Who wins in a fight? The answer is always the same. Neither of us. – Batman
Batman vs. Superman would normally be the climatic action happening in a comic book story. In Batman #36 (Part 2 of the Endgame arc), it qualifies as an appetizer to the filet mignon. That’s how high the stakes have been during Scott Synder’s current run on Batman. All we knew heading into this issue was that the Joker had somehow gained control of the Justice League (Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Aquaman) without appearing on any page of Batman #35. Batman initiated a pre-planned anti-Justice League protocol which included the introduction of a weaponized suit with specialized mechanisms to fight each member of the Justice League. Superman is the only Justice Leaguer remaining and Batman #36 begins with his blind rage to kill the Dark Knight.
For those of us who have been reading with the New 52, this issue was emblematic of everything the Batman series has been so far: phenomenal rising action followed by abrupt conclusions. Abrupt is not necessarily bad. Synder gives us the reveal we knew was coming but did so in a way that demonstrates a clear plan from previous storylines. This is a rewarding moment for loyal readers, but could feel like a throwaway detail for casual fans of the book because of the brevity given to the action beforehand.
The Justice League basically destroyed downtown Gotham which we know was already devastated from the events of Batman Eternal (the Endgame arc takes place immediately after Batman Eternal; yes, comic books can be confusing), but this detail goes unmentioned. Instead, Bruce tells Alfred and Julia, Alfred’s daughter, to leave town before the Joker can attack them. Everyone tells Bruce, “No.” Bruce reluctantly agrees to let them help. Basically, “Endgame” is repeating similar beats from the first Joker story of the New 52, “Death in the Family” in which the Joker kidnaps all the members of the Gotham Bat-family leading to several splits in their ranks. This does not ruin the epicness of Endgame but seeing Bruce repeat the same pattern with Alfred while showing no moments where he speaks to the sick Justice League seems like a missed moment.
As always, the art is fantastic. It’s hard to imagine the fight scene between Superman and Batman being done much better. The action is cataclysmic but remains easy to follow. I wouldn’t be surprised if the new film strips some of the moments verbatim from this book albeit without Joker’s involvement. The quieter moments are also very effective. Each panel in Arkham Asylum use panels with a black outline so that everything feels and looks shrouded in darkness with one exception. Obviously, I can’t say what happened, just know it works.
Batman #36 is worth every penny. The Endgame arc is only going to get bigger from here and there’s no reason to get behind.