Wednesday, December 17, 2014

SPOILERS: Batman #37

Soooooooo, things get a bit fucked up this time around.

The Spoilers:

Alfred and Julia got Bruce back to the cave with the news that Joker has a virus spreading throughout the city, and it's airborne... What is a laugh but a bunch of coughs in a row? It's bad, there's a special element in this strain, and none of Bruce's hundreds of antidotes are working on it.

Once he's ready to go, Bruce decides to look for the first case of the virus to see if there can be anything found off of patient zero. While heading to the hospital, Bruce touches base with Gordon who has walled himself up in his home. Jim tells Batman a bit about the hospital he's going into, and once they hang up, he continues to look into the "haunted" hospital, which many believe the devil himself calls home. Looking closely at a photo from nearly 100 years ago, Jim notices what looks to be a face in the shadows... Joker's face. Not believing what he sees, he moves on to another story a couple decades later, and again... the Joker seems to be there. Starting to get a bit freaked out, Jim finds a photo of Barbara and James Jr. when they got their tonsils taken out, and sure enough, a pale white arm can be seen in the background. If things weren't creepy enough, Jim hears a sound in the house, and gets up to investigate, only to find a boxing glove punch him when he opens his closet... Remember last time Joker showed up he said he hid under Jim's bed? Welllllllll...

Things aren't any better for Bruce, as he fights his way through the infected hospital, he finds his way to patient zero... Who is patient zero? Well... It's Joe Chill, and behind his containment cell, a twisted set of Crime Alley gets lit up, where Duke Thomas and his parents are forced out of... and it looks like the toxin is forcing Chill to try and recreate a scene that Joker seems to know quite a bit about.

While Bruce is trying to break into the cell to save Duke and his parents, Jim is trying to fend off the Joker, who set fire to the house. Bruce manages to get inside the cell before the bullet hits one of Duke's parents (taking it himself), while Jim has no choice but to shoot Joker, square in the heart. With things going to shit (infected horde), Bruce grabs Duke and runs. He gets a call from Jim, letting him know what happened, but, in true horror movie fashion, while Jim isn't looking, the Joker rises up and does something terrible off screen to him. Joker then picks up the phone and just says:

"Hello, Bruce."


The Review:

So, the idea that Joker is this immortal evil, a straight up devil is super Grant Morrison-esque, and I loved it. It's not as weird and lofty as Morrison's stuff can be, everything is presented in a much more straight-forward/literal fashion here (whether or not everything is true is yet to be seen) but regardless, it's all sorts of insane, while having that Snyder twist of complete horror. I loved this issue, I love what it suggests, I love how it was presented... God, just so good. This is what a pissed off Joker needs to be, a force of chaotic nature unmatched by anything that's come before him. I liked Death of the Family, but man, so far this one is just blowing that story away.


  1. I didn't like Death of The Family so when I learned that Endgame was going to be a Joker story I wasn't very thrilled , fortunately I was wrong and this arc have been very good so far .

  2. This issue felt surreal to me. I mean, I had a hard time believing everything that was happening. That is not necessarily a bad thing; it's probably an indication that Snyder wrote a kick-ass story that was really psychological and filled with horror. I mean, I was unnerved and off-balance the whole time. Capullo's pencils just absolutely complete the effect.

    As to the specific reveals of the story:

    1) Joe Chill. I think this is the first "New 52" canonical recognition that (a) Joe Chill killed the Waynes, (b) Bruce knows it, and (c) Chill's alive. The Wayne's killer has been retconned so many times over the years that it's barely worth discussing, but I think it shouldn't be understated that we're getting the official contemporary version here. That Snyder gets to write it shouldn't be a surprise since he just re-wrote Batman's freakin' origin.

    2) The Joker. We're getting insinuations that he's perhaps supernatural/superhuman. The nod to Willowood Asylum or 'Home For Troubled Youth' as Snyder has renamed it was interesting. Not sure if it implies some connection between Joker and Lincoln March/Thomas Wayne, Jr. or not. More likely it's just Snyder incorporating pieces of his overall mythology and take on Gotham -- that the city is a semi-sentient thing full of scary, supernatural, evil stuff. In that respect, it's definitely similar to Morrison's take on Gotham. He did that in 'Gothic' with Mr. Whisper, and retold part of Peter Milligan's Dark Knight, Dark City to explain Simon Hurt's supernatural background. I'm not sure Snyder's doing it intentionally, but I think it definitely fits with that conception of Gotham quite nicely. Snyder's sensibilities as a horror writer really shine through in this regard.

    3) Identities. I guess this is meant to be the Big Reveal: The Joker actually knows Batman is Bruce Wayne (or vice versa). I suppose this can be seen as something of a heretical development. Many writers have long maintained that it shouldn't matter whether The Joker knows, he doesn't want to know, he's incapable of knowing because he's insane, etc. Again, Morrison was pretty clear about this when he referenced the Joker's "hyper sanity" -- basically he's so insane that he's come all the way back around 360 degrees. Even Snyder seemed to imply at the end of Death of the Family that The Joker could possibly know, but chooses not to because he needs to see Bruce Wayne as Batman. That being the case, presumably Joker's "break" in this arc, basically setting the fun and games aside and going for the jugular, he's finally decided to end his "relationship" with Batman. (In #36 he claimed he was genuinely hurt that Batman threw him off a cliff.) Anyway, whether the "Joker Knows" development lasts should be sort of inconsequential in the grand scheme, I think. Rather, I think it should be read in the context of the story that Snyder is telling about Batman and Joker's ties to one another.

    Apropos of identity, I think one additional thing to consider is that as far as we know, Batman doesn't know who the Joker actually was. According to the end of the Red Hood arc in Zero Year, the guy Batman identified as Red Hood One or whatever he was almost certainly not really the Red Hood who fell into the vat of chemicals and became Joker -- which I think we can assume is still canon absent evidence to the contrary. Anyway, The Joker knows who Batman is, but Batman doesn't know who The Joker is. Sort of turns the tables and flips the hyper-competent "Bat-God" idea on its head. The Joker's bested him in this regard.)

  3. This issue went a little too overboard with making the Joker this powerful entity.

    1. Yeah, not sure how literally we're supposed to be taking that. Part of why I was in a state of disbelief a lot of the story. Hopefully there will be a little more clarity in the second half of the arc...

  4. I think the interest of Joker's statement doesn't lie in wether it's true or not but that he chose this idea to make his final point. The Joker is a lier and a comedian at heart and so I'm positive this immortality thing is a sham but the bone of the story is this unhinged Joker, acting as a disapointed lover, turning his adoration into hate and deciding to take no prisoners. I love the fact Snyder has managed to make the Joker even scarier than before and making him seem fresh and new. Also, about Joe Chill, during Zero Year month (september 2012), there was a story where Bruce found Joe Chill and was planning on getting his revenge but gave up when he saw how much of a poor, decrepit hobo Chill was. So no, it's not the first appearence of Chill in the New 52 but it's by far the most shocking one.

    1. Thanks for clarifying the Joe Chill situation. I didn't know that because it must have been in one of the tie-in books. (Does anyone remember which one?) I didn't read any of them. (I suppose I could go back through the GS archive...)

    2. OK, found it. Batman The Dark Knight #0 by Greg Hurwitz in September 2012. You threw me off just a little by saying "Zero Year," which made me think it was part of the Zero Year tie-ins, not the #0 month... but you had the month right. Now I vaguely remember this issue, even though I didn't read it. Regardless, thanks for correcting my mistake.