SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
Scott Snyder is a Batman, comic book writing, freaking God! Greg Capulo’s artwork captures the darkness and determination of the universe of the Dark Knight completely and with their run in the New 52 they have shaken, not stirred the mythos of Gotham and its greatest hero for all time. And unlike Grant Morrison and Frank Miller, they made it a hell of a lot of fun.
Batman #40 brings the six issue arc of Endgame to its finale and this may be arguably one of the best endings to a comic book story we have seen for some time. Quick recap. The Joker has been dipping into a pool of Dionesum, a substance that is the basis for the Joker’s regenerative powers. Dionesum has made the Joker invulnerable and perhaps even immortal. This is the Lazarus Pit 2.0. A lethal gas has been unleashed in Gotham driving its inhabitants mad and then killing them. Batman knows that the only cure is the Dionesum, the pool itself hidden deep in the cave systems beneath Gotham. The Joker battles Batman and his allies, the lethal gas subduing them all. Taking off Batman’s mask, the Joker finds that it is not Bruce Wayne beneath the mask but Dick Grayson; the true Batman is is beneath Gotham in the caves searching for the pit. The caves are filled with explosives and when the Batman finds the pit, he fills a container with the substance and sends it to Julia Pennyworth on the surface.
The Joker confronts Batman in the act and attacks, mortally wounding the Dark Knight. The Batman fights back and the Joker sets off the explosives, causing the roof of the cavern to collapse. In the battle, a huge stalactite falls and crushes the Joker’s spine. He tries to crawl toward the pit of Dionesum to heal himself when the Batman grabs him and holds him back. The roof continues to fall in until it fills the pit, sealing it off and crushing what remains of both the Batman and the Joker. They die, laying next to one another, in a collapsed cave beneath the city of Gotham. In the final pages, Julia Pennyworth has used the Dionesum that Batman sent to the surface to heal what remains of the city. She sits by her father’s, Alfred Pennyworth, bedside as the night sky is filled with the Batman symbols. Gotham, mourning its fallen hero. She tells her father that the doctors are ready to replace his hand, the one the Joker cut off, but Alfred refuses. What does he need his hand for? There is no one left for him to mend. Julia asks about the final note that Bruce had left for Alfred and why the Batman did not crawl into the pit himself when he had the chance and become immortal. Alfred responds that the story of the Batman was always a tragedy and that Bruce only wanted to live in the time that he had and do the most with that time. As for the note, it only had one word.
This six issue arc may be the most satisfying Batman/Joker tale I have read in sometime. Batman dies as only he can. Fighting his greatest foe in a battle to the death to save the city he loves. No alien no one has ever heard of to attack him as in Superman/Doomsday. No cult of spider feeders that come out of nowhere to kill the Spider-Man.
This was the Batman and the Joker. Mano a Mano. The Big Fight. They die together because how can one possibly exist without the other? It is poignant. It is true. It is real.
It is Batman.