Next month is the final chapter of EndGame, so I wanted to take a moment to reflect on where we have been, extrapolate on the future, and share some concerns.  Let me start by saying, even thought I am not on board with the idea of the Joker being immortal, I have thoroughly enjoyed the story thus far.  If you have any doubt of that, all you have to do is look back on any of my previous reviews regarding this storyline to see that I have been showering it with praise.  Up to this point, I have put aside my own trepidations and enjoyed the story for what it offered.  While there have been some questionable moments, I have been acting under the assumption that the outcome of the story would shed light on these problem areas and render them to be perfectly plausible once the truths were revealed to us.  Thus, something that would usually negatively impact a storie’s performance rating has been sidelined till I can see the bigger picture and judge it for what it truly is.

In a recent interview, Scott Snyder had this to say when asked if it was possible that all of this wasn’t really happening:  “There’s absolutely no chance of that. 100%, I can tell you unequivocally everything is real and is happening. It’s just a really bad day for them. It is not a dream in any way.”  Up until now I had dismissed certain issues, but his latest remarks mean they aren’t going to be explained away by some revelation.  Without any kind of explanation, it would mean that some of my perceived problems are genuine plot holes or oversights in the writing, and I find that somewhat disconcerting.

Other than the specific dilemmas this story has demonstrated, what about the general ramifications that would present themselves from the Joker being immortal?  The 4 basic areas of conflict that can occur within a story are Man vs Man, Man vs Self, Man vs Society, and Man vs Nature.  The fight between Batman and the Joker has always been Man vs Man, when you strip away their personas and gimmicks.  It all boils down to two guys just duking it out.  It is the most basic of all conflicts and feels very natural and realistic.  Batman has enough villains who are augmented by powers and aided by the fantastical.  One of the things that makes the Joker so compelling is that, without any additional aid, he is leaps and bounds beyond Batman’s other foes.  He stands apart from them based on his own merit, not the help of the supernatural.  It is a lot like the comparison between Batman and members of the Justice League.  Batman is a normal man standing among gods based solely on the level of his natural abilities.  I’d like to see the Joker remain Batman’s mirror, not some crazed literal monster.

Personally, I think it would make more sense if this was just an elaborate scheme the Joker concocted to make everyone think he was immortal, as opposed to actually being immortal.  Why would he do this?  Partially to steal Batman’s thunder.  Batman has managed to create a reputation and a legend that proceeds him.  Batman isn’t an immortal monster, but has initiated such urban legends about himself to give him an extra leg up in his fight against crime.  I could see the Joker wanting that same level of grand legacy that Batman has.  The other element that I think could have spurned the Joker into fabricating such an embellished background, would be the perceived insult he received from Batman during their last fisticuff when  Batman claimed to know the Joker’s true identity during the finale of Death of the Family.  If you recall, this sent the Joker into such a tissy that he lost all composure and inadvertently got himself knocked off the edge of a waterfall.  Joker is such a Diva that I find it easy to believe he would do all this just to prove Batman wrong, or make him doubt himself, even if only for a moment.  You think you know who I am?  Well how about this?

Another thing Scott Snyder said in last month’s interview was that the Joker hides behind crazy, but really, he is just evil.  However, it is easier to slap the label of crazy on him than to admit there is somebody evil enough to commit all these atrocities.  This becomes problematic for me in that, the Joker being an immortal monster, or the devil himself, goes against the very idea Snyder is presenting here.  If the Joker is evil for the sake of being evil and not evil because he is crazy, then wouldn’t labeling him a monster over a normal man be the same thing?  We expect a monster to be evil, they’re monsters, that is what they do.  Calling the Joker an immortal monster is giving him an excuse for his evil, when it is far scarier to think that a normal man could be so heinous in and of his own volition.

The last bit I’d like to present before starting the actual review, is the idea of just how crazy it would be to implement immortality as a permanent fixture of the Joker’s character.  I’ve already stated how I’d like to see the Joker remain Batman’s mirror, but for those of you who don’t see immortality as a problem, what if they implemented a similar supernatural quality to Batman?  What if they made Batman a vampire?  From this day forward, Batman was no longer just a man, but a vampire, an immortal monster.  How much would that upset some of you?  The idea of doing that to Batman, is exactly what doing this to the Joker feels like to me.  It changes a fundamental tenant of the character.  It turns him into something he shouldn’t be.  The idea of the Joker being immortal has been a thrilling ride, but at some point, the adventure is over and we need to return to Kansas.

And Now, The Actual Review:

So, this is what the Joker is like when he isn’t holding back!  Last issue, poor Gordon got attacked with an ax, and I thought there wasn’t anything Joker could do that would top that.  Boy did I get proven wrong.  It’s another moment that screams, “Anything can happen!”, and no one is safe.  Can you imagine what Death of the Family would have been like if THIS Joker had been in THAT story.  The whole Batfamily would have had their faces torn off!

The major bullet points of the plot are pretty straightforward and can be easily shared with you without spoiling anything.  The issue opens with Batman meeting with the Court of Owls to learn about Joker and his supposed immortality. Meanwhile, Joker sets up a parade in the streets of Gotham and dares Batman to come and get him, which prompts Batman to form a team to enact his “master plan”.  Having it laid out like that actually makes it seem slightly elementary, but the ingenuity with which it is actually presented in the comic gives the story a hectic feel.  It isn’t linear, but jumps back and forth between time frames in order to keep the reader as off balanced as Batman is surely feeling.

First, Batman seeks out the Court, and then he enlists some interesting allies.  When we see the lengths that Batman is willing to go in order to combat the Joker, you really understand that he is at his wits end.  His plan ends up being exceptionally rudimentary, but given the situation, it isn’t that far fetched to believe that he couldn’t come up with something better on such short notice.  I also realize there will be some people who will probably groan a little when they see Batman’s mystery allies.  I’ll admit it.  When I first saw them, I groaned at first too!  But after I took a moment to consider the situation, it actually made a lot of sense. 

Spoiler
Batman enlists the help of Penguin, Bane, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Clayface, and Mister Freeze.  He points out the fact that if Joker destroys the whole city, then there essentially wouldn’t be anything left for any of them to steal or rule over.  When even other villains are inclined to stop Joker, it serves as an additional reminder that the Joker really is going too far this time.  If this particular turn of events doesn’t make you happy, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.  I get the impression that they are going to be peripheral to the central focus, and function more as diversions for the gigglers than actually being center stage for the finale.  

Greg Capullo completely kills it in this issue.  There are so many fantastically story boarded shots that it is almost an overload.  You’re going to have to reread this several times just to make sure you didn’t miss anything.  What was my favorite shot?  Somebody gets dismembered.  While it’s pretty graphic and visceral, taken out of context, it is actually quite beautiful and cinematic.  Look at how the splatter is hitting the fourth wall of the panel.  Almost like it is being filmed instead of drawn and the splatters are forming on the lens of the camera.

splatterThis comic is rated T for teen?  What does Mature rated violence look like?

This issue is also brimming with Easter Eggs.  I’m not going to point them all out for you, so you can find some on your own, but I’ll share a few.  In one of the street scenes, you can see some graffiti on the side of a building that looks like a laughing fish.  Detective Comics #475 anybody?  There is also a 2 page splash of a parade that is quite impressive, littered with all kinds of visual gems.  I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was also trying to pay tribute to another famous Batman moment (hint:1989).  While I’m mentioning 89, there is another spot where we see a Joker card surfacing through bubbling waters.  The whole page was beautifully rendered and pretty ominous as well. 

Spoiler
  A little insignificant detail I found pretty interesting was the fact that Capullo drew Poison Ivy with a corset made of tree bark.  How cool is that?

The backup story for this issue is brought to us by James Tynion IV, with pencil by Dustin Nguyen.  Much like the backup tale from #35, I found myself going, “No No NO!”, as I read along with this one.  (I am a firm believer in the idea of keeping the Joker’s origin as intangible as possible.)  My fears were unfounded however.  Exactly like in #35, this one also had me freaking out for nothing.  However, the major difference was the twist I didn’t see coming that made the finale of the backup stories the best of the bunch.  I might even go so far as to say I liked this specific one better than the main that accompanied it, but then you’d all think I was hopped up on Dionesium.

Spoiler

hand!!!Seriously!!!

  • My first response to this scene was something I can’t share, seeing as how it was verbally unprofessional.  Once I calmed down, I took a moment to investigate the realities of reattaching limbs accidental amputated and the full recovery rates involved in such incidents.  While seeing it may be shocking, it turns out that this type of surgery isn’t that impossible nowadays and full recoveries are more likely than not.  So don’t be too worried about Alfred.  I’m sure this isn’t the precursor to cyborg Alfred or anything like that.
  • It is interesting that the Joker’s face is starting to decompose.  The right side of his mouth was already starting to look gnarly before Alfred shot him, and then the right side of his scalp and hair were looking pretty bad by the ending too.  Seems like evidence that he is merely using Dionesium and not naturally producing it.  Maybe it is starting to wear off.

Interesting Facts:

  • This might be the first time that some of you have heard of the term Dionesium, but it is actually a substance that has been connected with characters such as Ra’s Al Ghul, Vandal Savage, Darkseid, and Simon Hurt.  Considering the fact that Dionesium has been brought up, it is highly likely that Joker isn’t producing the Dionesium in his own body, merely using it as so many others have before him.
  • Where does he get those wonderful trophies?  The Giant Penny is originally from World’s Finest #30 (1947), but most of you are more likely to remember it from the Zero Year storyline.  The T-Rex was from Batman #35 (1946).  The Red Hood was also from the Zero Year storyline, but I was thinking of an appearance older than that.  Nope, I’m not talking about The Killing Joke, I’m talking about the story that inspired The Killing JokeThe Man Behind the Red Hood, the story which appeared in Detective Comics #168 (1951).
  • In the backup story, the Joker says, “I prefer not to think of it as multiple choice, it’s more choose-your-own-adventure.”  This line is an homage of the famous Joker line from Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, where the Joker says, “If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice.”  I usually try to make my interesting facts truly obscure, but last week’s Batman Eternal had an homage to The Killing Joke as well, and it turned out that if I had not mentioned it, some people wouldn’t have caught it.  I try not to take too much for granted, but I pretty much assume that everyone who has ever picked up a Batman comic has also taken the time to at least read The Killing Joke.  Now maybe it was before your time, you’re brand new to comics, or you just never got around to it.  Whatever the case may be, this is your opportunity to read it.  When talk about must read stories gets brought up, I hear a lot of people throwing around titles like Batman: Year One or The Dark Knight Returns.  If I was only allowed to say the title of one book, it would be The Killing Joke.  Now go read it.

Recommended if…

know

  • You feel like this inmate from the backup story.

Overall:

This particular chapter of EndGame feels less impactful and intense than the previous installments.  Those of you who have already read it are probably flabbergasted as to why I would make such a statement considering some of the shocking events that unfold, but when compared with the other issues, it feels a lot more like setup than progression.  Am I saying it isn’t any good?  Well of course not!  It’s the best setup I have read this month!  But it is definitely the calm before the storm, or at least as calm as an issue of EndGame can conceivably be.  It is also worth noting that the backup story is by far the best of the five presented and is the perfect endcap to that story.

SCORE: 9 / 10