Saturday, May 2, 2015

Batman by Scott Snyder issues #40

I just missed FREE COMIC BOOK DAY today (May 2nd, 2015). I sort of have regrets about it because I do want to get that free preview copy for whatever major event DC has cooked up (Divergence? Convergence?) that has sorely affected the upcoming comics line this year. 

Most of the Bat-titles have ended their current run by issue #40 but only three of them ever really mattered to me. Both Manapul-Bucellatto and Tomasi-Gleason finished with Detective Comics and Batman and Robin respectively and now Scott Snyder ends his saga for Endgame which was everything you expected and never expected from a Batman-Joker-centered piece. This has the markings of someday becoming one of the few greatest stories ever told between the two since Alan Moore's classic The Killing Joke. I did not particularly think its finale was strong, however, but I still believe Endgame is a story for the ages.

Before I get into that, I also just want to mention that Fox's GOTHAM is ending its first season with a finale this coming week that I hope makes up for all the general unevenness and mediocre installments in between. I haven't posted any individual episode reviews since its mid-season break last year with Lovecraft but I will be posting an official first-season review some time this June because I need to go back to my previous reviews and possibly re-watch the entire season so I can compose a well-constructed and fairly subjective review. I really like the show; there are moments in select episodes that I genuinely enjoyed. I've grown to understand and root for certain characters, and I'm still invested on Gotham to continue its journey through a second season. I have the same feelings for NBC's Constantine whose last four episodes I will be posting individual reviews for on my other blog.

In the meantime, let's talk about the finale for Endgame and Snyder's BATMAN run for New 52. There's nothing more to say that I haven't tackled in my previous reviews for this story arc and if you have some time right now, you might want to go back and read them. Now I thought this was a rather befitting end to a series that has defied and met expectations a lot of times in the past, and this was mostly because writer Scott Snyder has demonstrated a certain level of sophistication and delicate sensibility in the structure of his narratives for this series that always leave readers craving for more. Endgame, in particular, has left me nothing short of being stupefied and breathless. I also became sincerely afraid of the events unfolding before me as the story went on. I will never, ever forget just how much this storyline made me so goddamn nervous every time a new issue gets released. 

Starting from #35, Endgame was at its heart a mythical exploration of the Joker as a timeless character and fictitious construct; the clown prince of crime and nightmare instigator whose reputation and legend have been tied to Gotham and Batman himself for a very, very long time. Much like Alan Moore calling some attention to the twisted symbiosis present in Batman and Joker's relationship as governing forces of order and chaos in The Killing Joke, Snyder himself delved upon this paradox and myth further. As you can see from the cover of this issue, Batman and the Joker are shown to be locked in a perpetual battle between light and darkness; a story as old as time; the ultimate representation of a rather painful and almost inseparable dichotomy that has dictated and defined one's role and function in lieu of the other. Batman is the avenging angel; Joker is the beast that needs to be slayed. It's a great visual depiction and speaks a lot to how their story reaches its inevitable end. But NOTHING EVER ENDS.

I've been consistently rating each Endgame issue with 9 out of 10, and I believe I'll do the same for this finale. It wasn't a perfect chapter; I thought there was a missed opportunity in the beginning pages where the Rogue's gallery allied themselves with the Bat-family--I wish we could have gotten a more fleshed-out content from this subplot. Each rogue--Bane, Penguin, Poison Ivy, etc.--that were shown fighting alongside the good guys is unique in both identity and relationship with Batman so it's a shame they were merely compartmentalized in a team effort to foil the Joker's plans. I thought it was just wasteful because it would have been interesting to see these villains taking sides between Batman and Joker and not just lump them up in a unanimous decision to aid Batman. It just didn't make sense to see them work so easily as one unit and together with Batgirl, Red Robin, and Red Hood at that. That's my only criticism for this finale issue.

The rest after that was actually where the real meat and bones of the story truly lie. Julia Pennyworth has officially won me over; her continued assistance and reliability would make Alfred very proud of her daughter. She was there for Batman until the very end and it even helped her repair her relationship with her father once she finally learned to walk and work in his shoes to protect the one person aside from her that Alfred would lay down his life for. My most favorite moment occurs at the very end when Alfred has decided to just live with his amputated hand because there's no used to having all his parts if there's no longer a master, surrogate son and friend he will mend, as he had promised Bruce back in Zero Year ("I will always be here to mend you").

Here is the SPOILER for this finale issue: Underneath Gotham City itself, Batman and the Joker have their last crucial face-off. And it was brutally visualized by artist Greg Capullo. The panel after panel of violence that went on between this unstoppable force and immovable object were gory and breathtaking to witness. What really got to me was those precious last scenes with Batman holding onto the Joker as they near their own demise. Batman intends to die since he found out that the Joker has risen and came back to finish him off, and he accepted this with unquestionable clarity. It was only poetic; their deaths must be a shared burden between them; a heightened and sensationalized closure and yet it was also a surprisingly simple culmination of everything they have been and will be: INTRINSICALLY INSUPERABLE. It was always the ending that fit them both.

Snyder may have killed Batman and the Joker here in Endgame, but there's always, always going to be a rebirth--for every destruction demands creation. By the time the new comics line start, the possibilities of what the new Batman line-up is going to be are rife with creative energies and fresh beginnings. Both Batman and the Joker after all are unkillable ideas; unified concepts that have been retold since the dawn of mankind's ability to tell stories. And so we will read about Batman and the Joker again, and we will bear witness to these stories with a new pair of eyes and vantage point-of-views soon enough. 

We could gaze continually in the void until we grow weary of its presence but seen through a new perspective, then it could still take the breath away.