WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Batman Beyond #29 by Dan Jurgens, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Andrew Dalhouse and Travis Lanham, on sale now.
DC's latest Batman Beyond arc has certainly been pushing Terry McGinnis to the limits, all while taking readers on a nostalgic trip down memory lane. It's no surprise, given that the original Joker has mysteriously returned following the time-altering events of Future's End, seeking retribution against this new Dark Knight and how he's tried to clean up Gotham.
But as we see an older Dick Grayson trying to help Terry out, Terry's younger brother, Matt, gets thrust into the heat of battle with dire repercussions, and Barbara Gordon herself barely escapes the vicious gaze of the criminal. With so many moving pieces, a casualty was almost inevitable. Luckily for all these heroes and Bruce Wayne, that death is none other than the Clown Prince of Crime.
After causing the usual chaos by crashing a train into one of Bruce's charity events, the Joker managed to kidnap Matt, continuing his obsession with killing Robins. In this universe, he killed Jason Todd and almost left Tim Drake a mental wreck. After seeing this new youngster, well, let's just say Joker smelled fresh blood and wanted a taste. In Batman Beyond #29, as the Bat-family scramble to locate Matt's whereabouts, Joker hijacks Gotham's TV feed and puts on quite a sadistic show. He urges Bruce and company to find them, but clearly he's toying with everyone, biding time for some ace in the hole.
When Terry and Dick find the site, they're attacked by Joker's goons, who end up burning a casket they believe Matt to be in. Thankfully, he's not inside. But as relieved as everyone is, it now dawns on them that this was all a distraction. It turns out, Joker had extracted the location of the Batcave from Matt and is headed there to kill Bruce once and for all.
It's a showdown for the ages, because the Joker can't believe he never figured out that Bruce was the Bat all this time, while Bruce finally gets a shot at putting him down once and for all. But it's not like the old days, as this revived Joker feels as fresh and youthful as ever. He shoots Dick's daughter, Elainna, and leaves Matt incapacitated while he and Bruce engage in a crowbar fight.
It's fitting seeing as this is the weapon of choice Joker loves to deploy when murdering Batman's sidekicks. However, a desperate Bruce impales one of Joker's hands with a broken crowbar and pulls his own gun on him. The clown urges Bruce to break his one rule and shoot him, but just as he starts enjoying Bruce's conundrum more and more, Joker succumbs to the least expected method of death -- a heart attack.
That's right, his heart gives out and he collapses to the ground lifeless. It's a stunning victory, but leaves us with quite a few questions. As the Bat-family begins the recovery process, we're left wondering if Bruce would really have pulled the trigger, something he made clear he'd never do even in the Batman Beyond animated series. In fact, him almost using a gun is what pushed him into retirement. We're also curious if Dick, a surviving Elainna and Barbara will now rejoin Bruce's ranks, because clearly he can't mentor the next generation alone.
What's also intriguing is the next chapter hints that, after another close call, Terry will be pushing Matt to retire. Bruce was a staunch supporter of the kid being Robin, but it seems this encounter will be changing their minds. Last but not least, we can't rule out the Joker returning. He's proven time and time again death won't keep him away from trying to burn Gotham to the ground. A heart attack couldn't stop Bruce in The Dark Knight Returns (albeit it was self-induced), and here, it's tough to believe it'll keep the Joker away from the Bat-family, especially as he now knows their biggest secret.