Before I get into the review, a funny story about picking this comic up. The local comic shop owner was talking with another customer about Batman: Eternal and how he’s starting to get a bit exhausted over the weekly releases. He also almost dropped it because it delves into the horror side of Gotham City, and he’s never been a fan of horror. I mentioned how I’m planning to wait until the story is over and then maybe read it in trade, and then I almost bought this week’s Batman Eternal by accident. That would have been a confusing read.
Batman 39 is insane in the best way possible. In the fifth chapter in the Endgame storyline, the Joker brings a whole new level of chaos for Gotham city. He’s infected pretty much everyone with a virus that not only infects their personalities with his own, but it will kill them within 24 hours if no cure is found. Several of Batman’s closest allies have been infected and many civilians have already been slaughtered. With time running out, Bruce Wayne is forced to approach some of his most notorious enemies for help, including the Court of Owls.
This is a brutal arc, emphasised with Jim Gordon being infected last issue and more importantly, this issue’s Batcave scene. Without spoiling what happens, let’s say it’s gut wrenching. Even with everything going on, there’s still room for both world building and further exploring the mystery behind the Joker’s identity. Whether intentional or not, the parade he throws is a nice throwback to Tim Burton’s first Batman movie. Previous issues suggested that the Joker is much older than previously thought, which only makes this story arc all the more epic and creepy.
The art by Greg Capullo is great. The court’s lair is complete with dark chambers, smooth stones and a large model of Gotham City. After Batman smashes through a wall, the debris on the ground remains consistent and even factors into his fight against a particularly old assassin. The city is complete with its darkened city scape, smoke from the battles and even an upside down bat symbol in the sky. The spread of the parade is particularly fantastic with bizarre floats, creepy balloons and hundreds of gathered infected people. And of course, the facial expressions perfectly capture the Joker’s joyful sadism whenever he’s on panel.
The backup story, written by James Tynion IV and drawn by Dustin Nguyen further explores the Joker’s motivations through a bunch of characters investigating him. Discovering the Joker’s true identity is a major part of Endgame, and this backup story gives us a red herring that we all see coming, but that’s part of the fun. Not only that, but it tells a small scale version of this huge situation, focusing on individual civilians terrorized by the Joker’s methods.
If this isn’t the Joker at his best, I’m not sure what is. Batman: Endgame is intense in more ways than one, showcasing both the Joker’s intelligence and cruelty. When Batman must resort to a plan even he admits is bad, you know the situation is serious. My favourite comic of the week is between this, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 43 and Spider-Gwen 1; it’s hard to pick between them. Even if you’re not a regular Batman reader, Snyder’s Endgame storyline should be read by anyone who likes either Batman or the Joker.