Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
You can’t keep a good clown down. And now that he’s back, it seems that the jokes are over - and everything and everyone is in danger. The Joker has always been one of those characters that had become dangerously close to being overexposed, much like the DC villain version of Wolverine. Before Scott Snyder’s tremendous Death of the Family, the Joker had been smartly shelved in order to let other, newer Gotham rogues take the spotlight. Now, with Endgame, Snyder and Team Batman are giving us another effectively creepy Joker story that cuts right to the heart of the character, stripping away all the puns and trappings of previous incarnations. While the Joker of Death of the Family wanted to serve his once and future Bat King, the Joker of Endgame is after one thing and one thing only: he wants to show Batman who he truly is, and that may spell the end for the Dark Knight and Gotham City.
Batman #36 tosses readers headlong into the fray of the battle between the mech-suited Batman and the Joker-ized Superman, which may be one of the more terrifying things that Greg Capullo has drawn yet. As Bruce desperately tries to reason with his comrade, to no avail, he realizes that this isn’t like a normal scrap that team-up books seem to thrive on. This is a fight for his life, so he adjusts accordingly. Scott Snyder’s Batman has been a rock-solid take on the character thanks largely to his dense, yet crackling narration, but here, when faced with his own demise at the hands of his best friend, Snyder’s Batman becomes almost feral in his struggles. Snyder even gives us two fantastically inspired examples of Bruce’s meticulous anti-Superman plans in the form of concentrated red suns in the gauntlets of his mech-suit and a pellet of “Kryptonite gum” that he keeps hidden in his cowl. While Bruce may think that a battle between them may not have a clear winner, Scott Snyder seems to think that Bats will always come out on top, and after Batman #36's earth-shaking opening, I am inclined to agree with him.
Another staple of Snyder’s take on the character, and one used to great effect here in Issue #36, is the quiet, investigative moments, in Bruce’s life. After subduing Superman, Bruce takes a moment to reevaluate what just happened, piecing together the puzzle with Alfred and his daughter. Snyder has been one of the few writers in recent years to heavily emphasize the detective aspects of Batman as well as the high action of his exploits, and while the bombast is always fun, it is these quiet, reflective moments for Bruce and the larger cast that keep me coming back to his work on the character. Of course, it is fun to watch Batman cut a swath through the superstitious and cowardly lots of Gotham, but Snyder never once lets the audience forget that he, above all, is a man underneath all the cape and Kevlar. Bruce’s scenes with Alfred and Julia highlight the concerned softer side of Bruce, while never being cloying or ham-fisted. These scenes also highlight just why we love Alfred and why readers have gravitated toward Julia. Both are fiercely loyal and steadfast in their support of Bruce, even though they are fully aware of the danger that this puts them in. No man is an island, especially Batman, and thankfully Scott Snyder surrounds him with compelling characters with real human motivations behind them.
To discuss the rest of the issue would be to spoil one of Snyder’s most pointedly creepy reveals, so I will spare you and allow you to experience it for yourself, but I will say that the ending of Batman #36 is yet another example of Snyder’s natural ability for rising action. Time and time again, throughout a myriad of titles, Snyder has set readers down a path that we thought was safe only to slowly ramp up the creepiness or stakes in a slow, deliberate way only to slam the door of the plot shut with a mighty authority. Batman #36 is one more in a long line of these endings. Some might argue that this may be a strike against the skill of the writer, or perhaps a troupe that could be telegraphed from a mile away, but I would wholeheartedly disagree. Writers employ devices like this time and time again, and if I’m being honest, this sort of rising ending is something that I’ve come to expect and love from Snyder. Few writers truly land cliffhangers like the one contained in Batman #36 but Snyder does it with flair and he will again, I’m sure.
Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia continue to give Batman a blockbuster look that you can only see in comics. Special effects and CGI have nothing on the pencils of Capullo or the colors of Plascencia, as Batman #36 has a look and layout that puts most of Hollywood’s recent offering to shame. The opening fight scene is a tour de force of expression and scene construction, all topped off with a hefty dose of ruthlessness. Capullo’s pages are so full of little details that I’m sure I missed something through my first reads of the issue, and will find plenty more once I revisit it later on. Capullo also sells the absolute hell out of the stakes and close proximity of the Superman/Batman fight as they crash through buildings and lock horns high in the skies about Gotham. As they grapple in the beginning, Capullo stages the scenes in tight close ups of Batman’s weapons as well as Clark moving in for the kill, but as they battle into the streets and later the skies, Capullo pulls out into wider, more inclusive panels as well as long, vertical panels as they soar straight up, still locked in mortal combat. FCO Plascencia drenches each page of Batman #36 is rich, pulsing colors that gives it a sheen that is mostly found in huge events. Batman, issue after issue, always looks like it would cost a billion dollars to film, and Issue #36 is no exception.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and in regards to the Joker, they are 100% correct. After a lengthy absence, Scott Snyder and Team Batman have brought the Joker back once again and broken loose all manner of hell in Gotham City. Scary movies get less scary every time you watch them because you come to expect every jump and every gag. With Batman #36, Snyder and his team have given us the truly unexpected. We don’t know what jumps are coming next. We can’t even begin to know all the punchlines. The Joker is once again a character that we can expect anything and everything from. Scott Snyder has thrown him back into the darkness and maybe even he doesn’t know what exactly came out. That is most frightening thing of all. The Joker may have been a cuddly punchline before Endgame, but now, he’s back where he belongs - in our nightmares.