Review by Paul Bowler
The Justice League has been infected by a new strain of the Joker’s toxin. Using his armoured Justice Buster suit, the Dark Knight fought back and defeated them. Now the Dark Knight must face Superman, but can even Batman’s skill and ingenuity be enough to defeat this maniacal version of the Man of Steel? The Joker has returned for one final game and Batman will need his closest allies during this darkest hour; as his quest to uncover the Joker’s plans leads the Dark Knight to a shadowy corner of the past infested with terror and madness…
Batman Endgame continues in Batman #36, the second instalment of Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s major story event for Batman’s 75th anniversary, and if your thought last issues smack down with the Justice League was epic, then you haven’t seen anything yet! Seconds out, this is round two, and its not just the fan boy dream showdown between Batman and Superman, its Batman vs. Superman by Snyder and Capullo firing on all cylinders in an issue that delivers waves of action-packed spectacle and dark anarchic horror that constantly wrong foots and defies any and all preconceptions that you might have had about this issue.
Yes, it’s a no holds barred, red knuckled free for all of a fight between Batman and Superman! The resolution of this titanic battle is, needless to say, ingeniously devised by Snyder and certainly gives us plenty to chew over for the next time we all have that inevitable discussion about who would win a fight between… Oh boy, the marketing possibilities here are mouth watering! Anyway, back to business Bat-Fans! With the Justice League out of action for the forcible, while the antitoxin Bruce devised to counteract this particularly nasty strain of Joker toxin takes effect, Alfred’s daughter, Julia, pledges to stay on and help as Penny Two. Her scenes with Bruce afford Snyder the chance to bring us further insight into the Joker’s warped psyche – but it is Alfred, still recovering from what happened to him in Batman Eternal, who gets the most rousing line of all as the Dark Knight prepares to assess the situation and deal with the Joker’s return.
Greg Capullo’s art for Batman #36 captures the frantic intensity of every moment in the ground-shaking confrontation between Batman and the Jokerized Man of Steel. You can almost feel the pages trembling as every thunderous punch shakes Gotham’s streets while the Justice Buster suit dukes it out with Superman. The suit still has one or two tricks up its sleeve; despite the pounding it’s taken. Superman’s heat vision also becomes a fearsome weapon, fuelled by the effects of the Joker toxin; it’s used here with devastating effect. Danny Miki’s inks really bring the kinetic fury of this battle to life, with buildings smashing apart, and your have a real sense of being at the heart of the battle. FCO Plascencia’s colors bring a vividly clarity to Batman’s crimson hued countermeasure, before we explode into daylight and the carnage thunders towards its surprise conclusion.
Right from the opening page, with its throwback to the nightmarish hallucinogenic trip Batman was enduring thanks to Scarecrow’s fear toxin that he was recovering from last issue, there is a hint that something far more horrific awaits the Dark Knight as Part 2 of Batman Endgame begins to unfold. It is perhaps fitting then that Snyder and Capullo take us to the one place in all of Gotham that could survive being dragged back to Hell, Arkham Asylum, now in ruins after the collapse, where Batman looks for some kind of answer into what, for him, is a place that holds a significance that rivals even that of Crime Alley in Batman’s legacy. These scenes in the Asylum are hauntingly ominous, steeped in menacing shadows, and it spins a web of mystery that entwines us with a joke more twisted and dark than anything we could’ve possible imagined.
The inevitable reveal of the Joker and his confrontation with Batman is masterfully handled here, with Snyder piling on the tension, right up to that startling final reveal, were Capullo, Miki, and FCO collectively ensure that this sublime moment of shock and terror will become one of Endgame’s defining moments. Hell, yeah, we’ve missed you Joker and it damn good to see you back!
Batman #36 also features the terrific backup story, Saved, written by James Tynion IV, with art by Graham Nolan, and colors by Gregory Wright, that continues the tale of the five escaped inmates from Arkham that have kidnapped Doctor Zaheer. The inmates have been tasked with telling Doctor Zaheer their stories by the Joker, this time it’s Cordellia’s turn to recount her story as they all take refuge in a restaurant, and it’s an disturbingly macabre tale that belies its everyday setting to become an unflinchingly dark and monstrous descent into madness. The way that this backup story links into the Joker-apocalypse being set up in the main arc of Endgame is brilliantly handled, and poses some really chilling possibilities for future issues.
We’re only into the second part of Endgame but I’m absolutely hooked already. Snyder and Capullo make the Joker so evil and menacing. The fight with the Justice League was just the prelude to the main event, now the real game begins, and this time the Joker is playing for keeps. Batman #36 is a riveting issue from beginning to end, expect the unexpected and then double it, because Endgame is shaping up to be one of the best Batman stories ever!