Look, up in the sky: it’s not a bird nor a plane—it’s the Bat-signal! All hail Batman Day this Saturday, celebrating seven decades of Bat-mania. This year, DC Comics has something drastic planned for The Caped Crusader in Endgame, the most recent volume in the Bat-mythos.
Writer Scott Snyder puts Batman through the wringer like no other: from mental anguish to physical beat-downs, his Batman should probably be in a special (bat)wing at Gotham General Hospital—and remain there. But it’s in Endgame where Snyder and artist Greg Capullo expand the scope of torment beyond the bodily—it’s now city-wide. The Joker returns to Gotham and wants only ruin for Batman. If Death of the Family was the Joker expressing his twisted love for Batman, then Endgame is where readers see the fury of a villain scorned. Under the Joker’s influence, Gotham is reduced to fiery rubble riddled with cackling citizens. Everything Batman protects turns against him. His friends are no exception, as even the Justice League descends into madness.
Then there’s the new spin on the Joker’s origin—no spoilers here, but the confrontation between the Clown Prince of Crime and Gordon is a welcome return to creeping horror not seen since Snyder’s Black Mirror storyline (which also involved Gordon). With Capullo on artwork, the terror is juxtaposed with exaggerated, at times cartoonish portrayals—giving the Joker’s victims nightmare rictuses. As the Batman swings above hordes of outstretched arms and clawing hands, Capullo balances the cityscape with claustrophobic enclosures. The scale is its own horror, and the question turns from “How will Batman stop this?” to “Can Batman stop this?”
At 75 years, Batman will outlive us all. There’s comfort in that when reading Endgame, but the title’s significance will haunt readers as they too descend into Gotham’s caves. It’s not the ending, but it is an ending. Happy Batman Day.