Tag Archives: Greg Capullo

A Batman #48 Review – Dangerous Destiny

Batman #48, cover, Greg CapulloTITLE: Batman #48
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Greg Capullo
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: January 20, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for the latest issue of Batman.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The intensity is cranking up again in Batman, as we head toward Bruce Wayne’s inevitable return to the cape and cowl. And now that Bruce and The Joker have been reunited (the amnesiac versions, mind you), it’s time to start asking the tough questions.

With no memories of his time as Batman, and only secondhand knowledge of his former life, an amnesiac Bruce Wayne must decide whether to bear the burden of a hero, or keep his current life. Of all people, he runs into The Joker on a park bench. Like Bruce, Joker seems to have no memory of who he was. But perhaps there’s no one more appropriate to be with Bruce as he contemplates his fate. Meanwhile, Mr. Bloom is on the rampage in Gotham City and the current Batman, Jim Gordon, is at his mercy. The fate of the entire city hangs in the balance as Bruce makes his choice.

When we started this “Superheavy” story, and we found out what had happened to Bruce, part of our path became clear. The iconic hero has a chance to start over and live something of a normal life, but he chooses the way of the hero all over again. It’s a classic tale. It’s just a question of how Snyder and Capullo would choose to tell it. I can’t say I’ve loved their entire run, but what we get in this issue is pretty damn satisfying.

Batman #48, 2016, Greg CapulloIn this park bench sequence, it’s left ambiguous just how much The Joker remembers about his former self. At a few different points it seems like the Harlequin of Hell is revealing himself to Bruce, but it’s simply a misunderstanding. As a reader this is frustrating, especially when a gun is brought into the scene. But there’s also a dark humor in it that I can appreciate. It’s very Joker-ish in that sense.

Snyder gives us a role reversal, as Bruce ponders what the point of this new life was if he’s simply going to go back. He nearly says aloud that this is almost like a big joke. Then The Joker, of all characters, floats the idea that perhaps existing in the here and now is enough, and that change is okay.

This is almost an upside down version of The Killing Joke. I particularly enjoyed Bruce briefly considering The Joker’s usual mindset, that life is essentially a worthless joke, before making his decision. On the flip side, The Joker considers the idea that meaning can be found in everyday existence. To Snyder’s credit, he gives us a scene that can only happen in this story. The ambiguous nature of just how much The Joker knows also leaves us wondering if, when The Joker returns, he’ll know Bruce’s identity. Snyder and Capullo are starting to reassemble what they took apart in Death of the Family and Endgame. Bruce also has a hell of a line to close the issue.

But oddly enough, this isn’t the highlight of the issue. Mr. Bloom, a villain that I had considered a lame duck before, steals the show by growing giant-sized and monologuing.

Batman #48, 2016, Mr. Bloom, Jim GordonAs he speaks to Gotham at large and tries to lure them to his cause, what’s truly scary is how much modern truth is injected into his insane rant. Bloom is making a bunch of metaphors about Gotham being a big garden when he says…

“In a garden, the gardeners pretend to take care of you. Look how pretty they make your lives. The police shoot you unarmed. Then shoot you again. And again. Your politicians. They take your money, and let you wither. Business poisons you. They say you can do well here, but you’re poor as hell. Aren’t you?”

Moments later, he urges Gotham to rise up against a corrupt system. There’s a chilling reality in those sentences. Obviously it’s coming from an insane character with a garden fetish. But that doesn’t make it any less impactful.

While I’ve had my issues with some of Scott Snyder’s writing choices on Batman, I’ve had very few complaints with Greg Capullo’s art. That trend continues here. In the Bruce/Joker scenes, The Joker looks perhaps as normal as we’ve ever seen him. But that madman is clearly lingering under the surface. Thus, the question of whether that madman is in control becomes even more pressing. Also, look closely at the cover. There’s a lone tear sliding down Batman’s mask. That’s a truly awesome touch.

This issue was a big win, no doubt about it But these next two issues of Batman, which will wrap up this story, have the potential to be among the best Snyder and Capullo have done. The stakes are high. There’s little doubt Batman can rise to the occasion. Let’s just hope this story can do the same.

Images from comicbookmovie.com. 

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A Batman #43 Review – The Pixar/Jim Gordon Connection

Batman #43 (2015)TITLE: Batman #43
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Greg Capullo
STUDIO: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: August 12, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead for Batman #43, as well as the Batman: Endgame storyline.***

Amnesia, huh? Could’ve been worse, I suppose. After all, he was dead.

Wayne Industries developed much of the tech in Jim Gordon’s Batsuit. So when Gordon decides he wants to get some extra suit time in without being monitored, he comes to Bruce Wayne (I mean, why else would he seek out Bruce?). But Bruce, who is mysteriously alive despite the events of Endgame, refuses. This leaves Gordon to take on a new villain, Mr. Bloom. But Gordon is woefully unprepared to face Bloom. And he’s not the only one…

The major development to come out of this issue is that we finally learn how and why Bruce is alive, and why he isn’t Batman any longer. We’re told that following his death in Batman #40, Dionesium (a magic chemical Snyder created during Endgame) seeped into his fractured skull, healing him, but leaving him without the memory of his parents’ death, his training, or his time as Batman. Thus, Bruce no longer has a “shadow” over his life. And he no longer wishes to. He instead chooses to work with his old flame Julie Madison, helping underprivileged youth in the city.

batman43_5Oddly enough, we learn this via Alfred explaining it to a visiting Clark Kent. Clark is a fine choice for this scene, but it does leave one wondering what Barbara Gordon, or perhaps Damian, might have been like in that scene.

It’s also worth nothing that no mention is made of The Joker during the exposition of how Bruce came back. So it’s likely that he was effected by the Dionesium as well, and as such will forget Bruce was Batman. They also present a way to reintroduce the old memories back into Bruce’s mind. So within the span of one issue, Snyder and Capullo have explained how Bruce survived, how The Joker likely survived, set up an interesting journey for Bruce to go on, and given us a way to bring the old Batman back. All this while introducing Mr. Bloom. Not too bad, gentlemen. Not bad at all.

Batman $43, Greg Capullo, sharksAs if that weren’t enough, we also get a pretty cool action sequence in this book, in which Gordon gets in a firefight with a group of gangsters, and in the process a shark tank is shattered. In true cop fashion, Gordon goes for cover, and winds up ducking behind one of the “beached” skarks, who happens to have sunk his teeth into one of the gangsters. It’s an extremely bizarre visual to see Batman firing a projectile weapon at criminals from behind a shark. But it works. And much credit goes to inker Danny Miki and colorist FCO Placencia for the tremendous contrast between shadow and bright color. As shown above, we’re able to really feel the impact of some of those batarangs. Particularly one that hits the guy in the damn eyeball…

The verdict is still out on our villain, Mr. Bloom. He’s got sort of a hybrid Poison Ivy/Scarecrow thing going on. I do like the idea of doling out seeds that grant the recipient powers. Considering we now have a big mecha Batman, he’ll likely prove to be a good physical match for Batman. I also love the cover, here. It’s almost a twisted callback to the poppy scene in The Wizard of Oz.

This issue also has some really solid dialogue, and a few good one-liners…

  • Gordon: “With great stickiness comes great responsibility.”
  • Clark: But you told him, Alfred. You told him about his life.
    Alfred: “I did. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever had to do.”
  • Thug (as several guns are pointed at Batman): “Tell me, ‘Batman,’ have you ever seen Robocop?”

As a whole, this issue reminded me of a post I came by not too long ago. It was titled: “Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling.” Gordon’s entire quest to be Batman seems to fall under rule #1…pixars-22-rules-of-storytelling-as-image-macros-2The shark thing is just a coincidence, I swear.

This whole set up with Gordon being Batman and the police trying to have their own Dark Knight is obviously an idea that’s destined to fall apart in the long run. But the cool thing about these past few issues is that Snyder, Capullo, and the creative team don’t hide from that. They know it’s a bad idea. But that doesn’t stop readers from rooting for Gordon, because he’s trying his hardest to make it work, and to be the best Batman he can be.

Perhaps this rule about admiring a character for trying rather than for their successes describes why we all love Jim Gordon in the first place. He’s always been woefully unequipped to clean up Gotham. But he never stops trying. Despite having a big ass robot suit at his disposal, in the big picture, Gordon is an underdog. This juxtaposition is a sign of really compelling writing.

Images 1 and 2 from newsarama.com. Image 3 from fastcocreate.com.

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A Detective Comics #43 Review – A Contrast in Batmen

Detective Comics #43TITLE: Detective Comics #43
AUTHOR: Brian Buccellato
PENCILLER: Fernando Blanco. Cover by Francis Manapul.
PUBLISHER:
DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: August 5, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Between Jim Gordon becoming the new Batman, the upped emphasis on Harvey Bullock and the GCPD, and the reemergence of fan-favorite character Renee Montoya, Detective Comics is starting to bear a mild resemblance to Gotham Central. You won’t hear any complaints about that from me. At. All.

We open the issue to discover the unthinkable has happened: The power core from the new robotic Batsuit has been stolen. As the GCPD rush to find it, the vicious La Morte gang continues to threaten Gotham. Plus, Renee Montoya, fresh from internal affairs, has her sights set on Harvey Bullock’s partner Nancy Yip. Given the two have become “partners” in more ways than one, this makes things personal for Bullock.

Detective Comics #43While this issue isn’t necessarily about him specifically, the most memorable element in Detective Comics #43 is the way Jim Gordon, in costume, is drawn in the opening scene. When Bullock and the others find him, he’s been ambushed by La Morte and is almost completely spent. We see him hunched over, almost as if he’s ready to vomit from sheer fatigue. Then he slides into a sitting position, and Fernando Blanco gives him an expression with traces of both relief and desperation. What makes this so interesting is that it’s such a stark contrast to how we’re used to seeing Batman. His posture is different, his expressions are different, he talks to people differently. This is a nice illustration of he contrast between Bruce Wayne’s Batman and Gordon’s Batman, without making it so obvious.

On the subject of differences, Gordon is still sporting his silly mohawk. The style choice obviously isn’t Buccallato or Blanco’s fault. I suspect that was a Greg Capullo design choice. What does fall on this team’s shoulders is in this issue, Gordon’s head appears to have a 5 o’clock shadow, in addition to the mohawk. Perhaps that’s a nitpick, but it drew my attention away from the story. If they’re trying to convey that some time has passed since Gordon first became Batman, that’s something we as readers already know. Yes, the mohawk look is dumb. But it’s the look we got, so let’s just stick with the damn thing.

Detective Comics #43, Bullock, GordonUnder pressure from Montoya (Damn, it’s good to have her back.), Bullock presents Gordon with a fairly drastic solution to the Yip problem. Like, drastic even by Bullock’s standards. It’s in character, though. For all his eccentricities Bullock has always put his police work first, even when it means crossing certain lines (Longtime fans might want to take a look back at the Officer Down story arc to see what I mean.)

In Batman, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo seem to be telling a story about how being Batman changes Jim Gordon and those closest to him. There’s also the question of whether Bruce Wayne can live without being Batman. In contrast, Detective Comics seems to be about how a police-sanctioned Batman changes the GCPD. For Bullock and Yip, change isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Images 1 and 2 from usgamer.net.

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A Batman #41 Review – Bat Cop

Batman #41TITLE: Batman #41
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Greg Capullo
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 10, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Batman #41.***

Batman and giant robots don’t mix.

That’s always been a philosophy of mine. Stuffing Batman into a big mechanical monstrosity robs him of a lot of his appeal. Bruce Wayne trained for years to master his detective skills, combat techniques, and general crime-fighting capabilities. But for my money, giant robot suits ruin all that by making Batman into a weird Hulk/Iron Man hybrid who doesn’t use most of the skills that inherently make him Batman. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have used a giant Bat-robot twice during their run on this series. So when we found out we’d have a brand new robot-suit Batman beginning with issue #41, I cringed. Snyder and Capullo have big ideas. Sadly, not all of them are good (See Zero Year.).

Then we found out who this new Batman would be, and things got interesting.

Batman #41, title pageBatman is (apparently) dead. But his presence is sorely missed, and the city needs its symbol of hope. So the Gotham City Police Department, with the assistance of Powers International, sets out to create their own Batman who works within the boundaries of the law. Their top choice? Jim Gordon. But to say the least, Gordon is a very different crimefighter than his predecessor.

What makes this issue work is that our main character, Gordon, seems just as baffled by all of this as we are. He never expected to take up the role of Batman, and we never expected to see it. Throughout the issue we see his reluctance, his fear, the mistakes he makes his first night out, and finally how he uses the the detective skills he’s possessed all along to solve his first case. This new costume doesn’t exactly scream “detective,” but that unexpected twist is part of the fun. What’s more, there’s a second Batsuit under this big robot suit, which is pretty slick. They also cover the logistics, ranging from Gordon’s age, to his smoking, to where his base is, etc.

The interesting thing about the robot suit is that Snyder and Capullo poke fun at it themselves, seemingly chiming in with our criticisms before we do. Gordon himself says: “I look at that thing, but I just don’t see Batman,” and then says it looks like a “robobat-bunny.” It’s actually pretty funny. I’m encouraged that Snyder and Capullo aren’t taking themselves so seriously here. This is so obviously not Batman, and we all know it’s temporary anyway. So it’s nice to see they’re having fun with this while it lasts. They even play around with the colors mid-issue.

Jim Gordon, mohawkMy only complaint deals with, of all things, Gordon’s hair. We saw in Divergence that our Bat Cop has a mohawk under his mask (shown left). We see that here as well. This goess too far into silly territory for my tastes. If Gordon has to cut his hair for whatever reason, why not just give him a buzzcut? It’s simply a needless distraction.

Still, this issue was a pleasant surprise overall. One thing you can never fault Snyder and Capullo for is the magnitude of their ideas. And for now, they’ve sold me on the idea of Jim Gordon as Batman. Our friend the commissioner is about to step into a whole new world. And it’ll be most interesting to see how he handles what awaits him.

Image 1 from newsarama.com. Image 2 from dangermart.blogspot.com.

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A Batman, Vol. 2: City of Owls Review – Owl City

Batman, Vol. 2: The City of OwlsTITLE: Batman, Vol. 2: The City of Owls
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV.
PENCILLERS: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, Rafael Albuquerque, Jason Fabok.
COLLECTS: Batman #8-12, Batman Annual #1
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASED: May 20, 2013

Need to catch up? Check out Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls.

By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X

I never really took to the Court of Owls. They’re a bunch of hammy ninjas and evil rich people who share an obsession with a nocturnal bird. Maybe it’s because I just don’t buy the fact that there’s this evil cabal secretly running Gotham City for whatever reason. What do they hope to gain? Money? They’re already rich. Power? They could do that without resorting to murdering people and training ninja-zombies. I can almost imagine it: The Court of Owls Political Action Committee (COPAC).

My feelings on the Court of Owls aside, The City of Owls is a decent read. Following a harrowing encounter with the Court in their secret lair, Bruce Wayne suddenly finds himself under attack by a legion of Talons in his own home. What’s more, the Court has sent Talons to target important individuals across the city. Alfred quickly scrambles the Bat-family to try and save as many as they can, but who will win the “Night of the Owls?” More importantly, who’s really behind it all?

Batman #8, Greg CapulloEasily the best thing about this issue is the build-up and suspense. I have a renewed appreciation for Snyder’s skill in building momentum. It’s almost like climbing the stairs in a multistory building: You march up to the top, get to the landing, and you’re relieved, and then you’re faced with another set of stairs. In this case, Snyder and Capullo demonstrate their ability to make a comic which is visually compelling and interesting to read.

My favorite parts of the book, however, had little to do with the main plot. I most enjoyed the stories with Jarvis Pennyworth and Harper Row. In the Jarvis Pennyworth story, we see how Jarvis met his end while trying to be a good man trapped in a bad situation. The Jarvis story in particular has art by Rafael Albuquerque that fits the mood and story. The coloring and texture have a vibrant darkness to them, sort of like impressionist noir.

The Harper Row story gives us the kind of Batman tale I’ve always really liked: a look at the superhero situation from the P.O.V. of a normal bystander. Harper herself manages to be her own character without becoming a stand-in for Stephanie Brown. The smorgasbord of artists assigned to her issue managed to mesh well, and actually produced a nice effect.

Batman #11, Greg Capullo, Bruce Wayne, Dick GraysonI can’t say Snyder’s Batman is particularly memorable here. I will say, however, that we get a lot of good, classic Batman moments that were enjoyable to read. For instance, when Batman finally gets rid of that outrageous mech suit, and he’s suiting up, he smiles slightly when he puts on the cowl. He’s enjoying getting ready to kick some Talon butt with his own hands. The final scene with Bruce and Dick was a great one, with Greg Capullo’s art capturing the mood perfectly. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Snyder write a run on Grayson or Nightwing, as he seems to have a good grasp on Dick’s personality. We saw this plainly enough back in The Black Mirror.

The thing is, I know that Snyder can do better than what he gives us here. Maybe he could try doing something with the classic villains, like The Riddler or Scarecrow or The Penguin. The Mr. Freeze-centric story in the annual gave us a fine example Snyder’s new approach being applied to older villains and ideas, and it turned out beautifully. I’d like to see more of that from him and his other collaborators, especially Jason Fabok, who draws such beautiful renditions of the classic villains.

The City of Owls wasn’t the best Batman story I’ve ever read, but it’s not bad either. It’s one of those things that just above average. It had the potential to be great, and it succeeds as a page turner, but it’s not going to make it onto my top ten list. At the very least, I admire Snyder and Capullo for trying to shake things up a little, and I hope to find more substantial stuff in the future

RATING: 7.5/10

Image 1 from dccomics.com. Image 2 from popmatters.com.

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A Divergence #1 Review – The New Batman, a New Era for Superman, and More Mobius

Divergence #1 (2015)TITLE: Divergence #1
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, Gene Luen Yang, Geoff Johns.
PENCILLERS: Greg Capullo, John Romita Jr., Jason Fabok.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: Free Comic Book Day Release
RELEASED: May 2, 2015

By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X

This year, we actually got something nice from DC for Free Comic Book Day. Not only do we have three talented writers matched with three equally talented artists, but the three mini-stories we’re given are actually pretty amazing! Snyder, Yang, and Johns are all in top form today, and if these stories are any indication of what’s to come post-Convergence, then I think I might just take a look.

Divergence #1 seeks to set up the new status quo for Batman, Superman, and the Justice League after Convergence. Batman gets top billing, as he often does these days. In “The Rookie”, Gotham City without Batman has thankfully not descended into chaos and fire following the events of Batman #40. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see Gotham at peace for once, though the narrating TV reporter speaks of unhealed wounds. Indeed, Capullo treats us to a beautiful splash page of a crowd of Gothamites shining miniature Bat Signals in the sky, looking positively sullen.

Batman, Divergence, Greg CapulloBut all hope is not lost! The Hillary Clinton-esque Geri Powers appears to reassure the citizens of Gotham City that a new Batman is about to be born. Who’s behind the cowl this time? I think I’ll leave that for you readers to find out for yourselves. But I’ll tell you this: It’s equal parts astounding and amusing. It was also nice to see the seeming end of Batman through the point-of-view of the ordinary, mundane folks like the reporters and cops. The inner circle of the Bat-family is nowhere in sight, except for the new “Batman.”

In “Exposed,” we’re introduced to Gene Luen Yang’s take on Superman. We start with Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen chatting sometime after Clark’s had his secret identity outed by Lois Lane. To top it all off, he’s operating with weakened powers. In my opinion, Superman has behaved in pretty much every single New 52 appearance as an irrepressible jerkhat. This includes Geoff Johns’ run on Justice League, which features Superman and his fellow heroes engaging in petulant bickering while, you know, saving the world.

Divergence #1, Superman, John Romita Jr. So Superman here is kind of a jerk, understandably so. But he then beats up this super-strong thug who tries to kill him and some innocent bystanders. At least he tried to avoid the fight, and he actually saved some people. Jimmy Olsen then plasters pictures of the fight all over social media, and excrement hits the fan for the Man of Steel. He then tells off Lois Lane when she tries to help him.

I like Yang’s story, but I don’t like his Superman. Yang’s a talented writer, but I wish the people at DC would get over themselves and get the message that their heroes don’t all have to be jerks. Superman is one such hero, and he’s a good place to start. At the very least, the story was still pretty fun. Yang’s writing style is free of any grim-and-gritty pretentions, a theme reinforced by the bright, easy-lined artwork of John Romita Jr.

And that brings us to the final story in this issue: “The Other Amazon.” Fittingly enough, this story by Geoff Johns focuses primarily on the lore of Wonder Woman, using it to highlight the origin of The Anti-Monitor, a.k.a. Mobius. The long and short of it is that this rogue Amazon named Myrina gives birth to Mobius, whose father is revealed to us at the end, and we get a preview of Darkseid War. She will apparently be a major player in this latest hullaballoo. I really hope that this will end up being a feather in Wonder Woman’s cap. From what we see here, it certainly looks likes it will be the case.

Divergence #1, Wonder Woman, Jason FabokThe mini-story itself does its job well. It gives us a window into what’s going on in Darkseid War, and makes you want to check it out. It actually looks pretty epic! On the other hand, I’m beginning to get fed up with these Geoff Johns-led super-mega-events. First there was Blackest Night, and then Flashpoint, Trinity War, Forever Evil, etc. I mean really, when will it end? At least Jason Fabok’s art was nice. It manages to be bright and flashy even when most of the background is dark brownish and grayish.

On the whole, this Free Comic Book Day issue was by no means of low quality. DC really invested a lot into this issue, bringing in some real heavy hitters, and boy, did they hit hard. Divergence #1 gave us three engaging, entertaining stories with lovely artwork and solid writing. This is a far cry from last year’s Free Comic Book Day issue, where they just reprinted the origin of Chris Kent. That was just lazy.

Fortunately, Divergence #1 is anything but.

Image 1 from dreamwidth.org. Image 2 from weirdsciencedccomicsblog.wordpress.com. Image 3 from bleedingcool.com.

Follow Levi Sweeney on Twitter @levi_sweeney, or at his blog, The Stuff of Legend.

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A Batman #40 Review – Dead Again

Batman #40, Greg CapulloTITLE: Batman #40
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: Greg Capullo
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: April 29, 2015

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Batman #40 and the Endgame storyline.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m not as big a fan of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo Batman run as a lot of comic book readers. But no one can deny they’ve got big, ballsy ideas. The Court of Owls, Flappy Face Joker, Zero Year, etc. For better or worse, they’re willing to take risks.

Hell, the finale to their Endgame story was so big and ballsy neither Batman or The Joker survived it.

When we open Batman #40, The Dark Knight and his surrogate family have teamed up with the likes of The Penguin, Killer Croc, Bane, and other foes to fight back against The Joker and his deadly virus that has turned most of Gotham into sadistic laughing zombies. But in the end, it all comes down to Batman and The Joker, in a fight that will irrevocably change Gotham City forever…Or not. Maybe they’ll be back in three months. This is a mainstream superhero comic, right?

Batman #40, Batman vs. Joker, Greg CapulloWhile I am fairly critical of the run Snyder and Capullo have had since the New 52 reboot, it’s tough to deny the quality of Capullo’s work. His art has a visceral quality that often sticks with you for awhile. That’s very much on display in the brutal and bloody fight we see hero and villain engage in here. It’s very reminiscent of Frank Miller’s work in The Dark Knight Returns, to which Snyder and Capullo have paid tribute time and time again during their run. Interestingly enough, the Returns fight ended with the Joker having a Batarang in his eye, and the Endgame fight it’s Batman with a playing card in the eye.

The sheer ugliness of the fight was unexpected. But it does fit the idea of The Joker finally taking the gloves off and coming after his “former friend” with everything he’s got. In terms of Mr. J, Capullo does a fantastic job bringing him across the emotional spectrum. From sheer joy, to rage, to desperation. The character is rendered with such bulbous yellow eyes and these shark-like rows of gigantic teeth. This is why Capullo is one of the defining Batman artists of the last decade.

Batman #40, Greg Capullo, JokerThe issue revolves around Batman trying to extract a chemical called dionesium from The Joker’s spine. Dionesium is among the substances that has allowed characters like Vandal Savage and Ra’s al Ghul to live as long as they have. The idea is that after Death of the Family, Joker found a large pool of it in the caves under Gotham, which healed him and restored his face. As a plot point, this is fine. The man cut his own face off. There was obviously going to be some kind of magic comic book cure for him. What I don’t like is the way Endgame makes a mystery out of whether The Joker is this mysterious mythical figure called “The Pale Man,” who’s been around for centuries. In earlier issues we see Joker pop up in old photos, which is never entirely explained. And even at the very end, when the idea has been disproven, Batman mocks him for it.

I understand what Snyder is going for here in terms of The Joker’s cause, and the idea that a mere mortal like Batman can’t control the endless, eternal chaos and randomness of our world. But I dislike the notion that Batman and The Joker aren’t equals on the mortal playing field. These two characters both stand for something very powerful, and very human. The fact that they’re both mere men is important, because it plays into the relatability of their ideals. In theory, anyone could be Batman or The Joker, not because they don’t have super powers, but because they’ve both made very real, very human choices about their lives. Making The Joker an immortal character tarnishes a portion of that human element.

Batman #40, two-page spreadPlus, we all knew he wasn’t “The Pale Man” anyway. So why waste time on it in an otherwise intriguing and compelling story?

There’s also a nitpick I can’t resist here: Why is The Penguin involved in street fight (shown left)? If he’s firing off a bunch of trick umbrella gimmicks, that’s one thing. But he appears to just be fighting like everybody else. That’s a little out of his element, isn’t it? Just sayin’…

Flaws notwithstanding, Batman #40 is a nice finale to the Endgame story, which of course takes us into the whole “Robot Suit Batman” thing they’re starting soon (We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.) We can all make whatever arguments we want about whether it’s a quality issue or not. But for obvious reasons, it’s got historic value.

Image 1 from blastr.com. Images 2 and 3 from newsarama.com.

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