Batman 40 variant cover

Batman #40 Review – A Chilling End

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If you’re like me or anybody else who has ever picked up a Batman comic in the New 52, then you know first hand just exactly how fantastic the creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are when it comes to arguably DC’s most successful New 52 comic. When I woke up this Wednesday morning, I immediately went to pick up the newest issue which also happens to be the thrilling conclusion to what I believe is one of the best Joker stories of all time: Endgame.

THE STORY SO FAR:

I’d like to first talk about the story. Endgame began in kind of a weird fashion, with DC keeping it close to the vest that it had anything to do with the Joker until the first issue released. Even then you had to wonder if the clown prince of crime was truly back or if it was some sort ruse from one of Batman’s many other villains as you never know what to expect when it comes to Scott Snyder.

As it moved into the second issue of the arc, the Joker’s presence was confirmed when he revealed himself to have been impersonating a doctor at Arkham Asylum since all the way back in Batman Annual #2. His chilling reveal with Greg Capullo’s new look for him (including a face) rocked the issue, terrifying the readers. It was obvious even the Joker wasn’t joking around anymore and was looking for blood.

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Throughout the course of the next few issues leading up to #40, the clown prince of crime infected the entirety of Gotham with his newly designed Joker Toxin. We knew something with the Joker was very different as Commissioner Gordon managed to shoot him point blank but he still rose back up to take an axe to everybody’s favorite mustached cop. He even ventured deep into the Batcave to cut off poor Alfred Pennyworth’s hand (alert The Governor, there’s a new sheriff in town). It was then discovered by Alfred’s daughter Julia that it was entirely possible that the Joker was not finding some way to heal himself, but was perhaps some sort of god called The Pale Man, a figure spotted in various events throughout history, which Batman of course refused to believe.

The Dark Knight did the unexpected when he recruited not only the members of his Bat Family to join the epic battle for Gotham against the Joker, but also a large chunk of those in his rogues gallery. That cliffhanger brought us right into issue #40 which had a very delayed release. We found out the day it dropped that it was well worth the wait, however.

BATMAN #40

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Issue #40 began with one of Scott Snyder’s famous Batman monologues. In this one he talked about how he blames himself for creating the Joker, how it’s almost as if every time his mind goes back to that moment the leader of the Red Hood gang fell into the vat of acid and became the Joker, he’s laughing at Batman. It’s almost as if even that moment he lost his grip was just a big joke to him. Batman talks about how that moment so many years ago lead to this final showdown.

The members of the Bat Family and Batman’s rogue gallery are shown coming together in Gotham to fight off the Jokerized citizens. We immediately begin to appreciate the phenomenal art of Greg Capullo and the beautiful detail he puts into every panel. It’s obvious there was a huge amount of care put into this comic.

As Batman’s allies, trusted and not quite as trusted, fight off those infected with the new Joker toxin, Batman himself makes his way up to the Joker, who is currently dancing on top of a T-Rex. Joker spots Batman and tries to kick him off, but Batman evades by doing some graceful spin flips up to the top with him.

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The Joker manages to best Batman with some sort of… device? I guess? It created a piercing laughter that incapacitated the Bat family and its allies before Joker unleashed a poisonous gas to kill everyone in the area. He then shows Batman the tunnels where his bombs are set and proceeds to pull off the caped crusader’s cowl only to reveal what many Batman fans have longed to see since the start of the New 52, Dick Grayson as Batman. Now the super cool spin flips onto the dinosaur make more sense.

The story then takes us to the caves underneath Gotham where the real Bruce Wayne is searching for Joker’s dionesium (the liquid that has managed to make him somewhat immortal throughout the story arc). We read another wonderful monologue by Scott Snyder before Batman finally finds it.

A bomb goes off in the cave, and Batman hurries to get a sample so he can analyze it and save the citizens of Gotham from the threat of Joker’s new toxin. As he does so, the clown prince of crime sneaks up on our hero and manages to stab him. Then ensues what I believe is probably one of the most ferocious battles between Batman and the Joker leaving our caped crusader a bloody mess (two knives in his back with a cut to make a smiley face, a weaponized playing card stabbed into his eye, several other stab wounds, and a sizable burn on his face). It wouldn’t be Batman though if he didn’t beat the absolute living crap out of the bad guy though, so he definitely got in enough shots of his own, turning the tables on the laughing man.

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Batman hits the Joker with an immune-response blocker, officially ending Joker’s healing powers (unless, of course, he is the god-like person he’s claimed to be this whole story). Just when you think Joker’s got him, a stalagmite (stalactite? I always get those confused) falls and crashes into the Joker snapping his spine in two. He goes for the dionesium, but of course Batman won’t allow it and pins a whimpering Joker to the ground. It was incredibly interesting to see the Joker all but begging for his life.

Batman orders Julia to pull the sample up and leave him and the Joker behind as there was no other way. She reluctantly abides and pulls it up, leaving Bruce and his worst enemy (who at the moment he calls his friend) to be crushed by the collapsing cave, a sacrifice he’s completely willing to make.

We’re then taken to a Julia in a hospital room with Alfred. She tells him the doctors can reattach his hand, but he refuses saying: “There’s no one to mend anymore.” A line that just crushed every reader’s heart. Julia then reveals a note Bruce left behind and how she found it cryptic. Alfred goes into a Scott Snyder monologue talking about something we’ve all known deep down, but never like to admit… the story of Batman is a tragedy. He could live forever, but Bruce doesn’t want to. Bruce wants death to be possible, that’s what makes him mortal. Bruce always says to live bravely in the time you have and smile at the void. And that’s why Batman’s last message will always be… “HA.”

VERDICT

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Endgame technically began in issue #35, but in reality, it began in issue #13, the beginning of Death of the Family, weaved through Zero Year, and ended up where we’re at now. The events of that arc brought the Joker to where he was in this story. It was clear this entire thing was perfectly thought out by Scott Snyder, making sure every detail came full circle and tied together in a neat (yet crazy) little bow. This chilling ending with Bruce Wayne supposedly dying along with the Joker was truly the only way to end this story. Batman’s story all but began with him in Zero Year, and so it makes sense that their stories end here too.

I personally was absolutely captivated by this issue. The fight scenes were excellent, the dialogue was perfect. Scott Snyder has a gift when it comes to compelling story telling in the way he creates a deeper meaning for everything, yet not too much that it would become tiring. The beautiful monologues he gives us always serve to tie the story together.

When it comes to the art of the issue, you really can’t ask for much more than Greg Capullo’s phenomenal pencilling. The inking and coloring are pristine and it’s obvious that Capullo trusts in his art team, a thing that always serves to make the art even better. The attention to detail and beauty of Capullo’s style make any story from Scott Snyder that much better.

Endgame was an incredible story with an even better ending. The delayed release was well worth the wait. The way Snyder creates a deeper meaning drives the story home, and Greg Capullo and his art team bring the story to life. I was in love with this issue only a page in, and I recommend not only Endgame, but the entirety of Snyder and Capullo’s run on Batman to anybody.

Issue #40 was a perfect and beautiful ending to their story of the Joker and you can’t ask for much more, which is why I give this issue a 10,000/10. (Oops, they’re telling me that’s not possible, I’ll just give it a 10/10).

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Matthew Dixon Comics
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