Welcome back, everybody, to my read through DC’s premiere Bat Event for 2020, The Joker War! I’m continuing to take a look at each issue, including tie-ins, and assessing the Joker’s damage during this all-out war for Gotham-wide control! I’m adding each review to the master Joker War Reading Order and assessing which issues are essential and what tie-ins you can leave out if you like.
Ok, let’s hop into Part Two of the Joker War, Batman 98, on sale 9/1/2020!
Beware light spoilers are ahead.
Primarily, we have two scenes going on in this issue. First, Harley’s showdown versus Punchline in Poison Ivy’s forest and, second, Batman’s internal struggle against the Joker Toxin in his system. Both of these scenes are interesting from a character development standpoint.
As I’ve said before, the chief meta complaint about Punchline from her detractors is that she is too similar to Harley Quinn. She doesn’t occupy a unique slot in the DC pantheon and therefore her worth is diminished. I think Tynion has cracked the code on how to combat that criticism by having the two face off directly and argue their differences and similarities. Harley is a lot further out in front in her journey with the Joker than Punchline and has the wisdom of experience to inform her opinions. Punchline believes that the philosophical approach her and Harley take to Joker’s preachings are fundamentally different and therefore Harley was always doomed to be cast aside. On rebuttal, Harley contends that Punchline is merely still useful to Joker and her time to be cast aside will come soon enough.
Back and forth, back and forth until you’re actually interested to find out Punchline’s fate and whether she truly is on to something Harley never was. There similarities go without saying, but the prospect of salient differences is keeping me interested for the next chapter in Punchline’s development. Of course, this is all set to the backdrop of some electric fight choreography in Ivy’s brightly detailed garden. Very cool stuff to gaze at in these scenes.
Meanwhile, Bruce is fighting his own flagging sense of self internally. Bruce’s understanding, the mercy he needs to show himself against his own unwavering, uncompromising, and frankly unreasonable standards of what it means to be a hero is personified by the late Alfred’s avatar. What good is Bruce beating himself up over the death of his parents, the death of Alfred, and the deaths of countless he could not save, if it hampers his ability to save those he can? Alfred offers Bruce a more lenient standard for being Gotham’s dark knight. A standard that allows Bruce to ask for help, to fail, to be vulnerable, yet still prevail. Thee scenes of growth for Bruce are truly what is making this Joker War story line worth the price of admission. Yes, we all love action and good capes vs. bad capes. But, when it all comes down, we want a hero we can identify with. What’s more identifiable than failing your own standard for what you think you should be? Don’t we all feel that way from time to time.
That Bats arises having conquered the Joker Toxin. In probably one of the more surreal pages of this entire story line, Batman is no more than a shape and shadow emblazoned with the giant word “BATMAN”. His name becomes almost a booming onomatopoeia. These are the types of illustrative theatrics you only get in comics and, when used sparingly, they’re breathtakingly effective. Bravo Tynion and Jimenez on this page!
What a nice segue to the art inside. Jimenez’s art is as detailed and epic as it has consistently been throughout the Joker War and prior to on Tynion’s run. He deftly maneuvers between bright scenes, dark scenes, silhouettes and then full=page spreads. The soft golden hour lighting of Bruce’s rendezvous with Alfred is a nice change of pace from Ivy’s burning garden, as is the fluorescent, sterile environment of Gotham’s Rogues Gallery hideaway. Oh, did we miss that? Yes, Tynion also sets the pieces on the board for a villain revolt against Joker, leaving us with a cliff-hanger worthy of this story arc. Can’t wait to see how Catwoman delivers on her promise here.
Batman #98 is on sale now. Official solicit:
Written By James Tynion IV
Art By Jorge Jimenez
Cover By David Finch
Card Stock Variant Cover By Francesco Mattina
1:25 Card Stock Catwoman Variant Cover By Jorge Jimenez
ON SALE 09/01/20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES | FC | DC
CARD STOCK VARIANT COVERS $4.99 US
“The Joker War” part four of six! Batman is at his most vulnerable following a massive dose of an experimental new Joker toxin. With the Dark Knight haunted by demons and visions, it’s up to Harley Quinn to protect him while he recovers—because Punchline is on her way!