Back in November I wrote a blog on Batman 35 and 36, the beginning of Endgame:
“…The story arc Endgame begins in Batman #35 with Batman being attacked by the Justice League themselves, intent upon killing him. Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman and even Superman. Through it all the Batman asks over and over again who is behind it, until Superman grins wide, his face bleaches and the Batman knows. Batman #36 follows with the defeat of the Justice League and Batman knows that the Joker has returned. Batman visits the ruins of Arkham, cell 801 ( the eighth and first letter of the alphabet spell HA! by the way) where the Joker was held, where his face was once nailed to the wall; trying to find a clue to where the Joker is. He is joined by Eric Border who wants to help but Batman tells him to leave. That he understands that Border wants to help but he must leave…With these words, Eric Border wipes off his hair dye and flesh color and reveals himself to be The Joker…”
The gist of 35 and 36 were that the Joker had begun to believe that he and Batman had a relationship. A symbiotic one bond. But with the rejection of friendship he offered to Batman as Eric Border, the Joker believes the bond to be broken and goes forth to destroy all Batman holds dear. As Alfred Pennyworth said in the Dark Knight, “…some men just want to watch the world burn…” and burn it the Joker does!
In 37, the Joker has released a viral toxin into Gotham, not only does it drive the citizens of Gotham maniacal and violent, but it causes a deterioration at the cellular level. Their bodies begin to immolate and dissolve, until nothing is left. Hunting down the virus Batman finds Joe Chill, the hood suspected of murdering Thomas and Martha Wayne, the Batman’s parents. The scene is staged just like the Wayne’s murder. While Batman is stunned by this revelation, Jim Gordon is researching the history of Hospital where the virus was first detected and finds photos of a pale man going back hundreds of years. The Joker attacks Gordon but Jim shoots the Joker dead. As he calls Batman to tell him, the Joker rises up behind him and attacks. Batman cries out to Gordon but only hears the voice of the Joker talking back, saying “Hello Bruce.”
In 38, Batman rushes to Gordon’s side, only to find the commissioner with an ax sticking out of his chest. The Joker is gone. Gordon revives long enough to attack Batman but is subdued by Julia Pennyworth. Batman discovers that in Arkham, the Joker was experimented upon by Paul Dekker and there the virus must have been created. But he is not ready for the origin of the toxin. Dekker tells him: “…The substance in the virus, its from him, I got it from the Joker’s body, from his spine…”. Julia then tells Batman that she has done facial recognition on the Joker and the photos of the Pale Man that Gordon had found to prove the Joker’s charade false. But what she finds is that the Pale man of Gotham’s history and the Joker are a perfect match. Whenever a great tragedy has befallen Gotham, the Pale Man was there.
The Joker is immortal. The Joker cannot die. The Joker’s blood contains the same strain of chemical as does Ra Ah Ghul’s Lazarus Pits. The virus is the Joker and the cure can only come from the body of the Joker.
The Batman is left with no alternative but to seek out information from the only society that has existed as long as Gotham. His sworn enemies, The Court of Owls.
39 begins with Batman receiving conformation of a sort that the Pale Man of Gotham’s history and the Joker are one and the same. The Joker himself rises out of a pool of water and is in the Batcave, under Wayne Manor. There he is shot at and confronted by Alfred Pennyworth. In the ensuing panels, a cleaver cuts through the air and Alfred is maimed. His right hand cut off, symbolic of Bruce Wayne having his right hand severed by the loss of Alfred. He escapes the Joker who has returned to Gotham. The virus is in full force and Batman does what he has to. He enlists the aid of Killer Croc, Penguin, Bane and others to fight alongside Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl as they must battle a path through the infected of Gotham. For the Batman who must reach the Joker and somehow, take the serum from the Joker’s blood and create an antidote to save Gotham one last time.
To friends and foes alike the Batman says: “…No? Then the bottom line is this: it’s our city. All of ours. And we need to take it back from him, now, together, or it’s over. For all of us. Forever. So tell me…who’s in?…”
Endgame six is coming and will prove what we all have always known. The best Batman stories…are Joker stories!