Comic Review – Batman #40

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

Contains some spoilers from earlier issues of the ‘Endgame’ arc

DC’s Convergence event is fairly huge, and being in a bit of a ropey financial situation right now, I decided to effectively bow out of DC Comics for the month… mostly. I’ve picked up the odd Convergence tie-in if a writer or artist is involved that I’m fond of, but with the main titles largely on pause until the move to Burbank is finished, I decided it was best to just save a bit of money and reduce my stack each Wednesday. However, this week saw the release of both Batman and Justice League #40, and as the former was then end of the current arc I’ve picked that to review this week (not the first time I’ve reviewed the conclusion of a Batman arc). As for the previous 39 issues, Batman #40 was written by Scott Snyder and pencilled by Greg Capullo, with inks by Danny Miki, colours from FCO Plascencia, letters by Steve Wands.

This issue was the finale of Endgame, the story arc that saw the Joker return to utterly destroy Batman and the world around him. Starting with corrupting the Justice League with Joker Venom, to mutilating those closest to Bruce, he also threaded a narrative that led to the potential conclusion that he was in fact immortal, that Batman could never stop him and that Gotham would fall. By this last issue, barely any citizens remain untouched by the latest Joker Venom, a strain that Batman couldn’t cure, that has turned them into crazed zombies fighting themselves and anyone uninfected. Having already enlisted the help of his rogues gallery who, despite their own criminal intentions and dubious sanity, don’t want to see Gotham torn apart any more than he does, Batman and the Bat family attempt to fight their way through the throng of victims with their contorted smiles and creepy laughter to try to get to the Joker, to find a cure and to find out once and for all if he really is ‘The Pale Man’, an immortal spectre as old as Gotham itself. The truth about both men, and how they face down the possibility of death, leads to the inevitable show down between Bruce and his possibly eternal foe, as the city quakes and tears itself apart above them.

I’ve said innumerable times how much I enjoy Scott Snyder’s writing, and he has continued to be very strong on Batman since the start of the New 52. Endgame has been a bombastic, hugely entertaining thrill ride from start to finish. As with the previous arcs, Snyder has continued to peel back why Bruce is so important, and we continue to be interested in him. This issue could have easily been overwrought or weighed down by the culmination of the story and the moving elements, like the inclusion of the villains on Batman’s side, but they were kept to the background without being sidelined, to allow for the final confrontation to breathe and to focus in on Batman and the Joker’s relationship as they brought each other to the brink of annihilation.

And this annihilation was, as always, beautifully realised by Capullo. The first half of the issue was strong as always, but the fight in the cavern is brutal, gory and truly visceral in a way that feels like if this was the last time Batman and the Joker ever faced each other (obviously it won’t be, because superhero comics) then this would be a fitting end. Miki’s inks bring a savage oppression to the fight, and a darkness to the rest of the issue that adds weight to the tone. Plascencia’s colours bring this all to life, with the stark and unnaturally bright shades of the sunset melee at the start, to the flame-lit show down. All together, the art team continues to shine even so far into the creative team’s run.

Though some elements of the fallout of Endgame have already been spoiled online (you’ve all seen the mechanised Batsuit), they lack the context and lead up that explains how we get there, or where we will go after. Regardless of what is coming next, this was another great end to what has been a really strong arc. Once again, Snyder and Capullo played with our expectations and threw in potential retcons that enraged or discomforted anyone with a particularly jerky knee. But comfort zones are for lesser storytellers, and things are at their best when they’re not as they seem. When this team does finally leave the book (and apparently they were originally planning to at the end of this arc), I don’t at all envy who has to pick up the reigns after them.

Pick up Batman #40 (if for some reason you haven’t already) on your digital comics platform of your choice or at your local comic shop. Even better, go and head down to Free Comic Book Day this Saturday 2nd May at your LCS and buy it when you get your free comics!

Score: 9 Lipstick Wearing T-Rexs out of 10

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