Saturday, 18 July 2015

Batman, Volume 7: Endgame Review (Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo)


He’s baaaaaaaaaack!

What happened to Joker after the epic Death of the Family (nobody believed he really died)? He reveals all in Endgame - and he’s changed. If Joker thought he was Batman’s best friend in Death of the Family, what horrors has he brought with him now that he sees Bats as his enemy? 

It pains me to say this because I’ve been a big fan of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run since the start but… Endgame wasn’t very good. I know – a Snyder/Capullo Batman comic featuring the Joker, NOT amazing?! And more than that – the last Batman/Joker story (from Snyder’s perspective. For now.) not knocking your Bat-socks off? 

Yeah. It was boring.

Spoilers from here on out. Of course everyone’s going to read this anyway but I’d recommend lowering expectations going in. 

The first act of Endgame is awesome. Batman manages to clear downtown Gotham of civilians ingeniously (though I’m sure, given he was the target, moving to a less populated area himself would’ve been the smarter play). Robot Batman vs the Justice League (who’ve somehow all been dosed with a new strain of Joker toxin at the same time)? Epic. Really great stuff. Bruce tactically taking down each JL member, except for you-know-who, was super entertaining to read.

Then Joker reveals himself. I wasn’t so much surprised by confused as to the reveal. It’s so obscure, it’s underwhelming. His explanation for how he’s got a new face (after he cut off his old one) does make sense, in a Batman-y way. Then things take a nosedive.

The big no-no about Joker is: his origin must never be revealed. I know Alan Moore went there with The Killing Joke but that book’s always been seen as one possible origin out of many – not the definitive one. Because Joker has to be whatever we need him to be and the mystery really adds to the menace. There can never be a concrete backstory for this particular character, unlike Bruce whose origin is retold seemingly every goddamn year!

But this opposition to Bruce is extremely important to Joker: Batman and Joker are THE perfect hero/villain pairing because they’re yin and yang. Batman is grim and heroic, Joker is colourful and villainous – and they’re both human, without superpowers. 

Snyder not only tries on an awful new origin story for Joker but upsets the balance between hero and villain by seemingly giving Joker superpowers. He cannot be killed now! Aw, whaaat? Joker’s not Ra’s Al-Ghul! 

The saving grace is that the origin is implied and could easily (and certainly will) be immediately retconned, added onto the ever-expanding list of possible Joker origins. And the superpowers thing? That too is essentially specific to this book. Doesn’t make it any better a read though. 

I would've much preferred Snyder to focus on Joker trying to totally destroy Batman in the present rather than take all these sidetracks to the past with his supposed origin and bafflingly terrible "superpowers".

The actual story becomes about Joker poisoning the city with this new strain of Joker toxin creating hordes of grinning, murderous Gotham citizens chasing Batman. The whole “poisoning the city” storyline? It might be the most overused one for Batman after the origin. It’s such an uninspired choice as was the re-enactment of that fateful night outside the Monarch Theatre. Snyder’s running out of ideas...

The books ends on an anti-climax because it’s so obvious that that’s not really the end. And if you really do think so, I’ve got some magic beans to sell you! Plus that whole parade Joker concocted - he really emptied the Batcave of all those big objects, brought them downtown and arranged them just so in 3 hours? And then, just like that, he’s at Batman’s side elsewhere? It’s too convenient that he’s everywhere at once and can put together these elaborate set-pieces at the drop of a hat. 

Capullo’s art is still excellent. His Joker has some terrifying panels that are weirdly unsettling - seeing Joker in a Victorian bathing suit, swimming - and ditto some of Gotham’s citizens who’ve been gassed. Snyder’s script takes us all round the houses of his run right from the Court of Owls to the present, and Capullo draws it all with energy, skill and a keen eye for action. He’s still the master! 

And I really did enjoy the Batman vs the Justice League portion of the book. But, after the triumph that was Death of the Family, returning to the well again for Endgame was a bust for Scott Snyder. It was a poor follow-up to a much better story arc - poor by Snyder's high standards that is. For most other Batman writers, this would be a high point. 

It seems like this is the beginning of the end(game) for the first class quality that has been the hallmark of Snyder/Capullo’s Batman run.

Batman, Volume 7: Endgame

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