"Endgame, Part Six": Fighting his way to the Joker across the street to the parade float upon which he sits, Batman relives that moment when the Joker came to be - when he let himself fall into the vat of chemicals at the [[Ace Chemical Proces
- It's the thing Bruce knew to be true about Batman, more than anything else. The thing we all know, deep down, but don't like to admit... that the story of Batman is, and always will be, a tragedy. Bruce would never have let it be anything else.
Appearing in "Endgame, Part Six"
- Batman (Apparent Death)
- Batman Family
- Poison Ivy
- Mister Freeze
- Killer Croc
- Joker (Apparent Death)
Synopsis for "Endgame, Part Six"
Fighting his way to the Joker across the street to the parade float upon which he sits, Batman relives that moment when the Joker came to be - when he let himself fall into the vat of chemicals at the processing plant. Frustrated, he urges his allies onward, through the mass of citizens infected by the Joker's toxin, as the Joker is just a short distance away from their grasp. All the while, the Joker taunts them from afar, dancing with the remains of Martha Wayne atop the T-Rex, stolen from the Batcave. Poison Ivy grows vines higher than the infected can reach, and Bane climbs up, tossing Batman over the mob's heads to grip the Dinosaur by the jaw and climb his way to the Joker - who responds by jamming the blade of a chainsaw through the creature's head at him.
Dodging the weapon, Batman gets the Joker into a headlock, and attempts to extract a sample of fluid from his spine with a syringe. Unwilling to let him simply have it, the Joker activates a device that plays ear-piercing laughter at 140db, sending everyone writhing onto the ground. He then releases his gas, affecting only those not already infected by his toxin. Batman's gasmask shatters, and he is forced to breathe it in. As he struggles to maintain consciousness, the Joker grins and reveals that he had tainted the fluid anyway, and it wouldn't have been of use to them in creating a cure. He also reveals, though, that there is still a cache of Dionesium hidden somewhere in Gotham. That substance could have made Batman an eternal bat-king - truly more than a man, and not a boy crying for his parents. Tearing off Batman's cowl, though, the Joker is surprised to find that it's not Bruce Wayne under the cowl at all, but Dick Grayson - and his detonator for the explosives that would destroy the last of the Dionesium isn't working. The real Batman has found the cache already.
Meanwhile, Bruce is lowering himself down into a tunnel beneath the city, while Julia Pennyworth keeps watch. She admits that she lost contact with the others - they may be dead. Forcing the idea from his own mind, Batman determinedly searches for the Dionesium. In order to find it, he maps the tunnels using the device that his father had given him as a boy after he fell into the caves on the Wayne estate. After a long search, he discovers a green, shimmering pool and sense analysis to Julia, who confirms that it's a match for the virus. Bruce assumes that the Joker must have found this pit beneath the city after he fell off a cliff in the Batcave. He can't believe that the Joker has been around for centuries, given that a Talon had tried to tell him the Joker was around in his time - and hadn't been very convincing. Worriedly, Julia reminds him to hurry before the explosives blow. The bombs go off soon after, damaging the cavern structure. As Julia prepares to pull him out, Batman tries to warn her what to do if he doesn't make it.
Unfortunately, before he can tell her, the Joker appears, and thrusts a knife into his shoulder. Frustrated, Bruce sends the mapping device up to Julia and remains behind to face the Joker. With his other knife, the Joker slashes a curved grin into Batman's back, then thrusting the other knife into his other shoulder, creating a grotesque smiley-face of him. Enraged, Batman tackles him, and they tumble over the edge of a cliff. The Joker slams a piece of flaming debris into Batman's face, and in response Bruce thrusts a Batarang into his neck, explaining that it was laced with an immune-response blocker which will prevent the Dionesium from letting him heal - if the pool really was the source of his Dionesium. If the Joker really has been around for as long as he says, it shouldn't affect him at all.
Angry at having been exposed, the Joker lunges at him, and they fight brutally, eventually collapsing exhausted into pools of their own blood. Unwilling to let Bruce die without hearing him out, the Joker turns him onto his back and demands that he look and see who he truly is. The Joker is the man who laughs. He had pointed out the meaningless in everything by laughing at it, but when Batman appeared, he had lost the battle by making meaning of their fight. But Batman chickened out of putting a real end to the fight, and it was like a knife to the heart. They could both have been forever. They could have had a happy ending - but instead Batman is going to die. Looking past the Joker, over his shoulder, Batman comments that it's not over yet, as a stalactite suddenly falls from the roof of the cave and lands right on the Joker's back, and breaking his leg.
Desperate to survive, the Joker begins dragging himself toward the pool, but Batman jumps onto his back, claiming that he finally believes the story that he is the pale man. He had to come to show him the truth - that he doesn't need the Dionesium to survive. He, though, will soon die of his injuries, and he would like it if the Joker would stay with him for a while, to forgive him for being so blind. He refuses to let go until he is forgiven. Hurriedly, the Joker splutters forgiveness, just as a boulder crashes down, destroying the pool, and any hope that either of them would survive. Batman admits that his allies, at least, will survive. They were given tinctures to protect them from the virus, and they will survive.
Knowing that Batman will soon bleed out and die, Julia begs him to use the mapping device to take the sample of Dionesium and revive himself - but Bruce refuses, warning her to take it and use it, and leave him to rest a little while with his friend.
Two weeks later, Julia visits her father in the hospital as hundreds of Bat-Signals fill the Gotham skyline. Hurting, Alfred begs her to close the curtains, hating to be reminded of the fact that Bruce is really gone. Julia admits that he is, and changes the subject to explain that Alfred's hand - which was severed by the Joker - has been preserved, and could be reattached. Alfred comments with despair that he doesn't need it, with no one left to mend. Julia wonders why, with all of the life-extending chemicals and magic Batman had encountered, he never bothered to take any for himself - as if he was daring death. She admits that Bruce had left a note behind, and offers to read it, though it is cryptic.
Alfred reads it and explains that the note was Bruce's way of explaining that he was flawed. He never liked to look at his own death, having only ever thought he was preventing it. But in facing the Joker this time, Bruce had to look death in the face several times. Alfred had hoped that by seeing his own death, Bruce would find a way out of the life he'd built from himself, even though he'd known Bruce would never quit. That's why it was wrong for the Joker to tempt Bruce with a happy ending. The truth about Batman is that his story will always be a tragedy, and Bruce would never have let it be anything else. His great flaw is that even though he could live forever, he just dies. It is also his greatest strength; that what makes him immortal is his mortality. Batman had lived bravely, and smiled at the void. That was why his last message is and always would be "Ha."
- This issue is reprinted in the Batman: Endgame collection.
- The color palette used in this issue is meant to pay homage to the original colors of Batman: The Killing Joke.
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