I watched Batman: Under the Red Hood recently thanks to Netflix’s streaming option. I enjoyed it for so many reasons, but that’s another post. After watching the movie, I wanted to read the source material that led up to the events in the movie. Admittedly, I’m more of a Marvel girl than a DC girl, but I do try to read the “iconic” comics on both sides of the fence. A Death in the Family is the arc that clears up what happens before the movie. I think the movie did a good job of giving the condensed version of previous events, but the arc fills the story out more.
I’m not sure how to say this, so I’m just going to say it. I don’t think that this is the best story ever—or rather, the story isn’t executed well. It’s just not as well written as other pivotal Batman arcs, such as The Killing Joke. It had plenty of potential, but was marred by the shaky writing and questionable plot direction at best.
Some of the word choices and phrases would have you believe that this was a comic written before its time. But that’s only when it wasn’t coming off as awkward and contrived. I asked myself plenty of times, “Who talks/thinks like this?” Too many of the scenes were just too convenient as if they couldn’t think of a better way to get important parts of the plot moving. I know a big part of storytelling in comics is how convenient certain things are, but they didn’t have to be so obvious. There was too much telling or retelling of the story in many of the panels where information could’ve been craftily revealed through dialogue between characters, action sequences, or not at all.
It wasn’t completely terrible, though, and pieces of it seemed to move beyond being just all right. I won’t pan it and say that it doesn’t deserve to be seen as a crucial story in Batman’s career. It had such a major effect on him that it would be silly for me to say that it isn’t important in the Batman mythos. The writing just hampered it greatly.
Writing aside, I liked how conflicted Batman was painted in this story. Batman is always so focused on stopping crime that it’s sometimes hard to see the humanity in his character. Often, it’s just about his struggle with good versus evil, but this arc gave him a new, different dilemma. In this story, his struggle with doing what’s right for the people and doing what’s right for his family (Jason) caused such a rift in his psyche. I loved how disjointed his thinking was as he tried to focus on the Joker, but ultimately having his thoughts drift to Jason, his issues, and how he (Batman) feels his actions factored into all this.
And Jason… I’m still not fond of his character. I didn’t care for him much in the movie. I thought I would feel more sympathetic for him after reading his story. I do in a way, but I think I feel more understanding toward him as he was portrayed in Under the Red Hood, but even in the movie, my heart wasn’t exactly bleeding for him. However, it was nice to have more details about what he was dealing with, and the death scene did tug at me a little. But while I understand his reasoning behind much of what he did in the comics and in the movie, he was just a hard character to sympathize with, and left me feeling like, in the end, his death was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.
Overall, this was an okay story. Not really the sensational arc I was expecting given how impressed I was with Under the Red Hood. I would like to say that I shouldn’t have set the standard for this so high after watching the movie, but I expected something on par with the movie, not a story that seemed amateurishly pieced together. I know some time had lasped between these comics and the movie, but I don’t think it was wrong for me to expect something much less clumsy.
Would I recommend this story to people? Yes and no. I’m a bit split. I think it is important for the impact that it had on Batman, but the writing is rickety and distracting.