The Snyder/Capullo Bat-team delivers the penultimate chapter of "Endgame" in "Batman" #39 and it's filled with just as many surprising moments as the previous installments. Scott Snyder uses Gotham as a weapon against Batman, with the infected citizens of the city continuing to impede his advancements in both stopping the Joker and discovering a cure to one of the most successful plots the clown has ever created. What makes this run so unique -- and will set it up as one of the greatest runs on this character -- is his ability to take us under the mask, not just getting into the mind of Batman but Bruce Wayne's as well.
The issue is fraught with tension as Batman races the clock to stop the Joker's virus from setting in and making Gotham a dead zone of Jokerized hate machines. Snyder has used the arc to show the dark balance created by the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince. In this issue, each travels into the belly of the beast to acquire knowledge to defeat the other. Each is attacked on arrival but, in both scenarios, Joker winds up with the upper hand -- theoretically in Batman's case, literally in his own. Snyder plays the Joker against Batman using chaos; Batman is a detective and a detective's entire goal is finding clear answers through order. Throughout this run, Joker has never given the same answer to a question and never reveals what the final answer is. For one, it's the destination that is the goal; for the other, it's the journey. They are the balancing forces in one another's lives. The climax also borrows from the 1989 "Batman" film and twists it into a dark horror fantasy set against the backdrop of a rioting Gotham.
Greg Capullo and Danny Miki continue to make Snyder's Shakespearean horror tales look like the most breathtaking work being published by DC Entertainment. They are superhero veterans but have adapted their characters to fit realistic yet powerful designs. Their Batman is a rugby player, lithe and quick yet packed with muscle, and the Joker is the opposite with his pallid, gaunt stature. Visually, Capullo and Miki balance the pivotal moments in the book by showing Batman shrink into more slouching and defensive positioning throughout his fight with the first Talon while showing Joker standing tall and confident even as he's having his ear blown off with a shotgun. FCO Plascencia's colors are moody and set the tone for each scene, always crisp and never muddied by oversaturation or blurred effects. Everything has defined lines and is readable. Steve Wands also delivers clean lettering, popping certain words and phrases with oversized emphasis, reminiscent of Tom Orzechowski's work on "Spawn."
There are big moments that will change the characters in this issue, perhaps permanently. This team is creating one of the most legendary runs on "Batman" ever assembled. Their gothic horror adventures have made one of the biggest selling books in the company's publishing line feel like destination reading. It feels like this could have been the climax of their work though they are staying on the book for a while longer. It's going to be exciting to see how they top this arc.