My jaw dropped. I’m not guaranteeing that your jaw will drop when you read Batman #38, I’m just saying that mine did. I’ve read every issue of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run, and this is easily one of the best.
The Joker has poisoned Gotham city! Wait, you’ve seen all that before, right? No, you haven’t, not like this. If you read “Death of the Family,” or just about anything of Snyder’s other work like The Wake or American Vampire, you might have noticed Snyder’s obsession with trying to make scary comics. It’s a hard feat to pull off in a medium where the format prevents building tension simply in the physical way it’s laid out. It’s not impossible to do, but Snyder and Capullo have been mastering the technique over the course of the four years they’ve been working on Batman.
While the intent of “Death of the Family” was to make the Joker scary again, and while I enjoyed that story arc, I never quite felt the level of terror I thought they were shooting for. In “Endgame,” however, I do feel terrified of the Joker. The Joker is always being reinvented in some way, but in this case, it’s a transformation that I don’t recall ever seeing before.
“Zero Year” and “Court of Owls” were tough times for ol’ Bats, both physically and mentally. So far in “Endgame,” despite taking on the entire Justice League, getting gassed by the Joker, and having to constantly run from a Gotham-load of Joker-zombified citizens, Batman has avoided taking a lot of physical damage so far. And yet, the new status quo of the Clown Prince of Crime has left Bruce completely at a loss as to how to beat him. It’s a defeat we rarely see in a Batman story.
It’s so rare, in fact, that even the New 52’s Crazy Quilt – who is introduced in this very comic – even says out loud that it doesn’t feel like a Batman story anymore. He’s right. It does feel like something different.
The story is truly a page-turner. It is one of the more exciting comics I’ve read this year so far, and I wouldn’t say it was action-heavy, but it does balance out suspense, shock, and action and still manages to push the plot forward. “Endgame” is hurtling towards quite a climax and Snyder isn’t even thinking about taking his foot off the gas now.
I can’t say much about the plot itself without giving away a lot of spoilers, and the nature of the narrative is such that no one besides the Joker is really certain about what’s really happening anyway. Just trust me and read it for yourself.
The art is fantastic as always, and I caught some more subtle references to Dark Knight Returns in this issue, just as there were in “Zero Year”. Particularly when Batman drives a tank. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler.)