Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciller: Greg Capullo
Collects Batman #35-40
This is how it happened. This is how The Batman (we’ve known since 2011) died.
Batman and The Joker have what is arguably the biggest rivalry in comics. The same could be said for pop culture in general. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo know this. The conundrum that faced them was how to tell that story in a way that hasn’t been captured in the last three quarters of a century. They capably solved that problem. Twice.
The first came in the form of Batman Vol. 3: Death of The Family, a rather horrific love story – at least what Joker would consider a love story. In that story arc, he tried to show Batman why he was the only one who truly cared about the Dark Knight and the rest of the Bat-family was dragging him down, to make a long story short. Endgame differs greatly because the “friend” has now turned enemy. If their last encounter was The Joker showing his love for Batman, how warped will it be now that he hates him?
The Joker, complete with a new face, puts his deadly plan into action by first infecting the Justice League and later Gotham City as a whole with a seemingly unstoppable new strain of virus. Poor Batman is just beginning to acclimate to a post Eternal life and now he has to deal with this? At least the reader benefits because it results in one of the more interesting Batman/ Superman fights you will ever see. It’s around this point in the book when The Joker is revealed to be the villain, something that was a tightly kept secret when this was originally ongoing in the monthly Batman series. However, when he actually shows up in the flesh, that reveal is downright ingenious (I’m glad you incorporated my first name, Mr. Snyder!).
The key to stopping the virus brings me to something that I’m highly indifferent about: dionesium, an archaic chemical that Joker alleges has kept him alive for centuries. Sure, we have characters like Vandal Savage and Ra’s al Ghul running around the DCU (both of which are mentioned), but I’m uncomfortable with the idea of Mr. J being an immortal. It’s mostly left ambiguous and it seems like Batman exposes it as a lie toward the end. Let’s just say that I REALLY hope Joker was lying as he so often does. Seeing Batman trying to disprove the notion throughout the story is one of the several qualities that makes this installment a real page-turner.
A plot so heinous and grandiose forces Batman to make some unsavory allies in such a desperate time. He first approaches the Court of Owls, which doesn’t go so well. Luckily he has the Bat-family to back him up – as well as several of his deadliest adversaries – in a final act that sees Joker throw a macabre parade. However, I don’t think Prince would be blasting from speakers this time around. Perhaps “Testure” by Skinny Puppy would be a better fit.
I’ll just say this about the very bloody showdown near the book’s conclusion: it’s a terrific in continuity finale to the Batman-Joker rivalry and the outcome is exactly what it appears to be. I guess we will further discuss this whenever I eventually review the eighth volume. As wonderful as this story is, part of me wonders if it’s still too soon to tell a story like this when Batman: RIP is still such a fresh memory.
Regardless of any questions I may have, I give a high recommendation for this volume. Snyder and Capullo really brought their A-Game (let’s not forget FCO Plascencia’s dynamic color palette) to a story that really could have worked as a finale for their run on Batman – but isn’t. This probably isn’t my favorite story arc of said run, although it may be the most well-rounded read from start to finish.