Author: John Bierly (Follow @JOHNBIERLY)
December 21, 2014

SYNOPSIS: The ultra top-secret Batman arc known only as “Endgame,” continues – it’s a story arc so steeped in mystery, all we can tell you is the title!

With their “Death of the Family” saga, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo delivered the ultimate tale of how The Joker is Batman's biggest fan and believes he's making Batman better by being diabolical. Now, with “Endgame,” the new angle is that this is the first storyline since 1939 in which The Joker finally considers Batman his enemy. And if you think the things The Joker did to "help" Batman were bad, what until you get a load of what he does to try to hurt him.

The first page here mirrors the first page of issue #15, but this time we see Bruce's face as he shakes off the final stages of a chemical attack rather than what was (and remains) one of the grisliest Joker visages of all time. Alfred and Julia Pennyworth fill Bruce in on how quickly Gotham's citizens are falling to The Joker's "masterpiece" of a virus as Jim Gordon hunkers down at home to some shocking discoveries of his own. Batman ventures out to see just how badly things have gotten, and by issue's end we're all left wondering if The Joker is only flesh and blood, or if his methods are... supernatural?

Snyder and Capullo cut back and forth between Gordon's plight and Batman's gut-wrenching fight against a foe and a fate he's been fighting forever with the capable confidence of a team that's at the top of its game. Things just get worse and worse for our heroes as the pages progress, culminating in a final panel that settles once and for all what many of us have long known to be the case. To reveal it here and now is genius, especially considering how The Joker's perception of his relationship with Batman has changed.

BATMAN #37 Cover

As always, Snyder peppers the writing with wonderful phrasing and vigorous nuance, while Capullo nails every detail from Gordon's stubbed out cigarettes to the sinister smile lines around The Joker's eyes. His mastery of penciling expressive faces is particularly effective in an issue that jerks so much emotion out of its heroes and puts so much mania in the eyes of those infected.

Capullo's art team serves up their typically perfect assists. Look at FCO's bursts of color in the police sirens on the bridge compared to his gold-tinged browns of downtown Gotham in the same panel, and wow at how inker Danny Miki puts a splash of black right in the center of The Joker's face to better accentuate his rabid eyes and rickety grin.

Once you've calmed down from the main event, the backup written by James Tynion IV (with appropriately exaggerated art by John McRea and Michelle Madsen) nicely expands on The Joker's seeming immortality by telling the fractured fairy tale of how laughter came to Gotham.

Twisted and taut, this issue is another example of comic storytelling at its finest. - John Bierly


John Bierly still can't believe he
gets to write for BOF.
Check out JOHNBIERLY.COM to read about the other things he writes about.

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