I would guess that one of the hardest things to do as a comic book writer is to continually top yourself. Somehow, Scott Snyder keeps managing to do just that over his run on Batman. For a story that starts with Batman fighting a drug-crazed Justice League, Snyder is able to find a way to make part 3 of “Endgame” even more intense.
Last issue left Bruce knocked out in a cell in Arkham, and he wakes up here to find that the Joker’s new super-strain of his toxin is spreading and turning people into what I’ll describe as Joker-zombies. The clock is ticking to find a cure before the authorities seal off Gotham with massive walls and all is lost. Batman believes that if he can find patient zero, he can manufacture a cure.
The pace picks up in this issue, and Greg Capullo’s layouts help drive the tempo. The whole issue builds and builds to a fever pitch, leaving off at a cliffhanger for next issue. The art is the same high quality it’s been for thirty-seven issues.
Every story arc by Snyder so far has seemed as though it would end with Gotham as a pile of smoldering ashes, and this one is no different. I makes you wonder why anyone still lives there. I’m still not entirely sure where he’s going with this new incarnation of the Joker. Does he want to make everyone a joker-zombie just so they all laugh at Batman? That wouldn’t be out of the question.
I have a theory as well, though it might be a little spoilery, so fair warning. At the beginning of this arc, we saw Bruce kept waking up from doomsday scenarios as a result of some kind of fear toxin. Are we absolutely certain he isn’t still being affected by it? There have already been a few instances of Brice losing time in this story, and it’s been almost exclusively from his point of view. It makes you think.
The one point against that theory, however, is the backup story about the Arkham inmates and their Joker stories. Dr. Mahreen Zaheer represents another point of view other than Bruce, and if she is experiencing the same thing, then it all being a hallucination or whatever goes out the window.
The art by John McCrea in the backup story is really creepy and works perfectly for the vignette. Now that we know the Joker’s secret identity, we can see just how much damage he was able to do to a lot of the Arkham inmates.
I can’t wait for the next issue. This is one of the best comics going right now, hands down.