Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO Plascencia
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: April 29, 2015
The final confrontation between Batman and Joker is here, and Gotham must be ready to enter the next phase of its existence in the aftermath. Is the Joker immortal? Is Batman? And who will rise when the Endgame is all played out?
As far as final issues go, the creative team on Batman #40 does everything in their power to close out their legendary run with the biggest bang possible, leaving no stone unturned in the saga they had been building since issue #1.
What’s that you say? This isn’t Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s final issue? They continue on with issue #41?
Well, that just makes this even better.
This is going to be a very difficult comic to write a review on without spoilers, but I’m going to do my damnedest. In essence, what we have with Batman #40 is a final issue that isn’t a final issue, which is damn exciting to think about. Because jumping off of the events of this arc and this final chapter, there’s a real sense of ending an era, but also beginning something fresh and new and dramatic.
But on the way there, we are treated to what can only be described as the most psychologically brutal fight scene between two characters that I have ever witnessed. The Batman and the Joker have been choreographed into a dance that is so traumatic and gut-wrenching that it’s hard not to feel it a little bit in the pit of your own stomach.
Capullo’s absolutely stunning pencils take these two men, who are simultaneously larger than life and increasingly vulnerable, and pit them in a no-holds barred confrontation that will go down in history as the quintessential Batman/Joker battle. The details in every single panel will astound you and the moves each character makes — from creating a smile out of knives in the Batman’s back to the Joker having his ear bitten off — are just so genuinely shocking. It’s violent in a physical sense, but the psychological violence is even more effective.
But the real psychological moments come toward the very end, as the Batman finally follows up on the psychological warfare from the conclusion of Death of a Family. In a sense, this entire arc was about the Joker detaching himself from a love of the Batman, finally deciding that enough fun was enough, and it was time to get serious. But at the same time, Bruce’s own family, estranged months ago, have returned to the fold, and we see a next generation of crimefighters start to emerge.
Yes, Julia Pennyworth has become an integral part of the Batman family, but it strikes me that there’s a lot of lessons to be found in the everyday heroism of young Duke Thomas, whose place in the city, now more than ever, seems not so far away from that of the Batman. It’s an amazing thing to see such relatively young figures in the mythos (Harper Row included) already developed in such a rich way with so few appearances, but Snyder has made that happen like magic on the page.
It cannot be ignored that FCO Plascencia has played such a significant role in building out this unique take on Gotham, ushering in what feels like a totally new era without losing any of what makes the city so unique. His colors are bombastic, bold, and bright, as if to signal without words that the city is always growing, always energetically embracing the now. And when it came to the Batman/Joker confrontation, even in the dingy bowls of the earth, the glow of Dionysium and the deep dark red of the blood just vibrate at a frequency that you can’t help but respond to.
Readers who want the best, full experience of Endgame Part 6 should go back to Part 1 and read the entire story together. Like previous arcs, Snyder builds in a great deal of parallelism and foreshadowing that just make the conclusion of a tale like this much more satisfying to behold if you haven’t lost track of it over time. The poetics of this conclusion, for all that it means about the inseparable bond between the Batman and Joker (yin and yang), is a testament to Snyder’s bright and careful planning.
All of these elements — from Snyder’s structure and scripting, to Capullo and Miki’s dynamic, hedonistic linework, to Plascencia’s glowing palette — have made this book into the one you just have to marvel at every single month. While Batman #40 may be an ending, it thankfully is not the end. And thank goodness for that. The next era of Gotham’s Dark Knight cannot come soon enough with them all still on board.
The Verdict: 10/10