Story Arc: The Joker War.
Writer(s): James Tynion IV.
Penciler(s): Jorge Jimenez, Carlo Pagulayan (Chapter: Intervention), Guillem March (Chapter: Dead Ringer).
Inker(s): Danny Miki (Chapter: Intervention).
Colourist(s): Tomeu Morey.
Letterer(s): Clayton Cowles.
Publisher: DC Comics.
Format: Single Issues.
Release Date: February 9th, 2021.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating:
Previously in the Batman (2016—) series:
Batman (Vol. 1): Their Dark Designs by James Tynion IV.
Gotham City has always been a dangerous terrain, burdened by a past brimming with corruption and criminality. Despite the heroic and visionary feats of past heroes, it always somehow manages to transform certain individuals into their worse nightmares. For some, Gotham will always have a dark core embellished by foolish ideals promoted by the rich and famous. For others, Gotham is a gentle soul terribly mistreated by ill-intentioned lunatics and only desperately requiring someone to protect it from these wretched creatures. In his second story-arc as the lead writer of the ongoing Batman comic book series, James Tynion IV teams up with artist Jorge Jimenez to deliver a battle of visions centered around the World’s Greatest Detective and the Clown Prince of Crime.
What is Batman: The Joker War? Picking up where things were left off in Their Dark Designs, the Joker begins his ultimate plan in the age-long conflict with the Dark Knight Detective. Having taken care of The Designer, the Joker now finds himself in a dominant and unparalleled position of power as he works with his newest sidekick Punchline to take control of key locations that will ultimately serve as Batman’s grave. Unfortunately for them, Harley Quinn isn’t out of the picture just yet as she turns into an undesired thorn in the grand scheme at play. In the midst of this chaos, new and old players join the war and unleash their own dose of justice while the Caped Crusader comes to terms with his past and works to find his footing to stop the Joker once and for all.
“Come on now, Bat. Pull yourself together. The city’s in pain. It’s calling out to you. Can’t you hear it?”— James Tynion IV
Collecting issues #95 to #100, this epic Batman event had countless repercussions across the DC world, especially with the heroes within Gotham City. Writer James Tynion does a truly exciting job in building up the tension and suspense as he gives us tidbits of what the Joker has planned for Batman this time around. While the event is not an end in itself, it does allow him to focus on the two contrasting ideologies embodied by Batman and the Joker, the former believing that Gotham is his to protect and save, the latter believing that Gotham is being deprived of its rawest form, one that is dark, hungry, and deadly. On top of this discourse, writer James Tynion IV does a fantastic job in exploring the grief embraced by Batman as he now faces head-on with the loss he recently suffered and has yet to truly accept. Explored through a hallucinogenic subplot, it allowed Bruce Wayne to refocus his purpose in life and clarify the vision he has for the future, while also understanding what he needs to do going forward.
Unfortunately, the grand spectacle is undermined by the short-length of this story-arc and by the heavy-hitting themes explored throughout this volume. This is mostly due to an imbalance in scope as the story mashes together a tale of love, loss, family, betrayal, society, and war in a bag too small to keep it all together. As the narrative is rushed to the finish line, the decisive moment is superficially glossed over instead of allowing the Batman and Joker battle to remain central to the plot. Joker’s motive to orchestrate this plan is thus diluted and consequently lost as writer James Tynion IV remembers by the end that this ultimate war needs to serve as a foundation for things to come, forcing the narrative to fizzle out as the epilogue desperately, and maybe even successfully, tries to spark things up.
It would be a mistake not to mention the phenomenal artwork by Jorge Jimenez. Continuing his exposure to superhero comics, this time around he picks up the totality of the burden of this story-arc as he draws some of the most gorgeous characters and settings ever. Trust me when I tell you that it’s astonishing what he’s able to accomplish. Every panel is jammed with life and emotion, even the subtlest of expressions is captured through body language and gaze. Then you have his splash pages that will indubitably have you dragging your jaw across the floor. Respect must also be given to colourist Tomeu Morey who somehow knows how to meticulously inject the right colours in the right places, assuring readers that every page is a sight worth seeing and framing. At this point, I think anything that Jorge Jimenez draws would have me in ecstasy.
Batman: The Joker War is a visually mind-blowing event pitting two icons against one another in a war to win dominion over the future of Gotham City.