Batman #40 opens up as a darker version of a superhero team up spectacular with Batman’s allies and foes fighting the poisoned, violent inhabitants of Gotham while he tries to get the Dionesium healing serum in Joker’s spine to make an antidote and save the city. But, then, things take a personal turn as Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo narrow their focus to the struggle between the primal forces that are Batman and the Joker as they tumble deeper into the foundation of Gotham. Capullo draws a lot of close-ups of Batman and Joker as they become even more disfigured and blood-spattered. This issue ends up a being a huge turning point in both characters’ arcs even if there are some missteps along the way.
A great part of Batman #40 is getting extra story pages of Greg Capullo art. He’s at his scariest (especially in regards to Joker) in this issue, which features creepy caverns and extended fight sequences that inflict punishment to both Batman and the Joker. Capullo lingers on each knife or batarang wound, which adds a feeling of pain and mortality to these characters’ endless battle. Inker Danny Miki helps flesh out his gritty lines and silhouettes while colorist FCO Plascencia adds a sick green hue to most of the events of the story, including the fight on the streets of Gotham and Joker and Batman’s showdown in the cavern. There’s is a play of black, white, and pale green showing this almost elemental struggle between these two iconic characters.
For the most part, Scott Snyder cuts down on the voiceover narration in Batman #40 (with the exception of a single page flashback) and lets Batman, the Pennyworths, and the Joker’s actions and occasional monologues speak for themselves. By the end of the issue, readers will have a clear picture of why Batman fights crime and faces death each night and why the Joker keeps getting in his way. This is the final act of their twisted love story.
What’s less clear is parts of the plot. There is a lot of healing drugs, diseases, and antidotes floating around that give characters places to run to and even connect to interesting ideas like the Joker being immortal, but then get lost in the chaos. The shifting idea of what the healing drug Dionesium is makes some of the later events of the issue unclear, but this just might have to do with the Joker’s “multiple choice” approach to life.
Batman #40 features the battle to end all battles between Batman and the Joker drawn in gory detail by Greg Capullo and Danny Miki, but the scraps of dialogue between the blows and explosion are occasionally weighed down by exposition. Snyder does punch things up in the third act and leave Gotham and the Batman title as wide open as it’s been since the dawn of the New 52. He and Capullo make “Endgame” the dark mirror of Batman Eternal, and it’s interesting to see this storyline fit in the larger context of their run on Batman and the weekly series, which preceded it. Questionable plot devices aside, Batman #40 concludes the “Endgame” storyline in a brutal, personal manner that really shakes up the status quo on this book.