MAJOR SPOILERS: READER BEWARE
From the moment I put down the first issue of Batman Endgame, I felt as though this Joker story was different. While Death of the Family impressed, it left many fans unsatisfied with its cliff hanger ending (see what I did there?) Having the ending be an "emotional impact" on the Bat-family seemed like an interesting take in theory, but the impact was abandoned by most writers after one issue. It was almost as if the characters had forgotten why they were upset with Bruce at all. While going through D.O.T.F., I more or less knew what I was getting. Joker kidnapped the Bat-family, did a bunch of evil stuff, killed a bunch of no named cops and civilians etc etc. I loved it, but it wasn't exactly ground breaking. Scott Synder had hinted that D.O.T.F. was a set up story, and that he had a punchline coming.
Well, he wasn't joking.
Endgame set itself a part from all preceding Joker stories with its first issue. Batman was left to defeat the entire Justice League at once. However, prior to that, we can assume the Joker himself did the same feat, infecting them all with his new strain of Joker Venom (the Joker Virus lets call it.) Right off the bat, Synder places Batman and the Joker leaps and bounds above everyone else in the DCU. Their conflict, their struggle, goes deeper than super powered aliens and power rings. Not soon after, we find out that the Joker hasn't been "missing" for the two years after D.O.T.F. He was right under the Dark Knight's nose, posing as Eric Border an orderly at Arkham, and even befriending the Bat. But what happens next is what truly separates Batman Endgame from the rest.
Joker reveals to Batman that without a shadow of a doubt, he knows his true identity. This concept has been thrown around by fans for a long time. That Joker always knew but never cared. Well now, he most certainly does. Not only that, but the Clown Prince of Crime survived a bullet to his heart like it was nothing. Commissioner Gordon, and the Pennyworths have also been uncovering the disturbing realization that the Joker has seemingly always been in Gotham. We last leave Batman, clueless as has to stop the Joker Virus, and learning that the Joker has made himself basically immortal.
Finally, Batman gives up. Yes, that's right. He gives up, and goes to the Court of Owls for help. The Joker has pushed him so far this time, that he has no choice but to enlist his enemies for help. Throughout this entire story everyone has been asking him, "What's the plan, Batman?" and he simply doesn't know. This clueless, stressed, and dare I say, scared Batman is something readers simply aren't accustomed. The only man who could ever bring this out of the Dark Knight, is the Joker and now we see why. The pair has only had one direct interaction thus far, so I can only imagine Synder is building up for an insane climax. My only fear, as a huge Joker fan, is this might be his last laugh because I don't know how you could top this. Still, it is an absolute classic and it hasn't even ended yet. If you haven't read this yet, start as soon as you can. I'd hate for you to miss the punchline!
-By Adam Tyler Wolfe
Joker fan Extraordinaire