Batman #40 Review: One Last Dance


Here’s a bit of disclosure before I dive into the end of “Endgame”: when Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo did their last big arc on Batman, I couldn’t wait for it to end. Not that I didn’t enjoy “Zero Year,” but it was so big and sprawling that it wore me out mentally by the time it finished.

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In contrast, “Endgame” has been deliciously consistent from start to finish, with the creative team layering on new questions and twists with each chapter. That makes Batman #40 kind of like the final stretch of a roller coaster, where you can see there are some big thrills still to come but also know it’s going to pull into the station after that.

To put it simply, what Snyder and Capullo manage here is jaw-dropping. The Joker is completely in Bruce Wayne’s head, getting him to swallow the complex mythology he’s built around himself as some kind of immortal trickster. Except he’s not as far ahead of the Dark Knight as he suspects, as Batman is able to pull a few surprises of his own — welcome occurrences for anyone tired of the master planner Joker taken to his ridiculous extreme.

Though there are guest stars galore in the first few pages (including a star turn that should please longtime Bat-fans), most of the action takes place in a 10-page physical and psychological tussle between the two arch-foes. It’s a brutal, visceral slugfest, and while I’m not certain I buy the explanation for why Joker is all of a sudden a formidable enough melee combatant to stand toe-to-toe with the Bat, the way it plays out is perfect.

It looks great too, with Capullo making you feel each blow and cut exchanged between them. It’s hard not to think of some of the rougher fights from The Dark Knight Returns, as if the artist is channeling the best of Frank Miller and Klaus Janson here. It’s a treat, to be sure.

To think that this creative team has anything left to say after Batman #40 is both surprising and impressive. The deck is certainly cleared if someone else wanted to come in, but for anyone wondering if the issue explains why we need a new Batman after Convergence, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” Even if you dread that idea, you owe it to yourself to read the “Endgame” finale first. I can’t guarantee you’ll be on-board for what’s next after this issue, but I will say I don’t think there’s any way Snyder and Capullo could have done more to convince you.


The situation is getting increasingly desperate in Gotham City, but with some help from some of his other foes, Batman is at least able to get to the Joker. Alas, it may not matter, because the plan to extract the dionesium from the villain’s spine is a bust. He’s already tainted that supply somehow, and he taunts Bruce Wayne with the knowledge that there was an extra supply of it deep under the city that he’ll never get to in time.

Only that’s not Bruce Wayne in the costume — it’s Dick Grayson! It seems Batman already figured out what was up when he saw the Court of Owls’ model of the city, so he and Dick pulled a swap. Bruce manages to find a pool of dionesium and load some up so that Julia Pennyworth can pull it up, but the Joker starts blowing up the caves with explosives he had planted before, and Batman decides to stay and fight him.

What follows is the fight I mentioned, which sees both men suffer some serious injuries. Joker hints that in previous battles, he never used his full speed, which is why he seems so fast now. Ok … I guess. A nice touch sees two knives stuck in Batman’s upper shoulders above a wound that looks like a smile.

Batman begins to get the upper hand, smashing Joker’s jaw and revealing that he cut him with a Batarang laced with an immune-response blocker. If Joker is really hundreds of years old and has been using the dionesium since it was pure, it’s no biggie, but if he needs to crawl back into the pool to heal, it could be an issue.

After trading more blows, the Joker admits how hurt he was that Batman sort of turned his back on him after “Death of the Family,” and though he could have helped Batman live forever, he know wants to literally stab him in the heart.

Fortunately, a stalactite falls on Joker before he can plunge the blade, cracking his spine.

Interestingly, Joker is desperate to crawl to the pool, implying that he’s not immortal after all. But Batman restrains him, saying he finally believes the villain is exactly what he says he is. Could it be an ironic bluff? Or have they switched roles here at the very end? Joker is distraught when parts of the cave collapse on top of the pool, and even his semi-triumph of thinking he killed the Bat-family members and other villains is taken away since Batman gave them all something to counteract the gas Joker hit them with.

Julia begs Batman to take some of the dionesium before she pulls it up, but he claims it would compromise the structure of the carrier, and his final words before the cave-in are, “I’m just going to rest here a little while with my friend.”

That’s not quite it, as Julia tells a recovering Alfred that Bruce is gone, but that he left a cryptic note. It has only one word: “Ha.” Alfred understands what it means, that the Batman story is destined to end in tragedy, and that while he could be immortal, he chooses to truly stand together with everyone else, living bravely and smiling at the void.

The end … for now.

Next: Previously: our review of Batman #40

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