Scott Snyder’s run on the New 52 Batman series has gone above and beyond in defining Batman for this current generation.
The Court of Owls storyline connected Bruce Wayne to his main squeeze — Gotham City — as his alter-ego took on an urban legend connected to the city’s history. When the stories turned out to be based in truth, Batman dismantled an Illuminati-type political organization made up of some of Gotham’s most powerful players.
In Death of the Family, the Joker made his full return to the New 52, going after the Bat Family in relentless fashion and picking them apart. Bruce revealed a secret, driving a wedge between him and the rest of the Bat Family — the Joker had come dangerously close to finding the Batcave. Denying it outright, Bruce claims no one could have stayed underwater long enough to make the distance, but no one can explain how the Joker seemingly knew the real identities of the Bat Family.
With Year Zero, Snyder added more to Batman’s origin story by examining his journey as fledgling superhero. Giving anyone that kind of responsibility speaks to the amount of trust DC has for Snyder, and now that issue #37 has arrived, it’s clear that the publisher has given him carte blanche.
Batman #37, the third issue of the Endgame storyline, heads further into the Joker mythos by delving deeper into the fearful depths that Snyder dug up in the Death of the Family story arc. Ultimately losing that battle, the Joker won an important victory by hitting a particularly sensitive nerve. Though it was logically impossible for him to survive long enough to reach the Batcave, the doubt lingered, and the damage to the trust the Bat Family put in Bruce was done. The legend of the Joker added another chapter, and Batman seemed to be a little worse for the wear.
Endgame looks to go one further as the Joker has finally broken up with Batman. The tether is cast off, and the Joker’s new plans seem unrestrained and especially cruel. Setting his sights on finally claiming the city, he’s released a virus that infects people with and through laughter. As Gotham loses itself, block by block, Batman heads to Gotham Presbyterian where Patient Zero holds the possible key in creating a cure.
While Batman takes on a hospital full of laughing zombies, Jim Gordon keeps his mind occupied by researching Gotham’s oldest and supposedly haunted hospital. A closer look at photographs from newspapers reveals an eerie but familiar presence — the Joker.
Back at the hospital, things get incredibly personal for Batman when Patient Zero turns out to be Joe Chill, the man who murdered his parents. Things go from bad to exponentially worse when a family enters a side room from a decorated stage built to look like the theater from Bruce’s fateful night. Chill, under the effects of the virus, relives the Wayne Family murder as he raises a gun to the family of three, as Batman’s forced to watch.
Though it reads a bit choppy as plot points are conveniently dropped right before they become necessary to moving the story forward, Batman #37 is still an epic issue that will make you question what you know about the Joker. In issue #35, the side story created the idea that the Joker was more than just a man — he was the Devil himself. In this issue, Gordon does what Batman has never been able to do — take a shot at the Joker — and the confirmed kill gives off a false sense of security when the Joker rises again.
What does it say about Snyder that his vision of the Joker is this bone-chilling and unhinged? Not only do we see how far the Joker will go in taking down Gotham’s citizens — we see a sinister sort of Patch Adams who’s not above using hospitals and even children to create chaos and havoc — we’re left to question whether the supernatural claims are in fact real. If Gordon can’t be trusted to tell the dead from the living, we’ve got some serious trust issues to deal with. On the flip side, if the Joker is something more, how can Batman ever win against the ultimate evil?
Batman #37 is a page turner, and Snyder knows how to keep his fans happy. Not to be outdone, Greg Capullo’s compositions are thought-provoking and forward-progressing. The artwork hits the beats with plenty of punch, and the horror element gets plenty of boost with dramatic expressions. As much as DC wants Snyder writing Batman, it’s obvious they want Capullo too, and I assume the reason for Capullo not working on any other books is that they want all of his attention and time being spent on this one here.
Rounding out the creative team — Danny Miki on inks and FCO Plascencia on colors — are two other greats who produce top notch work. Miki’s inks deliver the goods by teasing out the details. In Wayne’s Batcave, lines are crisp and clear. Elsewhere, the scratchiness and crosshatching add true grit, adding to the story’s impact. Plascencia’s colors work the mood by giving each environment its own color scheme. The sickly green of the hospital, the electric blues of Wayne’s Batcave, and the incognito darkness of Gordon’s home office become characters of their own.
Batman continues to be one of the most consistent titles month after month. It’s hard to find anything glaringly wrong because the issues are polished and precise. If anything, they might suffer a bit from being over-produced — you won’t find too many happy accidents — but so what? At the end of the day, Batman #37, like the issues before it, is entertaining and impactful with each page adding one new layer to the overall continuity. So far, each of the story-arcs has brought something to the table, and years from now, they’ll be worth coming back to again and again. I’m not afraid to say that we’re in a golden age for the Batman series, and each issue feels like another piece of history. We are all witnesses.
Batman #37 (2011)
Words: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Greg Capullo
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Dezi Sienty and Taylor Esposito