I fear that the finale of Endgame has turned out to be rather derivative and uninspiring.
I’m not here to tell you that my feelings on the issue are the definitive consensus on Endgame, nor that you are required to feel the way I do. I am merely sharing my opinion. And in order to understand my opinion, you need to understand my frame of reference.
I remember back when I was a Freshman in High School. That was the year the Knightfall (1993) story was introduced in the pages of Batman. I remember being so distracted by the fact that Batman was in peril that it actually effected my grades at the time. I am nowhere near as emotionally invested now as I was back then, but I still remember how it felt. This issue reminded me of those feelings. Back then, I probably would have told you that I liked Batman more than some real people (heck, that is still true in some instances!). He was, and still is, my hero. It is hard for me to see him dragged through the mud. In many instances however, Batman’s failures ultimately turned out to be successes. Successes in the fact that he failed but never surrendered. He didn’t give up. He retreated, licked his wounds, reevaluated the situation, came back stronger than ever, and won. Batman is the epitome of the quintessential Human spirit. And I admire him. Today, however, my feelings are slightly different: EndGame Batman gave up, but more on that later.
I remember meeting Denis O’neil and asking him about the Knightfall story as it was going on. I asked him why he would get rid of Batman? Wouldn’t eliminating Batman be eliminating the very comic he was working on? Why was he putting himself out of a job? Seems silly by today’s standards; but back then, it was fairly uncommon for main characters to die. And when it did happen, it was permanent. It wasn’t an accident that you just recovered from. Nowadays every character and their brother gets killed and it is meaningless. They are back on their feet in less than a year usually. Back then, death meant something and had actual consequences. The example that most of us, as Batman fans, are familiar with is Jason Todd. He died during this period and his character actually stayed dead for 16 real world years. Seeing as how this was the reality I thought I was facing, Knightfall had me fearing for the permanent loss of my hero. We didn’t know yet that Bruce was just going to be injured. We thought he was marked for death.
The fact that death no longer has any consequences has made it a hollow gesture, and nothing more than a waiting game in which you are guaranteed that the character will return. It seems to me that it is the go-to place for writers when they have nothing more to say but want something to feel poignant, but in reality, it has lost all meaning. I’m fairly certain that every major comic character has experienced “death” in some form or another by now. We have Superman to thank for that, and the butt load of money DC made when they “killed” him. Death has become just another way to boost sales. It’s not relevant or moving since it is just a gimmick. How can It be? There isn’t any weight behind something that will be swept under the rug before we even have a chance to assimilate it. It has become a plot device and nothing more. It has become old, tired, and played out. It turns a significant part of our realities into excuse to tell a story, and not even one that hasn’t been told before. Just because death has become common place doesn’t mean that it needs to feel hollow in the moment. Back in 2013 when Damian died, I knew he was destined to return, but I still felt his loss. It was unexpected, emotional, and had an air of uncertainty about it. This thing with Batman is none of those. It was practically telegraphed. It just feels like DC decided it was time to do something big, so they chose this.
As my opening statement indicated, this story felt derivative. Maybe the specific details have been changed, but when I read it, I felt like it was hitting all the major beats of several other stories I have read before. Being a long time fan of comics, I have read my fair share. Every ten years or so, comics reset for a new audience/generation of fans. And inevitably, the same or similar stories end up getting told. Knightfall (1993): Batman gets injured by Bane to make way for Jean-Paul Valley. Final Crisis (2008): Batman supposedly gets killed by Darkseid’s Omega Beams, but instead ends up Quantum Leaping through time, hoping that each time his next leap will be the leap home. This opens the door for Grayson to be Batman…again ( he took over after Valley for a short time too). Now we have EndGame. It has a similar outcome, and it is a set up to usher in a blue GCPD mech-suit.
Another element of the issue that I found far too similar to a previous book was the finale. In Batman: Birth of the Demon (1992), Batman ends up having an epic showdown with Ra’s Al Ghul. In the climax of the story, the two go at each other as if it is their last stand. The fighting is brutal, both of them get set on fire, and Bruce takes a shovel tip right through his sternum. The fight takes place around a Lazarus Pit and both combatants eventually end up falling in. If you’ve read both stories, it is hard not to see the parallels.
There was a time when I was more open to stories treading the same water. I’m referring to a time when comics could only be read in their single issue formats. If you missed a story you had to track down an actual physical copy. And not using the internet mind you, but by actual physically finding it. This meant that it was more than likely that your readership wouldn’t be aware of and would not have read the older issues you were pulling from for inspiration. Today, not only do we have trades of the more popular stories, but a hefty number of comics have become available in the digital format. We don’t really need rehashings of old stories for a new audience when these very stories are now readily available at the click of a button.
It may seem as if I am merely taking issue with EndGame because of the rehashing it demonstrates. While that is true to a point, it is more so the fact that it offered us a genuinely fresh take on something and then devolved into the menial. Aside from the fact that Batman squares off against the Justice League which had been done before, the rest of EndGame felt like truly new territory. I was amazed at how, week after week, Snyder was able to present us with completely original material even though the character’s 75 years worth of stories should have made that feat impossible. How did he manage to pull originality out of his hat when I though that everything had been done and there was nothing left to look forward to but reboots and remakes? This is what made the finale so disappointing for me. Snyder had set a precedent of originality with the preceding issues that was not followed through within the finale. So many of the cool concepts hinted at towards the beginning of the story ended up being completely dropped. I was looking forward to an intellectual ending, not a climax that boiled down to the fate of Gotham being decided in a fistfight with the Joker. It was definitely more of a blockbuster kind of ending, but I guess you have to give the people what they want.
I’m guessing that new readers can’t relate to the lack of originality I am referring to, so lets tackle some more relatable problems, I believe, the finale also had. The most blatant one is the depiction of Batman: Batman gives up! He just accepts death. Seriously?!? Alfred even says he didn’t have to, he chose to. Why the hell would he choose death? What can he accomplish in death? That wasn’t a hero rising to the moment. That wasn’t interesting. That wasn’t inspiring. That was just someone folding when they didn’t have to. Alfred insinuates that Batman wanted to die because Batman is tragedy and that is what tragedy is. Tragedy IS what created Batman and defined the choices that he went on to make, but those choices weren’t tragic. He took that tragedy and turned it into something positive, something useful and constructive. Batman is about life, an affirmation of life, not death. This was a huge breach in character. No way would Batman turn over and give up when the fate of the Batfamily and Gotham was still so uncertain.
Now let’s examine the switcheroo Batman executes between himself and Grayson. Batman comments on the fact that if Joker had not seen a Batman, he would have figured something was up and blown the cave where the Dionesium was. So why have Grayson dress as Batman to confront Joker while he went for the Dionesium? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Batman to confront Joker and have Grayson go for the Dionesium. The only thing that tipped Joker off about their plan was that Grayson was under the mask. If it had been Bruce under the mask then Joker would have been none the wiser since everyone believes that Grayson is dead any way. Since nobody would be showing up to confront him, he would have secured the Dionesium without any interference. What I’m trying to say is that it is not a natural choice. It was written that way because Batman needed to be in the cave so he and Joker could have their epic final battle, not because it made tactical sense.
After all that criticism, you’re probably wondering if there was anything at all that I did like about the issue. The Joker. His speeches, his jokes, the reappearance of some classic Joker weaponry…it was all wonderful. But the best part was seeing him squirm. When Batman finally had him where he wanted him, the act dropped and Joker was actually scared. He wasn’t some crazy person that laughed in the face of death. He was downright sane for a moment. It was actually pretty creepy how the tables were turned. Batman seemed kind of nuts and the Joker was the one fighting for his life. Now, that was interesting!
Regardless of my issues with plot and character, Greg Capullo remains the shinning star of the Batman series. His pencils capture every nuance of anguish, joy, and pain that the characters endure. The combat is completely gut wrenching and visceral beyond anything I have seen before. It’s so brutal it actually makes you wince. I’m not just saying that. It’s kind of hard to look at. It’s beautiful and disturbing all at the same time. I’m going to drop some of it in a spoiler tag for you. Not because I’m trying to maintain a spoiler free zone, but because I don’t want to subject anyone to it if they don’t actually want to see it. I’m not kidding, it is ridiculously gory.
I’m certain that people will shower the finale with praise because Scott Snyder has such a great track record, but what I am hoping is that people won’t let their love for Snyder blind them to the imperfections that are actually there to see. I’m certain that my opinion will be the minority where this issue is concerned and am expecting a significant amount of negativity to come my way. Keep in mind that I actually do want to hear from you. I’m not looking forward to all the inevitable comments about my opinion being wrong, but I am looking forward to seeing why people enjoyed the finale. If you are so inclined, leave a comment about what you liked or disliked about the issue. I’m hoping that through some positive insights from other fans I might find a way to enjoy the issue more than I did. Thanks.
- You want to see how EndGame “ends”.
- You want to know what led the GCPD to institute operation RoboCop.
- You derive some perverse sense of joy from watching two men beat each other to “death”.
- You want to experience what will undoubtedly be hailed as the most important moment in Batman’s history. That is, until the next most important moment in Batman’s history comes along….
This book lacked the originality that I had come to expect from Snyder. Instead, he fell back on time tested formulas to deliver a finale that was nothing more than an event designed to set the stage for the upcoming adventures of “Rabbit-man”. I was let down by the depiction of Batman that I found rather uncharacteristic when it came to his motivations. Motivations that ultimately led to an unnecessary “death”. Am I advising you not to get the book? Of course not! While I wasn’t thrilled with it, it’s still better than most of the stuff out there today. The Joker continues to mesmerize and the art is beautiful (in a gory kind of way). Now I’m just biding my time while I wait for them to bring back the character I want to read about. Thankfully, there are always back issues.
SCORE: 6 / 10