier paper, I really enjoy the feel of a comic with the pulp, soft paper that they used to be printed on.
A Death in the Family follows Jason Todd on his last adventure; he gets a box full of his parents’ old papers, and learns that the woman he called his mother, actually wasn’t. He spends the comic narrowing down 3 possible women, and searching for them. His quest takes him to Lebanon, Beirut, and eventually Ethiopia, where he finally finds his mother. The only problem is, she’s being blackmailed by the Joker, and when Joker finds out that boy blunder is nearby, he takes both him and his mother down.
A Death in the Family is not a happy book, by any means. I have, however, been told that if you want to learn about Robin (in general) and Jason Todd’s time as Robin, it’s an incredibly important book. Though the book doesn’t span the entirety of Jason’s time as Robin, it does have flashbacks to Bruce finding him and training him to become Robin.
I definitely recommend this book to everyone out there. If you haven’t read the Killing Joke, I would do that first, as it takes place beforehand, and is referenced twice in a Death in the Family (once when Joker mentions that the Gordon girl deserved what he did to her, and another time at Todd’s funeral, where you can see Barbara in a wheelchair). If you haven’t read Killing Joker (which I understand, it has some painful triggers in there), it’s alright. This story is not directly affected by that.
So Fangirls, if you get a chance, go grab yourself a copy of a Death in the Family. It’s a compilation of four issues, so it’s a relatively quick read, and definitely one that’s worthwhile. And don’t forget, this Saturday, May 2nd, is Free Comic Book Day! Head to your local shop to grab some free books!
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