"Batman: Endgame, Part Three": Batman is still paralyzed from his encounter with the Joker, who finally revealed himself after a long year. Though he is now in the safety of the Batcave, he has to force himself to overcome his paralysis by she
Appearing in "Batman: Endgame, Part Three"
- Barbara Gordon (In a photograph only)
- James Gordon, Jr. (In a photograph only)
- Harvey Bullock (Mentioned only)
Synopsis for "Batman: Endgame, Part Three"
Batman is still paralyzed from his encounter with the Joker, who finally revealed himself after a long year. Though he is now in the safety of the Batcave, he has to force himself to overcome his paralysis by sheer force of will. He releases himself from the straps holding him up with a shout which alerts Alfred and Julia Pennyworth to his recovery. Unfortunately, their news is bad. The Joker made good on his promise to poison the city center with a virus. Julia explains that it is an airborne pathogen which spreads effectively through laughter. Further bad news is that Alfred has been unsuccessful in synthesizing an antidote, commenting that this may be the Joker's masterpiece. Every one of the nearly one hundred antidotes Bruce has made over the years failed as well. There is some new element to this virus that they can't overpower.
Bruce suggests that if they find patient zero, who must have had some resistance to have passed it on at the Gotham Presbyterian Hospital. He may still be in the hospital, and if found, Bruce may be able to figure out an antibody for the virus. On his way there, he calls to Jim Gordon who warns that Batman won't be prepared for what's going on in the city center. The virus appears to twist the feelings of love that people have for one another into feelings of hatred - and given how people revere Batman - he'll be Gotham's most wanted. Batman is taken aback when he glides over the streets there, and sees crowds of infected coming to mob him. He steels himself, crashing through an upper window of the hospital as Jim explains that it is the oldest hospital in the city - and prone to tragedy.
After Batman signs off, Jim continues his research, noting that the hospital is also considered one of the most haunted place in Gotham, just behind Willowwood Children's Hospital. A fire was the first of the unexplained events that began those rumours, resulting in nearly fifty dead patients. As he looks through old newspaper clippings, the cigarette drops from his lips as he stares in horror, seeing the Joker's face in the background of a photo dating back to that fire from 1910. Moving forward, he looks at an article from 1946, when medicines were exchanged for poison. Again, the Joker appears in the background of the press photo. Incredulous, Jim sifts through his old photos of the day that both of his children had their tonsils out at the hospital, and is sure he sees the Joker in the background, peeking in on them. Hearing a creak from his closet, Jim grabs his gun, and approaches it, warning whoever is inside to come out. Suddenly, a boxing glove on a spring knocks him to the floor next to his bed, and from beneath it, he hears the Joker sinisterly offer a "knock knock."
In the hospital, Batman approaches the ward where patient zero is being kept. Before he can finish entering the code to get inside, he is surprised to discovers that patient zero is Joe Chill - the man who killed his parents. Suddenly, a set of stage-lights blinks on, and Batman is treated to a mock-up of Crime Alley on the other side of the glass. He sees Duke Thomas emerging from the rough-shod version of the Monarch Theatre, where he and his parents had once come from before they had their fateful encounter with Joe Chill. The Joker knows.
The Joker crawls out from under the bed and expresses his displeasure that Jim doesn't seem to want to listen to any of his new material - which is a shame, because he's got lots of it. He snaps his fingers, offering an example, and instantly, the curtains of Jim's bedroom ignite with flames.
Unable to stop it, Batman watches as Duke his parents are approached by Joe Chill with a gun, even though the man wishes to resist killing again.
Jim scrambles to his feet, pointing his gun at the Joker and warning him to drop the jokes and gags, and to stay put or he'll shoot. The Joker grabs an axe from the floor and offers that he will drop the act today. Today, this isn't a joke at all.
While Batman breaks through the glass and leaps into the path of the bullet fired by Joe Chill, stopping it against his Kevlar chest-plate, Jim fires his own weapon at the Joker, and hits him square in the chest, dropping him to the floor. Unfortunately for Batman, breaking through the glass allows the other infected to come through and mob them, infecting Duke's parents.
Batman hurries Duke away, Jim makes the call to Batman, tearfully expressing his relief at having actually killed the Joker. Batman listens, steeling himself against the infected newborns in the maternity ward. Jim's relief, however, unfounded, as the Joker rises to his feet behind him. Batman hears his scream and calls out, but it is not Jim who answers. The Joker greets him by addressing Batman with his real name.
Appearing in "The First Laugh"
- Morton Wales (Flashback and main story)
- Joker (Flashback and main story)
- Ace Chemical Processing Plant (Mentioned only)
Synopsis for "The First Laugh"
Dr. Mahreen Zaheer leaves a message for her friend Eric Border, explaining her predicament. She allowed herself to be kidnapped by Arkham Asylum inmates who claimed to have met with the Joker, hoping to work on her research. They told her insane stories she can't believe, but for the time being, she's having more trouble avoiding the people infected by the Joker's virus downtown than believing the stories.
Her call is interrupted by Morton Wales, who has his own story yet to tell; the story his mother had told him of of the first laugh in Gotham. Gotham had been a center of the manufacturing industry, and the workers were getting sick and angry. The employers began brainstorming ideas to keep the workers from revolt, but came up with nothing. That was when a clown came to town promising to make the people laugh. He delivered on that promise, but nearly sixty people laughed themselves to death that night.
The people tried to stop him, but the clown just moved from factory to factory, killing with laughter. Finally, he was tracked down outside the city, and they burned his home down with him inside it. To their surprise, he gleefully came out to greet them, even as he burned to death. As the flames consumed him, he kept performing until he was nothing but cinders. From that point on, a law was passed prohibiting clowns in Gotham.
That story had scared Morton as a boy, because people laughed at him whenever they saw him. When he got older, he heard laughter from within a night club and strangled a stand-up comic to death, to prevent any further merriment. Now, things are even worse. Everyone is laughing, just like the Joker had told him. He had claimed that the story Morton's mother had told him was one of the only true tales of him. He came back from the cinders because he wasn't done making Gotham laugh.
Morton now believes that perhaps the fact that people had laughed at him helped to make the Joker stronger, and he is terrified of that possibility. But he has to come because he needs proof that his mother was wrong, and the Joker has promised him the opposite.
Before Mahreen can promise to get him out, and get backup, the other inmates grab her and drag her into the sewers to continue their journey. Frightened, she calls out in vain for her friend Eric to help her, and the Joker responds, grinning down from the open manhole cover, promising that she'll see him soon enough.
- This issue is reprinted in the Batman: Endgame collection.
- In the first story, when Gordon was aiming his gun at the Joker, you can see the registration number "181935" on the gun. 1935 was the same year that Lennie Weinrib was born, who voiced both Commissioner Gordon and Joker on The New Adventures of Batman TV series.