Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Batman #39 Review


Scott Snyder reaches the penultimate issue of his Endgame arc and his ambitious approach continues – leading to some detrimental effects on the story.

The teases are still there as we’re still not given a concrete platform from which to judge these events – and the events here further confuse rather than excite.

The backup though has a solid ending, and the artwork is worthy of this title.


This arc is getting more and more surreal every issue – and with it, Snyder is playing a risky game.

We’re still left in the tantalizing is-this-a-dream story and there are several things that do hint towards it being that.

But first, we travel four hours into the future as Batman pours over one of his many elements – his relationship with his Rogues Gallery. Many of his villains are perversions of his own characteristics, Penguin of philanthropy, Two-Face of duplicity, Riddler of intelligence, Killer Croc & Bane of physical endurance and Scarecrow of use of fear.

It has also been mentioned that Batman ‘made’ his villains – that, before him, Gotham was a mafia underworld den. With his coming, came the age of ‘freaks’ in ‘costumes’ and ‘masks’.

Joker is an unique perversion. While his beginnings are rooted in mystery, Batman’s is fixed at a definite point. His entire life is about bringing chaos, while Bruce’s is about order. They are basically yin and yang, two sides of the same coin.

But I digress. Batman reminiscences as to how he knows that the villains entered into a pact that the day the Bat dies, they would invert the Bat signal to show an upside down Bat – a mark of reverence.

Back four hours before, we see Bruce pleading with the Court to help him find the Dionesium (a corrupted version of which the Court uses to reanimate it’s Talons) – only to be met with giggles and laughs as the Court lays out their plans to recreate the city in Joker’s wake – complete with an overhead overturned city model that Bruce demolishes.

Apparently, the Court sends a Talon dressed as a priest after Batman – and Bruce recognizes him as Uriah Boone, the First Talon and is able to stop him in his tracks when he mentions whether the Pale Man aka the Joker was around 400 years ago.

This all seems impressive Court mythology, but the pacing seems wrong. How did Bruce know of this particular Talon? Where are all the other Talons, excepting the ones in Blackgate (did the Court ever recover them? Seems like something they could do with their ‘influence’)?

The surrealistic nature continues as Bruce returns to the surface only to learn that the Joker invaded the batcave and was shot by Alfred while he was admiring the Red Hood helmet – only to cut off Alfred’s left hand with a cleaver. Somehow, Alfie survives the explosion of the Cave, while the Joker leaves.

And then a grotesque spectacle reminiscent of Batman the 1989 movie as the Joker leads down a parade of Batman’s ‘souvenirs’ like the Giant Penny, the Dinosaur and the large Joker Card. Bruce calls in not only his family including Red Robin, Batgirl and Red Hood but also his enemies – Bane, Penguin, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc and Mr Freeze.

All of them are debriefed of the situation. The Joker is the only one with the dionesium which is a key component of both the virus causing havoc in Gotham as well as the clown’s immortality. Forced to compromise for the sake of the city, the Rogues agree – and the Joker is pleased to see all his family in one place for one final trick.

In the back-up, it’s actually Maureen Zaheer’s turn for her story of the Joker as they’re led to the Publishing House where Zaheer’s book on the Joker came out.

She mentions a ‘very normal’ origin story for the Joker – bounced around foster homes, terrified foster parents, ties to the Red Hood gang and so on. This makes the deranged patients furious and they attack her, only to be stopped by Zaheer locking herself in an office.

But she isn’t alone. Eric Border has arrived to save her – and by Eric, I mean the Joker. Apparently, Eric was a co-writer for the book and manipulated everything so that Maureen could get her own personal Joker story. As he leaves after giving a horrified Zaheer a loaded gun, the patients break in.

We see all her book copies on the floor, and the blood that spills on one particular page as Zaheer fires four shots.

It’s the acknowledgement page where she mentions her debt to Eric Border in writing this book.


The backup by James Tyrion works very well in finishing its story, but I’m not sure I’m able to say this for Snyder. He’s certainly ambitious and incorporates homages to previous Batman versions in a very organic manner, but his endings haven’t always stuck – and upto now the signs point to a repeat.
We’re still being teased about what is actually true. The Joker’s origins? This arc’s reality? We still don’t know.

The art though is beyond reproach. Greg Capullo performs magnificently under pressure as his close and distant visuals both work well. Dustin Nyugen in the backup is also at the top of his game, effectively using shadows and subterfuge.

So, I give this 8.0 out of 10.

+The Backup story by Tyrion has a strong ending 
+The artwork by Capullo and Nyugen is wonderful

-Snyder continual teasing is getting a little aggravating
-Leaving too much for the ending

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