The Joker has had a long history of messed up moments in DC Comics, but his actions in the Death of the Family storyline are not for squeamish readers. Throughout his tenure as the number one foe of the Dark Knight, the Joker has paralyzed Barbara Gordon, taken out Jason Todd, and made Batman relive his parents' demise, but that all pales in comparison to the vile antics he gets up to in this book.
This book is full of truly creepy instances, and the most messed up moments from the Death of the Family story arc are guaranteed to break your heart or make you cringe. From the bleak pronouncements that Joker makes to the truly bizarre and surreal scenes of the comic, this Batman story will make you laugh and make you cry. Hopefully, however, it won’t make you want to wear your own face as a mask.
After injecting Commissioner Gordon with blood thinner, taking out a horse, and hitting Alfred with a hammer, it's clear there's nothing the Joker won't do - or so Batman thinks. Mr. J's final send off to the Dark Knight is to present him with a dinner where he serves each member of the Bat-Family their own faces over ice.
The scene is brutal. Every member of Batman's crew is brought to the table wrapped in bandages, they each mention that they've gone numb. When they see what Joker's serving them, they all freak out, but it's a goof. Joker's plan wasn't to take off their faces, but to poison them with Joker toxin and make them fight Batman. The sight of the Bat-Family wrapped in bandages is hard to unsee, especially the young Damian Wayne.
The creatives behind this story get a lot of mileage out of Joker attacking Alfred with a hammer. Before anyone knows what Joker's really up to, he sneaks into Wayne Manor and forces Alfred into submission with a clawed hammer, but that's not the last the readers see of the hammer. The final pages take place in the dreams of everyone sleeping in Wayne Manor. Bruce dreams of his parents, Damian dreams cryptic messages about his future and his present, and Alfred dreams of the Joker.
After being forced to serve the Joker while under the hold of his gas, Alfred is understandably suffering from PTSD, and he also has a revenge fantasy to work out. In Alfred's dream, he's chased by a maniacal, hammer-wielding Joker who's just used the implement on every other member of the Bat-Family. That leaves Pennyworth to stop the mad clown.
The butler doesn't back down, and instead blasts Joker's head into the next county. It's a gruesome way to end the comic, but it does send everyone home with a small bit of satisfaction.
By the time Joker shows up in Death of the Family, he's already wearing his face as a mask. To find the gory details of how that happened, you have to go back to New 52's Detective Comics #1. More so than any other comic, this issue tees up the events of the story arc in question, and it explains what happened to Joker's face.
In Detective Comics #1 Batman chases the Joker down after he wipes out an apartment building, offing an entire SWAT team in the process. He's tossed into Arkham Asylum and wakes up to Dollmaker entering his cell and slicing his face off - just as Joker planned. Dollmaker pins the skin to the wall and releases Joker onto the streets of Gotham where he disappears for an entire year.
It's bad enough that Joker's wearing his own face as a mask, but knowing he orchestrated the events of Issue #1 - which led to the demise of multiple people - all so Dollmaker would take his face off, adds a new level of horror to Joker's character.
While Batman is patrolling Gotham, Joker takes his butler Alfred hostage and leaves the Dark Knight a present. Wrapped in purple paper, Batman finds a cassette tape with recordings of Alfred screaming in agony as Joker pours ammonia in his eyes. This isn't just Batman's butler - it's his oldest friend. He smashes his stereo and commits himself to finding Joker - but that's not the last readers see of the ammonia trick.
Throughout the story, Joker attempts to prove that the members of Batman's ever-growing entourage - Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, etc. - are making him soft. One by one, they try to track down the Joker to bring an end to his reign of terror. Bruce's son, Damian Wayne, who fights crime under the name of Robin, tracks Joker to the Gotham Zoo, where Robin ends up trapped in a giant egg.
After breaking out of the egg, Robin is hung from a chain inside a birdcage, where Joker plays a video of himself pouring ammonia over Alfred's eyes. Supposedly, Alfred's already been blinded by the chemical but Joker continues to inflict pain.