Best Shots Review: BATMAN #40

'Batman #40' preview
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Batman #40
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and Fco Plascencia
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Batman #40.

There's been an intense, visceral quality to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman since their relaunch of the series 40 issues ago, whether it was the bloody war against the Court of Owls or the sheer destruction that took place during "Zero Year." But Snyder and Capullo have one-upped themselves with the conclusion of Endgame, pitting Batman and the Joker against one another in vicious mortal combat. To that end, you'll likely find plenty of reasons to cheer for this brutal fight comic, even if the actual conclusion feels a little overdone.

What's perhaps most surprising about this final issue is that based on the previous few issues, it's actually a lot more intimate than what Scott Snyder had been telegraphing. While Snyder opens the issue with the team-up of the Bat-Family and Gotham's rogues gallery, it very quickly shifts to a much more tightly focused battle: the Dark Knight versus the Clown Prince of Crime. As these two long-time foes circle one another in a dark cave, Snyder goes a bloody place they haven't really seen since the twisting and turning battle between Batman and Talon, way back in the opening arc of the series. There's a real personal nature to this script, as Snyder makes it clear that Batman and the Joker know each other deeply and intimately - it's a hatred that feels less like the bitterest of enemies, but almost like a betrayed friend.

But with the inevitable fisticuffs that follow, it's clear that the real hero of this endgame has to be Greg Capullo. It's pretty incredible the amount of punishment he's able to portray Batman enduring, as he goes head-to-head with the Clown Price of Crime - he even channels his inner Frank Miller a bit, giving a nice spin on The Dark Knight Returns, as Batman is half-blinded with a playing card stuck in one of his eyes. (There's also a great bit that Snyder and Capullo deliver, where the Joker carves a smiley face into Batman's back.) Covered in blood and jerking around like broken puppets, you can feel how much pain these two are in - considering how all-powerful Batman is often portrayed, it's been a staple of Snyder and Capullo's storytelling to show that on the contrary, this is a guy who can (and often does) take a punch. FCO Plascencia's garish colors also wind up working for this story, as the bright bursts of pinks, oranges and yellows shows that we're all trapped in the Joker's funhouse mirror world.

That said, while this is an engaging, powerful book, it's not perfect. There are a few jumps in logic here - particularly how the Joker could go from the center of Gotham to a remote cave a thousand feet underground in a matter of minutes, so he can switch off from fighting the Bat-Family to fighting the Dark Knight himself. (Indeed, there's a bit involving some poison gas that doesn't quite connect, feeling more like a cheap attempt to goose the tension by making it look like the Bat-Family is in peril.) The other issue is less the fault of Snyder and Capullo, and more of a symptom of an industry as a whole: namely, the cliffhanger ending for Batman and the Joker. It's a bit heartfelt - you really and truly believe that this might be it for the Batman - but it's also something we've seen time and time again, whether it's the recent "death" of Oliver Queen in Arrow or even the "resurrection" of Bruce Wayne following Final Crisis. It's a trope we've seen to the point of overuse, and while it's no fault of the creators, you can't help but remember all the other times we've seen this happen.

Still, as far as conclusions go, Snyder and Capullo promised we'd see some fireworks - they just didn't mention how gut-wrenching they'd look. The finale of Endgame is violent and intimate, a raising of the stakes of what was set up years ago with Death of the Family. It's painful, like all good drama, and it absolutely sets up some new directions with the Batman books that could have some great potential. While there are a few bumps that keep this issue from perfection, I'd still say this is the best conclusion Snyder and Capullo have done since the Court of Owls.

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