[Comic Review] Axis and Allies — Batman #39

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With the Joker’s virus creating absolute anarchy in Gotham City, Batman resorts to turning his enemies into allies. After venturing into the Court of Owls’ underground headquarters last issue, Batman takes a moment to obtain some of the answers he’s looking for.

The dionesium that gives the Joker his healing capabilities and prolonged life also fuels the electrum that brings back the Court’s Talons. The Court’s dionesium isn’t as pure as the stuff in the Joker’s veins, and it can’t be used to create a cure. After a bit of demolition work, Batman leaves the Court and challenges Uriah, one of the first Talons. As they fight, Batman asks whether the Pale Man existed in Uriah’s time.

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The issue flips back and forth through time with major developments pushing the Endgame arc relentlessly forward. The Joker proves Bruce Wayne was wrong by once again making the dive and swimming into the Batcave. After he torments Alfred Pennyworth in a cat and mouse game, the Joker cuts off the butler’s hand and loots the cave.

Julia Pennyworth lets a relieved Batman know that Alfred managed to find safety in the armory, and Batman turns his eyes on a parade reminiscent of the one featured in Tim Burton’s Batman movie. The Joker taunts Batman with clues that point to “Lumbar. Chord.” It’s a direct suggestion that Batman’s only hope is to draw the dionesium directly from the Joker’s spine.

The only way to do that is to build a fighting force that could keep an entire city of enraged individuals distracted while Batman sneaks up on the Joker.

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That means calling on the rest of the Bat Family as well as the rogues gallery.

Yes, Batman is digging deep this issue, and it’s going to take a strange grouping like this to save Gotham City this time around.

Scott Snyder’s script is especially fluid this issue as the pacing blisters through 20 pages of mayhem and destruction. This is a story to encompass all the other Batman New52 stories, and Snyder draws from the past several years to fill us in on one of the most dramatic Batman issues and arcs we’ve seen.

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Further building on the Joker’s origin, Snyder creates points in history that make the Pale Man’s story a bit more plausible and relevant. The same chemical that gives the Court its Talons gave one man centuries to commit murder and create disorder. In effect, it makes the Joker as old, if not older, than Gotham City itself, and it means the rivalry between the clown and the Court is at least 400 years old.

The way the pieces are fitting together proves Snyder has a master plan that’s way, way out there and bigger than expected. That means the end of Endgame should have a huge impact on Batman and Gotham City. Imagine a city saved in part by its villains.

Greg Capullo won’t be outdone, and his artwork complements Snyder’s horror-filled story with great moments. It’s not every day that a major character loses a hand, and seeing it happen in Capullo’s panels makes you feel Alfred’s pain. When Capullo was first attached to Batman, we knew we were getting grade-A art, but Capullo’s run on the series will be remembered as a golden age of visuals.

On that same note, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia are just as instrumental in making Batman one of the best visual books on the market. Miki’s inks are primed to pull out the intricate details in Capullo’s pencils. The panels are razor-fine, and Plascencia’s atmospheric colors highlight the Joker’s skin against a backdrop of a cave colored red for blood. Visual cues like these foreshadow what’s to come, and it’s all brilliantly done.

This is a Joker story for the ages, and each issue has gone on to blow the previous issue out of the water. An Endgame finale that meets expectations will not only make this arc one of the best — it will solidify the creative team’s run since 2011 as one of the greatest volumes of comic history.

At this point, we’re forced to sit back and wait an entire month before seeing what’s to come, but it’s a good time to go back to that first issue for another read through the 38 issues previous to this one. You might find other clues Snyder’s placed in those back issues that will point forward to whatever the creative team’s got in store for us as Endgame continues.


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Batman #39 (2011)
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DC
Words: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Greg Capullo
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Steve Wands

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Next Issue: Batman #40 Review

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