Endgame was billed as the ultimate “Batman vs. Joker” story and mostly hit its mark. The arc is now available in collected edition.

Image provided by Amazon/DC Comics

Endgame starts with several of Batman’s Justice League colleagues attacking him with intent to kill. Batman dons a special suit designed to fight them, but when a possessed Superman attacks, it taxes Batman to his limit. Batman realizes Joker has co-opted his friends. The villain reveals himself fairly quickly, having hid “in plain sight” for months.

Joker unleashes a new version of his Joker virus that drives Gotham City insane while slowly killing them. Batman and his allies scramble for a cure, identifying an element in the virus that only Joker can provide. Along the way, they uncover evidence suggesting that Joker has been in Gotham a lot longer than anyone thought, finding traces of him going back more than a century.

When Joker uses key incidents from Bruce Wayne’s past against Batman, the hero realizes how thoroughly Joker has penetrated his life. Batman is forced to deal with various of his enemies in an attempt to stop Joker. A melee in the streets of Gotham ends with a climactic Batman/Joker showdown in a collapsing subterranean cavern, where Batman apparently sacrifices himself to secure the cure.

In Endgame, Scott Snyder unites elements from three years of Batman stories to support his epic showdown. It’s ambitious storytelling that pays off Snyder’s long-term plotting in many ways. But more than the fanboy-baiting “Batman/Joker showdown” concept, Endgame is an exploration of Batman’s relationships. The paranoia about his closest allies drove him to develop a suit to fight them. The complex bond between Bruce Wayne and Alfred. The importance of the extended Bat-family, but also the Bat-villains. And of course, the twisted primal bond between Batman and Joker.

Image provided by Amazon/DC Comics

Snyder explores the concept of Batman and Joker as urban archetypes. Batman as the city’s dark savior is well-worn territory, but viewing him through the lens of his connection to Joker puts a feverish spin on it. Joker as some kind of avatar of insanity is also an idea that’s been played with before. Snyder twists that by suggesting Joker himself has been around for possibly a couple centuries, pulling in villains like Ra’s Al-Ghul and Vandal Savage to bolster the mythology behind the idea. But then Snyder deliberately casts doubt on the “immortal Joker” premise, either leaving room for a future story or hedging due to anticipated fan antipathy toward the idea.

In any event, Endgame winds up a well-plotted, action-heavy story that shows that’s a compelling character showcase for Batman. It’s strong work from Snyder.

Since the New 52 Batman relaunch, the art team of Greg Capullo (pencils), Dany Miki (inks) and FCO Plascencia (colors) has been one of the best around. The team goes big on Endgame, packing in smart details to their strongly crafted pages. The fight scene with Superman is kinetic and edgy, the revelation of the Joker packs a spooky punch, a variety of nightmarish scenarios are packed with fiendish invention and the scenes of urban mayhem are frenzied in the best way. The color work especially sells the mood and drama of the scenes, shifting from the crisp, bright tones of the Justice League fight, to a phantasm of colors, shades and shadows that power transitions from one scene to another. The art is thoughtful and beautiful, avoiding unnecessarily tricksy page layouts in favor of maximizing the impact of the story’s drama. It’s first rate visual work.

Endgame is a strong chapter in the Snyder/Capullo Batman run. It has more impact if you’ve read their previous arcs, but even without that background, the story stands well on its own.

Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on September 25, 2015.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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