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Scott Snyder’s Batman run was one of the most acclaimed books in the new 52. When many of the titles of the reboot couldn’t deliver great sustained storylines, Snyder kept creating emotional and epic stories about the Caped Crusader. The result was great arcs such as “The court of owls”, “The night of owls”, “Death of the family” and “Batman: Endgame.” In this article, you are going to see Batman: Endgame explained in full detail – the story, prior events, and aftermath. Moreover, I will tell you exactly what makes this arc so great and why it is worth your time.
My Bottom Line Upfront
Batman Endgame sees the conflict between the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of crime taken to thrilling new levels. It is an emotional story, full of action and coated with more than welcome appearances from Bat-family members and characters from the wider DC scope.
A Quick Rundown
- The events prior to the story
- The story explained issue by issue – major arc and tie-ins
- The themes and why it is great
- Impact of the arc
Batman Endgame is not a self-contained story, but the culmination of previous storylines. To better understand what goes on in this arc there are two main events we must recap. The first is Joker having his face surgically removed by the Dollmaker in Detective Comics(2011)#1. This occurrence shows Joker’s increasing madness and obsession with the Bat-family. The action was motivated by Joker’s belief that even without his “mask” i.e his face, he was still the Joker. Whilst Batman and his family’s identities were related only to their masks.
The second event was Joker’s attempt to destroy the Bat-family. In Death of the family, Joker reappears after one year missing and steals his face from the G.C.P.D. He then initiates a sick game with Batman where he reenacts their previous encounters but with shocking twists. As the story progresses Joker manages to harm and endanger all those closest to Batman. By attempting to protect his loved ones, Batman shuts out the members of the family, which causes a schism between them and the Dark Knight.
Joker manages to kidnap Alfred, Nightwing, Red Hood, Batgirl, Red Robin, and Damian Wayne. Batman saves them and meets the Joker near the Bat- cave for one last encounter. The two fight and Joker falls from the cliff to his supposed death. It seems all might be well but despite the physical victory, Batman encountered emotional defeat. His actions and lack of trust in his allies drove a wedge between them. Was that Joker’s final laugh?
After their last encounter, Joker is madder than ever at Batman. Now the villain will stop at nothing to defeat his arch-nemesis. Not even the Justice League is safe! As the Clown Prince of Crime pulls one impossible trick after the other the Batman begins to question if his foe is really just human or something more.
If you look online, people will have different opinions on their preferred reading order. But I find the best way is to read the first three issues of the main arc, the tie-ins, and then the last three issues. The list is as follows:
- Batman (2011) Issues 35-37
- Batman (2015) Annual 3
- Detective Comics: Endgame (2015)
- Batgirl: Endgame (2015)
- Arkham Manor: Endgame (2015)
- Gotham Academy: Endgame (2015)
- Batman (2015) Issues 38-40
Now, let’s proceed to the events, issue by issue!
We start with Bruce’s nightmares due to the new strain of fear toxin he was exposed to. He comments on the visions of death he’s been having in his new base with Alfred and Julia Pennyworth. Then, suddenly, Wonder Woman flies through the window taking Batman with her. Seeing the fight will be long and destructive, Batman asks Alfred to release gas on the city, which causes people to evacuate. With a clean arena, Batman wears his suit made specifically for combat with the Justice League. One by one, more members of the League appear. First Flash, and then Aquaman. Batman has some success neutralizing them until the strongest of them arrives. Superman comes out of the sky with a mad smile and it is then Batman realizes Joker has infected the League with his toxin and is controlling them.
On the last pages of each issue, we will follow a B-plot that dabbles in some of the ideas about the Joker the comic explores throughout the arc. Dr. Mahreen Zaheer, a psychiatrist at Arkham talks on the phone with her colleague Eric Border about the escape of 5 patients. The patients said they’ve been visited by the Joker and each one of them is going to tell a story about the villain when they see a sign. The first inmate, Ephram, begins. He said twenty years ago he encountered the Devil and it was the Joker. Said Devil told him how he should commit the crimes against the girls he harmed. The Joker came back twenty years later to his cell and told him what the inmates were supposed to do. The patients then threaten the doctor to take them to the city or they will kill her.
I don’t know what made me more afraid. Batman fighting the Justice League for his life or the creepy murderer’s plan…
Batman and Superman fight. Batman uses the microscopic red suns in his suit to weaken the threat. Superman destroys a building with his laser vision and takes Batman to the skies with him. Batman spits a polymer with Kryptonian dust in Superman’s eyes prompting him to blackout. The Justice League is taken to A.R.G.U.S headquarters to be treated. Batman and the Pennyworths discuss Joker’s tactic this time around and The Dark Knight decides to investigate the now collapsed Arkham Asylum. At Joker’s cell, Batman breaks the bed in anger and is approached by Eric Border. But here comes the twist! Border is actually the Joker in disguise. During the revelation, the clown traps Batman in his cell and tells him this time he won’t be able to stop what’s coming.
The escaped prisoners from Arkham arrive at a restaurant and another inmate tells her story. She lived happily with her husband and three kids but one day her husband came from work different. She believed a machine had replaced him and was doing the same to her children. So one day she killed them and removed the chips from their brains. The doctors said there were no chips, but she believed it was all a conspiracy. Later on, the Joker appeared on her cell and showed her he was a machine and was responsible for replacing people all over the city. Suddenly the glass from the restaurant is shattered by people intoxicated with the Joker toxin.
Batman is at the cave after being rescued by the Pennyworths and they discuss the virus released by the Joker. They haven’t been able to find a cure yet. The Caped Crusader goes to the hospital where the infection started in order to investigate. There he finds the man who killed his father, or he thinks so. The Joker made a reenaction of the day Bruce’s parents were killed. Batman saves the child but the kid’s parents are infected. He talks to Commissioner Gordon on the phone. Joker had invaded the detective’s home, but Jim says he had killed the Joker. However, this was far from the truth as the Joker rises up, stabs Jim, and catches the phone to greet Batman.
It’s time for inmate number three to tell his story. When he was a child he disturbed the class by making people laugh, so his mom told him a story. The owners of a factory, fearing a revolution, called a clown to make the workers laugh. However, as if taken by a spell the workers couldn’t stop laughing and they laughed to their deaths. Scared by what happened, the people of Gotham burned the clown. The inmate explains that’s why he kills people who laugh. If you laugh, you die. As more intoxicated people approach, the runaways hide underground in the sewer.
Batman (2015) Annual 3
This horrifying tie-in tells the tale of a reporter who dared to defy the Joker. He said the clown hated everyone and had no friends. From this point on, the villain decided to make the reporter his “friend”, by killing people close to him and appearing on special occasions. As the years went by, the reporter lost everything, his job, his wife, and his sanity. Committed to a psychiatric institution he would confide in Eric Border, who he called his only friend, not knowing he was the Joker.
Detective Comics: Endgame (2015)
Lonnie is running away from the intoxicated people at Gotham while trying to find his mom. He makes new allies and using his hacking abilities, Lonnie is able to stay alive. The group encounters Batwoman and Red Robin, but they are too busy to participate in the rescue mission, so the heroes call Spoiler. The odds of crossing the horde of infected people to get to the club where the main character’s mom resides are slim, but Lonnie has an idea. He paints some masks with the Joker smile. The group wears them and passes through the crowd without being noticed. Rescue mission accomplished and a weakness discovered!
Batgirl: Endgame (2015)
In this cute issue, we accompany Batgirl’s effort to save the people stuck in a bus from the hordes of intoxicated residents of Gotham. In the middle of the mess, a girl is left behind at the top of the bus. However, Batgirl is able to help her get through part of the crowd unnoticed by making the girl smile and then rescues the child. A cool thing about this issue is it has no dialogue, only images. And the concept is executed beautifully!
Arkham Manor: Endgame (2015)
Harvey Bullock interrogates an Arkham guard about the infection at the Asylum. The Joker released the toxin and the inmates started to kill the guards. However, some prisoners were unaffected, such as Bane, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, and Clayface. The unaffected villains and the guard make up resistance. When things escalate, the guard punches the Joker. Only it was not the Joker, but Jeremiah Arkham. Another one of Joker’s ploys to deceive people? The G.C.P.D arrives and the situation is controlled.
Gotham Academy: Endgame (2015)
This is another fun and cute issue, just like Batgirl’s. Three students tell horror stories about the Joker while the grown-ups deal with the situation outside. It’s a fun read and we get to see just how badass Headmaster Hammer can be when he neutralized the threats at the end.
Batman runs to meet Gordon and when they meet the commissioner is Joker-ized and runs to attack. However, Julia jumps in at the right time to knock out Gordon. She then tells Batman that the virus is slowly killing people. The Dark Knight runs through the crowd of infected people while he contacts Dick Grayson. While talking, they discover that the substance in Joker’s blood that is healing the clown is the antidote to the virus. Batman suspects Dr. Dekker created the substance and visits the man. He denies he could ever create such a powerful thing, but explains there is a substance, Dionesium, capable of making people heal. He injects himself with what he believes is the cure but dies instantly. Helpless, Batman seeks the Court of Owls for help.
The fourth inmate finds the sign to tell his story. He was a part of a special military training whose purpose he believed was to create many Batmen. His paranoia grew and he tried to make people believe him but ended up becoming a killer in the process. As with all others, Joker met him on his cell to tell him what he should do. After the story, the group opens the door they found in hopes of finally meeting the Joker.
The court of Owls denies help for Batman because they think, that whatever happens, Gotham will thrive. Batman meets Uriah, one of the first Talons and they begin to fight. The Dark Knight asks if the Joker was alive 400 years ago, but there is no answer. The Joker breaks into the Bat Cave and chops Alfred’s hand off. Batman observes Joker’s crazy parade in Gotham city and calls the Bat-family. He explains his plan and enlists the unaffected villains for help. They need to cross the hordes of infected people in order to retrieve a fluid from Joker’s spine that is the antidote for the toxin.
The Arkham Asylum fugitives don’t find the Joker behind the door, just a bunch of copies of the book Dr. Zaheer wrote about the Clown. The fifth inmate says she has no story to tell, She had no reason to stab the people she killed. Dr. Zaheer explains that she discovered who the Joker is with the help of her colleague Eric Border. You can already see there’s something wrong, right? Because as we learned earlier Dr. Border is the Joker. The clown prince of crime finally arrives and tells the doctor he lied about everything. He conjured up a fake story so she would have something to put in her book. He then hands her a gun and says there’s a bullet for every person who told a fake story. She replies saying they are all fake. The Joker vanishes as the fugitives try to break into the room Dr. Zaheer is hiding in. We see blood on the pages but never find out who killed and who died.
The end is near. Batman recollects his memories of his first encounter with Joker and questions the true nature of his greatest foe. Gotham is at war. The heroes and allied villains fight against the Joker-ized people. When Batman meets the Joker he releases a gas that incapacitates the heroes. The clown states the fluid in his spine is not extractable anymore and that there is a reservoir of Dionesium underground but the hero was not good enough to find it. He then takes Batman’s mask off to reveal Dick Grayson! It was all a plan, and now that Batman knows where to find the cure, he heads for the site.
The Dark Knight gets the cure but explosions start to make the walls crumble down. He beams up the cure and is surprised by a backstab from Joker. The two fight and Batman throws a Batarang that blocks the healing powers from the fluid in Jokek’s body. They keep fighting until a critical point. Desperate, the clown tries to reach the healing pool but Batman holds him until a giant rock falls and destroys the Dioneseum pool. The two enemies bleed out. Is this the end?
What is it all about?
There are two main themes in this story arc. Joker’s true nature and Batman’s relationship with his fears and allies. Since Death of the family Snyder has been exploring the theme of Joker’s true origin. Is he just a man or an entity of chaos? A demon from hell with unimaginable power or a depraved lunatic? At the end of these issues, it is clear he is just a crazy man, but as a symbol, he is so much more. People fear him, and because of that fear, he becomes a concept, a force of nature.
The other theme appears at the beginning of the arc with Batman’s nightmares. In this story, we see a Batman that many times doesn’t have a plan yet. A man who is scared for his family and the residents of his city. A man burdened with the weight of saving everyone. This is a human Batman. One who makes mistakes but learns. This time, he doesn’t shut out his allies like in Death of the Family. This time he makes people part of the plan, and in this way, even though he is presumably dead, he lives on the people that were part of his team.
Is it any good?
I would say this arc is more than good. It is awesome! The exploration of complex themes alongside incredible action makes a compelling read. The issues feel extremely cinematic with their thrilling rhythm and amazing art. Greg Capullo rocks every time, and that is why he is one of my favorite comic artists! Each panel is vibrant and seems like it will jump out of the page.
However, even with all my praise, I feel the need to point out some common criticism, even if it is to somewhat debunk them. Some people feel that Joker’s abilities in the story are unbelievable and they miss the days when Joker’s stories were more realistic. If in a way I can understand these complaints I also think that after decades of comic storylines, sometimes you’ll have to go to the grander tales. Superhero comics are meant to be fun and somewhat absurd and that’s what I like about them. If it’s up to me, DC can keep the epic storylines coming.
The end for Batman?
After the ending panel, here comes the question: is it the end of the Dark Knight? As these are comics, the answer is no. Heroes will die, but they must be brought back. Otherwise, there would be no fun. But what happens then? After this final issue starts the infamous arc there Commissioner Gordon becomes the Batman with the robotic suit that looks like a bunny. As we all suspected Bruce is not dead but living a completely new life with amnesia. And this is the crazy setup for Bruce’s slow return as Batman. But that’s a whole other story. Truth is, Endgame really changed the status quo for a bit and opened up space for daring ideas.
Question: Are Batman and Joker brothers in the comics?
Answer: Definitely no. In the 2019 movie Joker, it is implied that the Joker could be Bruce’s older brother. However, that was something entirely made up for the movie and has no basis in comic book lore.
Question: Can Batman beat Superman?
Answer: In a clean fight without any tricks, no. Superman has super strength, among other powers, and could crush Batman in an instant. However, with the use of special armor, kryptonite and special strategies Batman has been able to defeat Superman several times. In the second issue of Batman Endgame, the Dark Knight uses a polymer with Kryptonian dust to knock out the hero.
Question: Why doesn’t Batman kill?
Answer: Story-wise, he doesn’t want to be a murderer, especially because his parents were killed in front of him when he was a child. From a publishing perspective, DC wanted Batman to rise from a vigilante to a true superhero. So after a couple of years of comics publications where the Caped Crusader would kill when necessary, the editors established a no-killing rule, taking inspiration from Superman.
A great ride
Writing for a Batman comic is never an easy feat. After so many comic storylines and ideas were thrown out throughout the decades, it seems everything has been done. Batman Endgame manages to keep close tights to the past while also giving something we’ve never seen before. It is definitely a great read!