Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been uncommonly quiet while promoting Batman: Endgame, the creative team's promised epic storyline that begins with this week's Batman #35.
As Snyder told Newsarama recently, ""With Endgame, it's built so that you realize how big the story is going to be when Batman does. You feel it with him, so that you're as terrified as he is of what's coming."
But today, Batman — and fans — found out what's coming. The issue not only reveals the world of Batman after the conclusion of the current story in Batman Eternal, but the final pages also unveil Endgame's threat.
And this villain will surely be the story's main attraction.
[You sure you want to know?]
[We're not kidding. It's the whole surprise of the issue. So stop reading now and go read the issue if you don't want the ending spoiled.]
[Really, we'll wait…]
OKAY, SERIOUSLY: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the cover revealed, Bruce Wayne spends much of Batman #35 battling members of the Justice League, who attack him in Gotham City for unknown reasons. But the final pages show that the League is being controlled by none other than the Joker, and they're determined to kill Batman.
Most Batman fans have been bracing for the Joker's return since the conclusion of Snyder and Capullo's 2012 story arc "Death of the Family," which was the Joker's first major storyline in the New 52. In that story's final issue, Joker fell to what could have been his death (although, come on, this is comics… did anyone really think Joker died?)
Snyder has said during conventions that the Joker would return to Batman at some unknown point in the future. With Endgame, he and Capullo not only fulfill that promise, but also confirm that DC intends to finish out the 75th anniversary of Batman with a fitting flourish.
Besides the villain surprise, today's issue #35 also spoils some story points of Batman Eternal. Although we're still several months before the conclusion of the storyline in DC's weekly Batman Eternal (in March 2015), Batman #35's timeline has jumped ahead to the end of Eternal.
Some key post-Eternal points to notice in the issue: A new Batman headquarters in an old Court of Owls stronghold in Old Wayne Tower (on, perhaps ominously, the 13th floor); the presence of Julia Pennyworth, helping Batman out while her father Alfred recovers (from Hush's recent attack, which he apparently survives); the mention of a "bunker" in downtown Gotham, presumably underneath Wayne Tower, where all the old subway tunnels converge; and Bruce suffering from the after-effects of a fear toxin attack by the Scarecrow (using a new toxin).
The issue also includes, thanks to the fear toxin, one of Bruce's visions of how he will die, which explains the preview Capullo shared a few weeks back. The scene has an older, battered Batman fighting with Harper Row/Bluebird at his side and a new, motorcycle-riding character named Lark, who looks a lot like Duke Thomas (which echoes last month's depiction of him as the Futures End Robin, who also rode a motorcycle).
Batman #35 also includes a back-up story titled "The Paleman," which was written by James Tynion IV with art by Kelley Jones. The plot focuses on a group of escaped patients from Arkham Manor (the new location of Arkham Asylum being Wayne Manor after Eternal). Featuring a horror-style depiction of Joker's powers of mind control, the tale features a couple panels with the Joker tugging and pulling on his face (which was, in previous storylines, detached skin). Although one image of the villain looks to have his face restored, it's a stylized representation of a crazed inmate's memories, so it's not clear yet what the Joker's appearance will be in Endgame.
Look for more from Newsarama about this issue later Wednesday, including a discussion with Snyder about Joker's return for Batman: Endgame.