Tom King's Batman run concluded with Batman #85 last week with the last chapter of the "City of Bane" arc resolving a number of the series' long-running plots and questions. Bruce and Selina choose one another. Bruce has a final showdown with Flashpoint Batman/Thomas Wayne, his "father" from an alternate timeline, ultimately defeating the man who has created much of the havoc leading up to the conclusion as a mechanism of convincing Bruce that Batman is a curse with the profound twist that Bruce is actually happy. He chooses Batman -- and it's only one facet of who he is. Yet while that story gets tied up with a neat little bow, Batman #85 has one more treat for fans thanks to the epilogue of the issue that previews James Tynion IV's upcoming run on the title -- the long-awaited return of perhaps the Dark Knight's biggest villain ever.
That's right: the Joker makes his return in the epilogue of Batman #85 and from the looks of things, it's setting up a truly chilling story: that the Joker knows Batman's real identity and he's prepared to reveal it as part of one, final battle between the old enemies.
In the epilogue itself, readers find two of the Joker's henchmen working away at a very Joker-like scheme: stuffing concertina wire inside a bunch of teddy bears. While they work, one henchman's phone alerts with the stunning news that Superman has revealed his identity, telling the world that he is Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. It's monumental news, but the henchman (his name is Henry) isn't supposed to even have his phone. While Henry marvels at this insane-seeming news, the Joker comes up and reads the news. Henry then suggests that, if the Joker really does know Batman's real identity, he should perhaps use that knowledge now before Batman can reveal it himself.
Joker doesn't take this particularly well and goes off on a little bit of a rant about how Batman's identity is a one-shot thing that can't be taken back. It can only be used in the "final battle" between the foes. As he completes the rant -- and killing Henry -- the Joker comes to the realization that the idea of heading into that final battle actually sounds like a lot of fun.
It's an idea that is exciting for a few reasons. Firstly, the idea of the Joker knowing Batman's identity is one that ties back to Scott Snyder's Batman, who along with artist Greg Capullo introduced the idea that the Joker knows Batman is Bruce Wayne. After King's long and, in many ways, emotionally introspective run, it will be deeply interesting to see the pair clash with so much at stake for Batman.
The other major reason the Joker's return is so exciting is that it's been quite some time since we've really seen him in Batman. The Joker was heavily featured in the flashback storyline "The War of Joes and Riddles" that led up to Selina's acceptance of Bruce's marriage proposal and, then, we saw him in issue #49 in which Catwoman was locked in a stand-off with the Joker, both of them felled by serious wounds. During that stand-off the pair reminisced about the old days while also threatening to kill one another. Ultimately, though, that issue saw seeds of doubt sewn in Catwoman's mind: that Bruce can't be happy and also be Batman. Having the Joker back front and center as the Batman title moves on will offer an opportunity to see just how a Batman who actually is happy deals with the biggest threat he's ever faced.
Batman #85 is on sale now.