With so much news circulating in and around the DC Universe, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo somehow make "Batman" #38 a story that not only stands so powerfully alone, but one that also transcends the title of the series at the same time. In part four of "Endgame," Batman seeks help from Dick Grayson to try and cure the infected populace of Gotham City, a quest that leads exactly where no one expected it to: Crazy Quilt.
That's right -- Snyder once again unearths a gem from Batman's ludicrously ample history and finds a way to spin that character not only into this story, but into the heart of the adventure in a manner that leaves readers wanting more. Using Paul Dekker as a mouthpiece for his own work, Snyder whispers to readers, "Doesn't feel like a Batman story anymore, does it?" and "Endgame" most certainly does not seem like just a Batman story. Snyder has made this a story about Gotham and the DC Universe itself; it's about evil and the good that counters it. "Endgame" is a story about the durability of the Joker's mission and his dedication to providing a foil for Batman in order for the character to be something more than just Batman. This is totally not the Batman comic I'd ever expect to read under the title of "Batman," yet Snyder makes it all work.
Snyder flips over the relationships in this issue, questions the commitment Bruce Wayne has made and gives readers a lot to consider as this single issue provides a microcosm of everything Snyder and Capullo have brought to the legend of the Dark Knight since September 2011.
Part of that "everything" is the issue's playful yet powerful art. Capullo packs the panels with details, but Danny Miki anchors those details down, giving them solidity and shadow, making them part of Batman's world. Capullo gives readers plenty of energy to follow, channel and share in his characters' movements and expressions. His panels are full and frantic but accommodating for the colors from FCO Plascencia. The colorist does less with the textures of this tale than the temperature of it. From the glowing pink fluid for Dekker's jellyfish to the cold, rigid marble on the final page of the lead story, this comic exists as an example of visual collaboration.
Although I'm uncertain if Capullo crafted this as a tribute to former Bat-artist Norm Breyfogle or not, one panel in particular casts Jim Gordon in much the same manner as Breyfogle would have. Even the shadows behind Gordon have the same consistency of the shadows Breyfogle used in his run with the Caped Crusader. That one panel locked me in longer than necessary but, if the tribute is intentional, it simply might be one of the greatest panels in comics in 2015.
The journey of Joker's disciples continues in the backup story from James Tynion IV and artist Sam Kieth. This installment climbs into Cassidy's past, an encounter with the Joker and the events that lead to Arkham. Tynion's take on Joker is creepy and apropos for Kieth's manic drawings, and Cassidy's disturbingly detailed recollection of events adds uneasiness to the whole tale. These backups have provided interesting character studies while also giving readers more details about the Joker's influence on other characters, and this one continues that trend. Tynion compiles a solid Joker horror story.
In "Batman" #38, Snyder, Capullo and crew bring all the storylines together: "Zero Year," "The Court of Owls," "Death of the Family." It all congeals as readers follow Batman against the Joker, each trying to outwit the other, with the rest of Gotham teetering on the brink as the Clown Prince of Crime appears to have the upper hand. Batman is fighting for the city, but he's also fighting for his pride, his sanity and the lives of everyone in his city. "Endgame" stretches throughout Gotham's history, so it's only appropriate that Snyder and crew dive through Batman's.