Review: Batman #39
“Snyder and Capullo show in Batman #39 why the Joker is such a persistent and dangerous threat to Batman and the people of Gotham. They show that part of the Joker’s menace comes from those times he cares too much, especially if he cares for you.”
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Release Date: Wed, February 25, 2015
We all have people in our lives for whom we proclaim that we would do anything: lie, cheat, steal, make moral compromises, or even die for, should it come to that. How strong are those connections are those tethers and ties that bind, though? How deep do those convictions run? Would you be willing to make a deal with the Devil to save the ones you love? That’s one of the burdens that Batman must carry in Batman #39, part five of “Endgame,” continuing writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo’s tale of the Joker’s ultimate assault on the city of Gotham and the Dark Knight himself.
At the beginning of the issue, Batman is in the midst of trying to juggle one too many balls: He’s near exhaustion after one too many battles with the Joker and his surrogates, including a toxin-controlled Justice League and Commissioner Gordon. A Joker virus is claiming Gotham City’s citizens one by one, destroying the body of Gotham a cell at a time. And the Detective has uncovered that his greatest enemy may truly be an unstoppable one, with a history reaching to Gotham’s beginnings. To truly save his city, Batman will have to exorcise the demon of the Joker from Gotham once and for all. However, he has to decide how much he loves the city he’s sworn to protect and just who he’s willing to throw in with for the greater good.
What’s most striking about the plot of Batman #39 is how many speeds Snyder throws the story into without the whole affair having a jarring feel. In both Batman and Wytches, Snyder is an expert at building his arcs with a slow burn, throwing the plot momentum in high gear as needed to service the story. And while the initial parts of “Endgame” flipped that on its head a bit—Batman did fight the entire Justice League in part 2; hardly a slow burn—Snyder creates a breakneck pace for this issue that also allows for some character moments needed to really sell the story. From the interchange between the Court of Owls and Batman as the latter tries curry help by appealing to the Court through its long history to Gotham to rousing a sense of community spirit in Batman’s supervillains in order to stop the Joker, we get to see a Batman at his most angry and his most vulnerable, throwing in with whomever he can to save his great love.
And that’s what Snyder has ultimately created here: a web of stories of love—familial, fraternal, obsessive—and how each type of love has an impact on the Batman and his world. While the Joker wants to show Batman how meaningless life is and how all of Batman’s efforts to inject meaning into the meaningless are efforts in futility, burning down Gotham in his rage, the Joker’s actions are also that of a spurned lover or a rejected friend. Batman rejected the Joker and his premises about like in “Death of the Family,” and the Joker’s actions play out as an angry revenge fantasy. The Joker may want to insist that he’s above the fray of life and attempts at filling it with purpose and meaning, but attacking Batman and his fellow Gothamites shows an adversary whose flailing belies an emotional attachment to the world he may not want to admit.
Whereas the Joker’s actions show a man in love with an idea that will never be attained in Batman, the Dark Knight’s moves shed light on a man who would do anything for in the service of his family—Alfred, Red Robin, et al—and his one true love—Gotham. Courting help from the Owls and teaming with his most vicious enemies to take down the threat of the Joker is about as close as making moral compromises as you’re going to see Bruce Wayne do, and the body language and demeanor artist Greg Capullo uses to sell Batman’s disgust and resignation at his actions are on-point. If Bruce had any other choice in the matter, we are familiar enough with Snyder’s Batman and the character throughout history to know that he would’ve found another way. But while Snyder shows the destructiveness of misplaced love on one end of the spectrum, he shows in Batman the extent that a father, a son, a brother will truly go in the service of whom they love. He’s spoken to me and in other interviews about how his love for his family plays into his writing, and it’s no more evident than it is here. (That said, however, try to be kind when you read what happens to Alfred—and know that it could’ve been far, far worse.)
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo show in Batman #39 why the Joker is such a persistent and dangerous threat to Batman and the people of Gotham. While a lot of that can be attributed to the force of nature that the Joker presents himself as being, Snyder and Capullo show that part of the Joker’s menace comes from those times he cares too much, especially if he cares for you. The two also show, however, that Batman is a man whose love for his people supersedes his love of self and how he’s able to put aside code and ego to shield those people from harm.