[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Cully Hamner, Marco Santucci
Colors: Val Staples
Letters: Travis Lanham
In this special oversize issue, legendary DC scribe Dan Jurgens is joined by superstar artist Cully Hamner (Batman and The Signal) to bring back the biggest baddie of them all in “The Final Joke.”
The dedication of a new building commemorating a special Wayne family event—the 100th birthday of Thomas Wayne—brings out all of Neo-Gotham’s familiar faces, including one who was definitely not on the guest list. The Joker makes his long-awaited return to Neo-Gotham, and no one is safe! Will he strike at Batman, Robin, Commissioner Barbara Gordon or the original Caped Crusader himself, Bruce Wayne? Decades after his last fight with the Dark Knight, the Clown Prince of Crime returns home to take his city back once and for all.
While Dick Grayson may have transformed into Ric Grayson in Nightwing, the real deal returns in this special 25th issue. Elainna. Dick is now the mayor of Blüdhaven, and he brings his daughter Elainna with him. Dick never appeared in the Batman Beyond cartoon, but he did appear in subsequent comics.
However, it appears that the Rebirth era title has erased that version of Dick’s history from the series’ canon. That version wore an eyepatch, and ran an athletics training course, and didn’t appear to have any children. But this version has both eyes, a different job, and a daughter, so it seems very likely that Jurgens has jettisoned that part of the continuity.
And it’s a good thing too, as that removes one of the most egregious events from Batman’s future history. In that version, Bruce and Dick had a falling out due to Bruce getting Dick’s on-again-off-again girlfriend pregnant. This version appears to be on friendly terms with Bruce, despite being absent
We don’t learn much about Elainna this issue, which raises a number of questions, primarily “who is her mother?”. We are told that Dick kept her out of the superhero business, but considering that it’s in her blood, there’s a high likelihood that she will don a costume at some point. Even if Dick goes back to Blüdhaven, it might be interesting if Elainna stuck around in Neo-Gotham.
We also get a nice flashback of Dick’s early days as Robin, as he tells Elainna of his first terrifying encounter with the Joker. This turns out to be especially relevant, as the Joker is back as well. It appears that he is murdering members of the Jokerz gang for “ripping off a good man’s name.”
But the worst is when he confronts Commissioner Barbara Gordon. He speaks of having a special connection to her, hinting at the events of The Killing Joke, where he crippled her. Given that the story arc is titled “The Final Joke”, it seems that this story is meant as a sequel to Alan Moore’s masterpiece. Perhaps the final is hinting that the story will provide the definitive end to Batman’s conflict with the Joker.
There are some welcome references to Batman’s other partners as well. Former Batwing, Luke Fox is present as the mayor of Gotham Dick tells Elainna about the beginnings of the schism between Bruce and Jason Todd, the second Robin and later Red Hood. Damian doesn’t attend the ceremony, but Bruce tells Dick that they are on speaking terms again. And Dick can’t help asking Bruce about the rumours that there’s a new Robin.
However, there is one figure missing in this family reunion: Tim Drake. Following the events of the Return of the Joker movie, Tim and Bruce had reconciled, but there has been no mention of him in this issue, or at any point in the series. But perhaps his absence is intentional. Seeing as he figured prominently in the earlier false return of the Joker, maybe he will be involved again now that the real deal has reappeared in Gotham.
The Bat-Family reunion is enough to sell me on the story by itself, but the allusions to The Killing Joke and Return of the Joker clinches the deal. It looks like a we’re in for one hell of a story.