The strength of Scott Snyder‘s run on Batman has always laid in modern mythology; expanding and refining the Batman mythos more comprehensively than any writer since Frank Miller by challenging what we know about the Dark Knight and what the Dark Knight knows about himself. His strongest stories are the ones that rest in mystery. The Court of Owls was better than Night of the Owls because of the mystery surrounding the Court’s existence. Likewise Endgame‘s ‘tragedy’ falls short of Death of the Family‘s ‘comedy’ as from the end of the first act all the cards are on the table.
Endgame‘s revelation comes in Issue 3. Overwhelming evidence suggests that the Joker is not ‘just a man‘ but that he is in fact an immortal being, having consumed something similar to Ra’s Al Ghul‘s Lazarus in the 16th Century. It is Batman’s paranoia that drives him in this story; not the zombifying laughing gas released on the population, nor the confrontation with the ‘Jokerfied’ Justice League. Not even an attack upon Alfred and the Batcave gets the same reaction out of Bruce as the suggestion that there is more to Joker than the Clown Prince of Crime.
This at times grows wearisome, especially as there are references made to offers of immortality that we don’t see in the pages of the book, but when ying and yang find themselves deep below the city and Batman realizes all he has to do is take his nemesis’ taunts at face value, the story ties itself together. As far back as The Killing Joke Batman has expressed a desire to kill the Joker. We have seen him battle between the lesser of two evils: murder or risking more blood on his hands. But with Joker claiming that he can’t be killed, as long as Batman allows himself to believe, nothing is off the table. Greg Capullo gives Bruce a look of smug satisfaction as he can finally indulge his darkest desire with the cleanest of consciences in Gotham‘s deepest, darkest crevice.
Capullo’s art work is in fact so integral to the story as to be unnoticeable until the most dramatic moments. The fantastically choreographed fight to the death in the last issue leaves the reader with the same exhaustion as the combatants. The smile carved into Batman’s back, the cuts and burns that creep across their faces, the shadows swapping so the dominant figure is encased in darkness, they are all as essential to the tone as the story itself. Capullo’s style loses some of its edge with the more colorful heroes; Flash in-particular getting a less flattering portrayal, but overall Endgame is another clear example as to why this creative team has lasted half a decade.
Endgame has its faults. Joker’s scheme never truly evolves past a number of set pieces that Batman blindly walks into. A fist bump and heavy handed metaphor of descending gods let slip a hint of Snyder’s lighter Batman but when juxtaposed with Snyder’s horror movie Joker, the two seem more at odds with each other tonally than morally. With that being said, Snyder has finally come full circle on Zero Year. Batman was born out of the necessity of one upping Red Hood‘s theatrics and now at the end of their story Batman dies with the evil that created him. Snyder and Capullo’s run with Bruce Wayne has been poetic in a way that mainstream comics often try to avoid and although their time with this Batman may be finished they have set the stage for a Gotham never seen before; one where mysteries abound.