Batman is stupid…


at least according to Scott Snyder…


Spoilers ahead as we take a look at the epic finale of “The Death of the Family” arc with Batman #17!

Snyder has succeeding (once again!) in writing the most gratingly dull-witted portrayal of the Bat-family characters since those awful early 90’s doldrums. Snyder writes Batman as an incompetent, aloof and impotent simpleton without his trademark meticulously honed mental center. Snyder’s Batman is mediocre at everything and forever content to play the passive fool whose only defense boils down to simply gritting his teeth and throwing out a one liner with each punch. This is the lowest-common denominator Batman, and once you make a character that is supposed to be the world’s greatest detective (a polymath who is regarded as one of the greatest minds of all time) into a shambling buffoon then you’ve broken the character.

Snyder’s Batman observes nothing, plans for nothing, and really, does nothing… except, at the end (just like the awful CotO finale), when it all comes down to punching for a page or two, then leaving good enough alone and conveniently allowing multiple loose ends to abound.


Snyder writes the most arbitrary plots I have ever seen in mainstream comics – and that’s a fairly damning statement when put into context. For example, remember the whole medieval hierarchy allegory from the previous issue – the court of villains standing in the room where the cage dropped? Well if you don’t remember it’s okay! Because they, and the situation they were presented in, meant absolutely nothing – it had zero bearing on anything and was totally arbitrary and superfluous in every way. Remember the big, mysterious motivation behind the Joker cutting his face off that Snyder’s been rattling on about and how the reasoning for this ridiculous plot point would finally be revealed in this issue; lending some credence to the idea that the act itself had importance and unique ramifications attached to it.  Well, you know how every author who has ever written the Joker  has touched on some sort of painfully obvious mask metaphor and therein Joker’s disregard for Batman’s “real” identity? Well – that’s it basically, that’s the whole “reasoning”. Retreading decades old character traits is not a fucking plot! We know all of this – this is not new, it is simply old information sluggishly regurgitated and wrapped in the tritest “grim/dark” aesthetic you can imagine!

In the spirit of Snyder’s writing style, allow me to reiterate my point yet again just to fill up space on these pages:

Snyder’s Batman is a simple-minded pugilist who possesses no Sherlockian wit, deduction or improvisation. Batman is utterly bereft of his fierce, yogan acuity; he is no longer the superlative rational brain or the ego-death shaman; as such he has ceased to be the Batman. He’s Hal Jordan without his ring – at best.

Snyder’s Batman deserves to have been killed numerous times by now, so it stands to reason that the only things more inept than Batman himself are the villains who surround him.

Good thing Joker left his utility belt on...

Good thing Joker left his utility belt on…

Joker won’t kill Batman or any of his family? Then why all the incessant talk about how he’s far worse now than ever before – more dangerous – more… more nothing because Joker had every chance in the world to kill Bruce and each and every one of his family members (due to Bruce’s total incompetence, btw), but he didn’t.

So then… he is no danger at all – yet he swings an axe at Batman during the end, and we’re supposed to feel what? Tension? If so it is not earned in the least; without any sort of consistency to the writing it is simply false, just as the hyperbolic hype that spews out of Snyder’s mouth in interviews as he trumpets his “epic” arcs is.

Suddenly the Joker is all about trying to kill Batman – what a dumb fucking character this Joker of Snyder’s is. Being crazy is of course an unassailable trait of the Joker character though, so of course, anything can really be explained away. That I’m willing to concede easily enough – yet that still does not excuse the behavior of the character who is the polar opposite of all that chaos – Batman.


Gah – and all this prattle at the end about why or why not Batman will/won’t kill the Joker – how remedial Snyder makes it all sound!

Oh yeah, there's that "code" of mine and all that, but the real reason is because I'm superstitious...

Oh yeah, there’s that “code” of mine and all that, blah, blah… but the real reason is because I’m superstitious.

Batman won’t kill the Joker because he’s afraid he’ll reap some bad karma for it and get someone worse? How fucking stupid is that?

Snyder has proven once and for all that he does not understand the Batman character at the most basic of levels. To wit: It’s not about if or why Batman should or shouldn’t kill the Joker based off of the criminal’s transgressions, it’s about Batman violating his own will.

You see, Batman eschews the traditional ideals of morality for one of ethics. This is a character born out of indifferent human suffering who then evolves into the modern day “Overman”. Batman has a strict sense of value which he assigns to human life, yet, again, he ascribes it only in accordance to his own will; he holds immutable standards which he will not violate regardless of the situation – and he does this not out of fear of punishment, or out of desire for reward, but rather because he has decided that infringing these standards would spoil the ethical structure he hopes to inspire the world to subscribe to. He cares not for gods, governments or mores – he is the true anti-theistic hero in this regard.

So you see, his will, the essence of the character, is the central concern here; he will not/cannot violate the rules he has placed upon himself not only for his own sake, but moreso because it would subvert the entire point of his existence and the campaign of his war. If he broke his rule, he wouldn’t be Batman and he would have failed absolutely – end of story.

As the man famously said; “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely” – so it goes, if Batman allowed himself to assume the role of “God”, he has then corrupted his existence and ceased to be the man standing for men, against “god” (the indifferent violence and suffering which created him).

So you see, it’s moot if he should kill Joker, because he can’t kill Joker. The Batman cannot kill the Joker, or he immediately ceases to be Batman. And if Batman is The Goddamned Batman, then he would never kill anyway, due to his fanatical ethical fortitude. It’s an endless, repeating loop folding in upon itself; a tragic möbius strip of troubling fate.

And that ending?


Ugh, really? Did Snyder even read the last big arc that occurred before he came into the Batstable?

morrisons ha

Morrison did it first, more intelligently and most of all, Morrison didn’t rest his entire story on it, it was but one small point in a labyrinthine plot – not something to hang the culmination of a story on.

The Death of the Family? The death of my respect for Snyder’s Batman.


1 out of 10 (one point for Capullo’s art)

26 responses »

  1. I’m really glad I came across your review. The book just got published in Czech and I was surprised by how boring I found it since everyone was hyperpositive about it. I thought I might have missed some crucial idea behind the story… but nope. You managed to point out everything I find wrong about it. I start to think that I may be too old to enjoy contemporary Batman.

  2. There are some significant problems with Snyder’s batman but the reason for him not killing joker is not one of them. That wasn’t batman fearing bad karma that was Snyder playing around with a bit of clever meta-narrative, I personally loved it.

  3. So I read you entire review, and I personally didn’t read the Death of the Family Arc, but I did read Court Of Owls, (so I probs should read your review of that soon…) But anyway, it always makes me curious when people who have such a strong opinion of who batman is to them, and is greatly opposes that of the current authors, and I would like to know, if you had the chance of re-writing Snyder’s past two arcs, what would you do differently? Also, please try to avoid getting in “not making batman an idiot” territory as your answer, I would like an honest, intellectual answer.

    • Well, honestly, this is a trivial pursuit with a faulty premise, mostly because I would never have written these stories, especially the Death of the Family. The entire conceit of the story is bad and I would never want to re-hash banal Joker cliches wherein he then spends his time concocting a ridiculously vacuous plan which relies entirely on chance, coincidence and oh-so-much suspension of disbelief. Everything Joker did was pointless and required a precise knowledge of things he could not possible have known – in other words it was completely nonsensical.

      Batman was stupid, Joker was stupid, the GCPD was stupid, ergo the writer was just being stupid. Simple as that. Morrison left the Joker in the perfect position for any writer to come in and play with unbounded; he left him as constantly re-inventing himself – instead of running free though, Snyder decided to parade him through a terribly staged ‘greatest hits’ story, touching on his past and TALKING about about how he’s now ‘so much worse’, etc without ever SHOWING why or how this is true. The entire thing is just lazy and poor writing from the ground up. So to answer your question – I wouldn’t re-write it. I’d put out a story about something new and make sure it was tightly plotted and had a strong resolution with some sort of emotional payoff for the reader – you know, like all good stories do.

      Now that’s my honest answer, not sure if it counts as intellectual enough for you – and I’m not trying to be snarky – but that’s how I feel and unfortunately I don’t currently have the time to elaborate more.

      I’m sure plenty of people enjoy these types of stories though, the Transformer films are huge hits, after all… there is nothing wrong with a little mindless action and set-piece story telling, it’s just not for me and I think I’ve adequately explained why this is throughout all the Snyder reviews I’ve authored. More power to those that enjoy this sort of thing, but I’m trying to avoid beating a dead horse by continuing to dredge these sticking points up all over again.


  4. I am a casual reader of DC stuff and just recently read The Black Mirror, Court of Owls and now this due to the glowing reviews – and I agree with you completely.

    The dialogue was unreal. Almost anything Batman said was to the effect of “I hate you Joker!” or “why are you doing this?” or “OH NOES” – I read some of the crossover books too and was stunned how often all the characters blab on and on with the Joker. I get this is a comic and we have to say something, but nothing anyone did in the entire crossover showed any intelligence whatsoever.

    Give me Morrison’s Bat-God any day – at least he wouldn’t get dragged around without doing anything proactive other than “I showed up to Arkham a little early and Joker’s kind of not ready yet!”

    I think Snyder writes with some decent style and pacing, and has some nice moments here and there, but his plots are just beyond awful. It didn’t help that I read Hickman’s Fantastic Four run before this either (where there are multiple payoffs that actually rule).

    At any rate, I’m rambling but thank you for the intelligent review. It’s really just a shame this wasn’t a better story, because I wanted to like it and the art was fantastic.

    • I’m just blown away by how nonsensical and sloppy the plotting in Snyder’s books are. Every time I start one of his arcs it seems simple enough, yet they all gone off the rails quite quickly and by the end all these disparate plot threads remain unjustified and collapse into a jumbled wreck of arbitrary half ideas all burning on the ground together.

      Regarding Morrison’s Batgod; I just posted something earlier about him on Kevin Smith’s podcast and he directly confronts that (ridiculous) contention head on:

      “I like things to make sense, and for me, growing up reading Denny O’Neil and all that stuff, Batman for me was a guy who had been all around the world and he’d had all these amazing fetish girls chasing him, he was super rich, he had the best toys in the world and what he’d done is dealt with his trauma in a very unusual way, but it was a way that totally worked for this guy. …He made it work, he didn’t just get drunk, destroy his life and blow the fortune; he made it useful – and I think, okay, we have to accept that if he’s a super martial arts master and master of meditation and he can slow down his breath and survived for an hour in a coffin… people say ‘well, you’re doing Batgod’, to me I’m being real about who this guy would be at this point in his life. I have to acknowledge, this is the fucking Batman, you know, and he can do all this stuff and honestly, you don’t go through courses in Buddhist meditation and come out an asshole at the end… if you do it right, you know.

      So I thought Batman was the most sorted, together, humanist icon on the planet – and that’s where I found myself kind of falling out with people who thought he was tortured, or damned, or depressed, or unable to assuage that guilt. I thought … every night he went out, he dealt with that guilt and just ‘okay, I’m making things better’. So I saw him fundamentally positive and mentally positive and able to inspire people.”

      Beautiful stuff there – and what I’ve been trumpeting all along – Snyder has not considered any of this and has regressed the character back to the silver age of throwaway tropes with no subtext or internal logic to his characterizations.

      In any event – you’re welcome and thank you for stopping by and lending me your eyes.

  5. I agree with this review. I’m glad I came across it, because all the ‘mainstream’ sites seem to be haiing DOTF as a masterpiece. Nothing happened. The Joker showed up, killed some people, then waited in Arkham for Batman to come and foil his plans… oh hang on – what were his plans? Still not 100% sure.

    All this was surrounded by weird nightmarish symbolism that didn’t really add up to anything. Maybe I just didn’t get it the symbolism, fine, but one thing I am 100% sure of, is there was no decent plot. Just simple A to B story telling. No twists, no cliff hangers, no deduction, no tension.

    The Joker was TOO manic, TOO crazy. But at the same time, he managed to break into GCPD and kill loads of cops, find out the indentities of all the Bat Family, kill loads of mobsters. And yet he’s presented as being more mentally unstable as ever. So how can such a mad person do all that stuff? Snyder made the Joker almost supernaturally powerful, like Jason from Friday 13th – and that makes him LESS scary to me.

    One thing that really annoyed me was Batman kept on saying things like “I hate you Joker!” and “I’ll desptry you, you’ll see!” which seemed really out of character. Does Batman lose his cool in such a childish manner?

    I could forgive all this if the thing actually had an exciting plot. I really liked Black Mirror, was left unimpressed by the Owls arc, and after DOTF I won’t be buying Batman anymore. Shame.

    • Exactly. There is no internal reality at all. Snyder writes the most poorly plotted Batman books I’ve ever read. Sloppy half ideas slapped together with tenuously pertinent (and ultimately pointless) allegory.

      Even his nightmarish imagery falls flat for me, it’s too much “Saw” or “Human Centipede” – not enough “Funny Games” or “Martyrs”.

      Thanks for reading.

  6. Thank you Matches, Thank you. I’ve been with you before on this. We’ve talked about our love of Morisson’s writing and his handling of Batman.

    This Batman sucks, he is written absolutely awful and Synder’s formulaic plotting is continually shitty. But, like the IGN kids who downvoted me incessantly proved, why is this considered good? why does the comic book community think that this title is actually delivering something?? How is it that he can crap up successful and dramatic story elements from Morrison and make people excited for this? This Batman is a travesty, his character in shambles. His world devoid of the symbolism we know and replaced with rather amateur assertions and histories that don’t jive.

    • You want downvotes for not hungrily lapping at Snyder’s testicles? Then try Reddit, jesus – they’re just as bad, if not worse than the IGN kiddies.

      I feel the need to continue reviewing Snyder’s work just to kind of troll those types of people now. They expect you to consider their opinions respectfully (even though they never seem to contain any intelligent discussion points in them), yet they’re more than eager to act as ignorant, angry fucktards if you dare speak nary a sour opinion of Mr. Snyder. It wouldn’t be so aggravating to me if his fans were just a bit more rational and polite – they’re just terrible little bastards though, for the most part. Fanboys to the Nth degree, fuck ’em and fuck these terrible Batman books. They deserve this mediocrity.

      • one of the most egregious defenses of the book i’ve seen on the web is that this whole ark was a meta-joke.. and snyder was the brilliant architect of a mind fuck…

        but wtf, i don’t accept that. The joker was acting differently, harley even said he was off. And snyder kept him bouncing around making claims that had no basis in anything.

        “In 72 hours you’ll all be dead by batman’s hand”… what? where was that? And shame on DC for the solicit for this issue including the “Who Lives? Who Dies?”. Its gimmicky.

        • The funniest part? Their meta-gymnastics and desperation to imbue it with some phantom subtext is the real joke, because Snyder wrote in to me after reading the review and during our back and forth he told me what the story meant to him and what he was putting across – and of course – none of this absurd met-joke stuff was even remotely mentioned. It’s an embarrassing display of anti-intellectual desperation by people eager to continue existing in their own comfortable mediocrity.

          Morrison’s books make no sense, they say! Of course, when you think Snyder is king of subtext and delicate, literary allegory then Morrison must be far too complex for you to even try to parse.

          Meh… rage… subsiding…

          :) thanks for reading.

      • I actually just posted the article on a comment in a reddit thread. You perfectly illustrate the points I try to make whenever Snyder’s batman comes up. Just horrible, horrible writing. It pains me to no end to see it so critically and commercially lauded. Capullo’s art deserves better but this guy just won’t leave. He continuously needs to show us his “next big thing you’ve never seen batman/insert villain do” arc.

        I honestly wonder what percentage of Snyder fans have actually read a batman comic outside of the nu52 and the usual top 10 lists.

  7. I honestly don’t understand how people are raving about this comic. I literally finished the book and thought “Wow, that’s all; that’s how this ends”. This arc had some much fucking hype and praise and everyone though something BIG was gonna happen but nope. This comic was straight up boring; a total let down. This comic needed something drastic to happen to make it exciting and leave a wow factor on the reader and that never happened. So now the bat family aren’t speaking to Bruce… oh yeah the joker really got him good, great ending (sarcasm). Story was boring, art was fucking amazing though.

    • See I have no problem with something ‘big’ happening or not. I’ll take a small, uneventful story any day – as long as it is well written, which this one was not.

      Thanks for reading.


  8. This is a truly absurd review, immersed in a bias that disregards any realistic perception of quality. You give it a 1 out of 10? It’s 10% good? It’s no better than an Ann Nocenti issue of Green Arrow or the very worst dreck served up by the Big Two? Even if I didn’t like or prefer this material I’d find that assessment humorous.

    • Yes, I think it is dreck. Did I just make broad statements without attempting to back them up or explain my opinions? No I did not, I made my case and I explained why I felt that way.

      Bias? I don’t think you understand what a review is… kind of odd how every review that has ever been written by anyone is biased towards their own opinions, huh? This isn’t Fox news, I have no agenda here – for fuck sakes we’re talking about comic books. Calm the fuck down.

      However, perhaps my score is a bit of a reflex, I admit, I was a bit gobsmacked by the ACTUAL bias I’ve seen out there… for instance, a perfect 10/10 written by a personal friend of the Author who writes for one of the most widely read comic sites on the net (and of course this was the first review that hit the web too, just for added incredulity). You want bias, look no further. Where is your righteous indignation now?

      • At least you are admitting that this was a bit of a gut reaction. I agree that the hype on this book was out of control but I still found it to be an entertaining story. 1 out of 10 is pretty ridiculous.

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