Countdown to Batman Vs. Superman: A Death in the Family (Comic Review)


In the days leading up to Batman Vs. Superman, some of us here at whysoblu wanted to discuss our favorite Batman and Superman comics to recognize and appreciate the storied history of these characters. So without further ado…

A Death in the Family, written by Jim Starlin (Infinity Gauntlet), and illustrated by Jim Aparo (House of Mystery) was my first trade paperback, so needless to say I read it like a thousand times. Sometimes I would re-read certain pages, or even panels, because they were so powerful, and I just wanted to experience them again and again. The trade paperback format would come to be a major factor in the comic industry, but these single issue originally came out in 1988 and 1989, and at that time there weren’t nearly as many trades available. To have one was to have a real treat, and I made sure to capitalize on that. I’m not exaggerating when I say this book was on my bedside table for probably two years. So what (besides having it collected) was so good about it? A great many things.

This book centers itself around the death of Batman’s second Robin, Jason Todd. Bruce’s first Robin was Dick Grayson, who graduated himself, and became Nightwing, a hero in his own right. But Batman still needed a Robin. Cue Jason Todd. Todd’s character was strikingly different than Dick Grayson’s. Where Grayson was a gifted acrobat with years of training and a loving family, Todd grew up on the mean streets of Gotham. His parents gone, he had to fend for himself, and resorted to an early life of crime. While the differences between these two Robin’s is stark, they did fulfill the same role for Batman. They gave him a ward to train, whether it was to have a replacement should the worst happen to the Bat, or darker still, as a contingency plan should Batman break bad, Robin is essential. Still, Todd was not the fan favorite that Grayson had been, perhaps because he was nowhere near the hero Grayson was, or maybe people just didn’t like seeing their original replaced. Regardless of the reason, his relative lack of ability and underwhelming fan reaction resulted in an unprecedented and fantastic marketing move by DC. They let the fans decide his fate.


DC asked the readers whether or not Robin should die at the hands of the Joker, and the public answered. There was a phone number fans could call to cast there vote. The votes were counted, and Jason Todd died shortly thereafter. And here’s the thing: Batman doesn’t really deal with losing loved ones very well. This book hits a lot of the best beats about Batman. It’s absolutely dark and brooding. It has its action packed moments. More than anything, though, it’s emotional. It follows Batman trying to deal with his guilt of failing Robin. It tears him apart inside, distracts him, it nearly overwhelms him. Plus, of course, Batman knows that the Joker was responsible, just as the Joker wanted, so there’s the drama of how Batman deals with that. The best part, by my reckoning, is that this is exactly the reaction the Joker was looking for. He has insights into the psyche of Batman that few others can ever hope for, which he expertly utilizes to torment and manipulate this hero who can usually dispatch all kinds of villains with relative ease. It’s yet another highlight moment for any Joker fan.

Long after this story was published, Jason Todd did in fact return, as comic characters are wont to do, but he wasn’t the same as before. There’s plenty of history to discuss after A Death in the Family, but for now, suffice it to say this event had long lasting and severe repercussions to all involved.

The writing is top notch. The art, while great for it’s time, is a bit dated. For that reason, I give this book a solid 4, and will always cherish it as a quintessential Batman book.









1 Response to “Countdown to Batman Vs. Superman: A Death in the Family (Comic Review)”

  1. bryan

    This was my first batman comic (I was a marvel kid before), and so much about this is coming back to me by reading your review. My parents wouldn’t let me call the 900 number to vote. The Mignola covers. The price of these issues going way up… I think this is the story that turned me from a comic reader to a comic collector.