For months Scott Snyder has been weaving his "Endgame" tale. Gotham City in ruins, its citizens infected with Joker's ravenous toxin. Alfred, Gordon and the Justice League all maimed, wounded and unable to help. Hints of Joker's mysterious past and perhaps supernatural origin.
It's all been building up to this: one final confrontation between Batman and the Joker.
If you came for a fight, you won't be disappointed. We've seen battles between the Joker and the Bat before, but never like this. It's a bloody, brutal, knock down brawl between the two legends of Gotham City that you simply have to read for yourself.
But it's not the climactic battle between the Dark Knight and his greatest enemy that makes this issue such a fitting conclusion. The story is of course filled with twists and turns, as we've come to expect. Greg Capullo's artwork is as stunning as always. Few can draw a Joker as maniacal, as terrifying, as he can.
Every aspect of this book - the art, the action, the shocking twists - all make for a great comic. However, it's the way Snyder dives into the idea of what it means to be Batman that elevates this from a great Batman comic to essential reading. Because once Snyder identifies what Batman means, as a symbol, as a story, as a legend, he can pinpoint the antithesis of it.
That's who Snyder's Joker is. Deranged. Violent. Clever. Occasionally funny. But more than all of that, he is the anti-Batman. In the final battle between the two, deep in the caves of Gotham City, Joker's master plan isn't to kill Batman. It isn't to end Bruce Wayne's life. His plan is to kill Batman as a symbol, to kill the very idea Batman represents.
Elevating the issue even further is the fact Snyder doesn't insult the reader's intelligence. He lets us pick up on the pieces and assemble the puzzle for ourselves. For several issues Snyder has built up the idea that Joker is more than just a man, that he is some kind of supernatural, immortal being. Some fans buy it, others don't, but Snyder doesn't spell it out here. He lets readers draw their own conclusions from the evidence presented, and the issue is all the better for it.
It's for that reason and many others that Snyder and Capullo's work on Batman has been such an award-winning ride. It's smart. It's cleverly-written. It's gorgeous to look at. And it thinks about what Batman means, not just what he does, and there is no better example of the duo's take on the Dark Knight than issue #40. Bloody, thought provoking and downright beautiful to behold, the conclusion to "Endgame" is everything you want out of a comic book.
More Comic Book Reviews: