Welcome, everybody to the start of my read through DC’s premiere Bat Event for 2020, The Joker War! I’ll be taking a look at each issue, including tie-ins, and assessing the Joker’s damage during this all-out war for Gotham-wide control! I’ll add each review to the master Joker War Reading Order and we’ll assess which issues are essential and what tie-ins you can leave out if you like.
Ok, let’s hop into Part One of the Joker War, Batman 95, on sale 7/21/2020!
Beware light spoilers are ahead.
If you haven’t been reading His Dark Designs, the Batman storyline immediately preceding Joker War in Batman 86-94, Tynion does a commendable job getting you up to speed with the current state of Bat affairs without letting that get in the way of all of the action.
In fact, during the first four pages, Tynion not only takes us on a journey all the way to the beginning of Joker and Batman’s relationship, but also manages to seamlessly bring the reader up to speed on the cards that Joker is currently holding with news network panels interspersed with some glorious Bat vs. Clown action! Since Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, I’ve always appreciated the media spin version of Batman recaps!
Jimenez handles gleaming batmobiles, gritty clown thugs, and rainy Batman high-wire acts without any faltering in his style. If I had to nitpick one aspect of the comic, it’s that it did take me two or three passes to figure out what exactly was going on when Bruce infiltrates Wayne Enterprises. As a summary, he shows up as Underbroker’s driver incognito, scales the glass veneer, maps out the occupants with his VR goggles, then enters into a Bat-Symbol shaped hole he seers into the building. At least, I think that’s how it all went down. A lot of action packed into two pages.
A lot happens in 20 pages here, and Tynion manages to juggle all the moving pieces without letting the reader feel left behind. Joker is out buying run down theaters and filling them with citizens affected by his laughing gas. Punchline is pulling Fox’s puppet strings and Batman is grasping desperately for a play that he can find to pull a victory out of the ever-closing jaws of defeat. Through 80s years of conflict between Joker and Batman, we have seen the stakes seem increasingly dire for Batman, the straits looking worse and worse. Yet, he always seems to pull out the “W”. Here, as Tynion promised, this feels different. Batman’s contingency plans are now all within the control of Joker who has taken over his resources. He has fewer and fewer plays available to him, but is still grasping at straws.
Tynion has stated in interviews leading up to this event that this is the first time that Joker has wanted to actually win a bout with Batman. He’s known Batman’s secret identity for some time and he could have pulled the string on his ultimate play for dominance at any point. It’s a bit early to tell, but so far that seems accurate regarding what is contained in Batman 95.
This issue has tons of action, but doesn’t sacrifice the character work. There’s a lot of excitement, but it doesn’t feel rushed. Your fed information organically as the pages turn, but it doesn’t seem overwhelming or suffocating to the action. It builds on the story arc preceding it, but it’s going somewhere new. All this hope I have for the event could be dashed a few more issues in, but it looks like Tynion is taking his time with what has been hyped up to be a very big deal of a storyline. We’ve all been disappointed in comics events before, but things are looking good so far.
As all good opening issues end, this one ends on a cliffhanger. A familiar voice can be heard from Batman’s Batwing hovering outside the building Batman is now trapped in. But how can it be that voice!? Then, the Batwing opens fire! How can we not come back for Issue 96 to see how this develops?
(W) James TynionIV (A/CA) Jorge Jimenez
It was always going to come to this. The Clown Prince of Crime and the Dark Knight Detective go head-to-head for the last time. The Joker has never wanted to win before, he’s never wanted his battle with Batman to end, but now his motivation has shifted. He has decided that one way or another, this will be the final chapter to their story. “Joker War” begins here!
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