Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia are masters in crafting bone-chilling imagery. This is just one of the big takeaways from Batman #36, the second chapter in the “Endgame” storyline written by Scott Snyder. Throughout this series, the writing and the art have equally performed at a high level. This is unsurprising, given Snyder’s talent for infusing his scripts psychological and horror elements and Capullo’s pedigree as a penciller for Spawn and Haunt. However, Snyder’s script for Batman #36 allows Capullo to cut loose and create some genuinely terrifying illustrations, further fleshed out by his aforementioned collaborators Miki and Plascencia. This might just be the best looking issue of Batman yet.
“Endgame: Part Two” opens with a sequence of lucid dreaming brought on by the Scarecrow’s fear toxin before reverting back to the Jokerized Superman from the previous issue’s conclusion. Capullo’s economic use of space, restricting the sequence to one page, allows for it to be an initial shock as readers peel back the opening cover without taking away from the core story.
The battle with Superman, which the art causes to feel cinematic. Batman fighting Superman, regardless of the circumstances, is a big deal in any medium and therefore demands big, sweeping action set pieces. The layouts reflect this, with most pages limited to five landscape oriented panels. The larger-than-life action, completed by the vibrant hues of FCO Plascencia, is engrossing.
As the issue transitions more intimate settings, Capullo’s layouts grow more full, increasing the amount of panels in order to close the scope of the page. Aside from a single splash page, Capullo’s use of more panels allows the title to reestablish its suspenseful temperament following the bombastic opening.
One individual whose contributions are overlooked is letterer Steve Wands. A common adage in the comic book community is that if the lettering does not stand out, it’s a job well done. It’s a sentiment that is proven false here. Wands’ ability to communicate various moods, be it tranquility or madness, through the fonts he uses further adds to the overall reading experience. It is his use of fonts that tips the book’s hand that the Joker is present, forewarning readers Capullo, Miki, and Plascencia’s chilling image on the next page.
The use of the dream sequence to open the issue is a curious storytelling decision by Snyder. On one hand, it adds choppiness to the larger narrative, seemingly deviating from the main plot without reason. Yet as the issue’s final pages reveal the cause of the dream, it’s evident that Snyder is bucking the common trend of “writing for the trade” and focusing on making “Endgame” a story best experienced in periodical form.
Snyder has mentioned in interviews that his Joker story to follow up “Death of the Family” would be one of a hate-filled, scorned lover, and that’s exactly who the Joker is here. As Joker confronts Batman, Snyder tears down the hero’s confidence by attacking his knowledge and foresight into every possible scenario. As depicted in the action-packed opening, Batman may have a tech-suit with the ability to neutralize the Justice League, but he counted on them still remaining true to their core, not controlled by a murderous psychopath. Similarly, he may have studied the Joker extensively, but he still doesn’t really know him. He remains an unknown, and the unknown is inherently terrifying.
The back-up story by James Tynion IV, joined this time by artist Graham Nolan, is another vignette demonstrating the Joker’s ability to prey on the weak and, more specifically, the mentally unstable. Nolan’s marriage of classic comic book art with cartoonish elements is a perfect match for Tynion’s disturbing script. The eerie tale makes for an excellent complement to Snyder’s main narrative, further fleshing out the world of “Endgame.”
Note: This review was originally published at InfiniteComix.com