You know I was trying to think of who this Joker reminded me of. During the opening scene it hit me: Gollum. He just doesn't feel like the same Joker and that's saying something for a character I previously thought was impossible to write out of character. Since I already read RHATO #17 I know that no one loses a face (well at least in this.) So there wasn't any punch in the "reveal." Batmans' threats just sound weak especially since we know he'll never do anything to the clown. Why is he even surprised that Joker acts like a monster? I mean "How could you?!" Seriously? This is the same guy that already harmed two people at the table and he thinks that Joker wouldn't remove someone's face if he was in the wrong mood? The reason for Joker removing his own face is just weak, so much so I'm not surprised if anyone missed it. Since Joker never takes off his face mask he can't show Batman anything anyway so it's a moot point.
His no kill policy is because "Gotham will send someone worse"? That has to be the weakest reasoning I ever heard and if Jokers' victims could hear it they'd be rightfully pissed. Batman is supposed to prey on the superstitious not be one of them. The whole love theme between Joker and Batman, at least Jokers' view on it makes me roll my eyes. Yes it's been done before but that was more subtle than how Snyder wrote it. This is just awkward and sounds like Snyder really wanted to write a different kind of story.
Looking back this arc just wasn't that great. I'm embarrassed to have been taken in by the hype but I know why I was. Not because I think Snyder is the greatest writer ever. I can't think of a single writer that's perfect. No, the reason I was looking forward to this was the interactions in the family. I never wanted or expected anyone to die in this arc. At most I thought Alfred would get hurt. That's it. What I wanted was a story that I could get emotionally invested in. To see these characters struggle but care deeply for one another. Bruce says that these people make him stronger but that's the problem, it's said not shown. He may have good reasons for keeping secrets from them but he comes off arrogant, absurdly so since he endangered Dick just to prove a theory with the Joker. Other than Alfred the only members he seems close to are Dick and Damian everyone else is just there as window dressing adding nothing of value. Considering who two of those other characters are and their relationship with Joker that's kind of mind blowing.
Neither Barbara or Jason make mention of their own past with Joker. Other than some off hand references to DITF no one brings it up either. How do you do that? We're meant to believe that when the Joker returns and threatens them none of them feel like pointing this out? Talk about missed chances. It would have added to the tension plus no one that's new to Batman would get the nods to past stories. They'd just think Joker was rambling nonsense. There was just too much build up and pointless filler of him killing random people. The addition of the other rogues was pointless. I would have liked this to focus on the actual family. I mean I disliked Death in the Family but at least the focus stayed on Jason, Bruce and Joker for the most part. I find it hard to buy this group of people were ever close in the relaunch. In one issue Lobdell was able to show what Jasons' relationship was like with four different members not including his two friends. Batman 15 had Bruce act pissy and most of them doubting him. This issue doesn't do much better with depth.
Joker says he made a new gas, so why does Batman assume his family will overcome it? This is a man of science saying that he's putting his faith in them against an unknown factor. How is the power of love able to beat it? The reason everyone's mad happens off panel which makes it fall flat. I enjoyed the tie ins more than the main arc, especially Batman and Robin. This was such a disappointment.
I get the impression that Jasons' bandaids stayed on, and Capullo didn't show his "face", because Jason doesn't usually wears a mask under the hood. Not much anyway, the RHATO tie ins ended up changing the art to include a mask because of how this book ends. Capullo did a great job, my favorite part being the details he put into the scenes with the bat kids and Alfred.