THIS WEEK: We take a look at Batman #95, the first installment of the much-hyped “Joker War” storyline, and its place in the long line of Batman vs. The Joker stories.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Color Artist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Jorge Jimenez & Tomeu Morey
At one point in this week’s Batman #95, part one of the “Joker War” storyline, the clown prince of crime is having a friendly conversation with the longtime projectionist at the Monarch Theater. Joker’s there looking for a specific film canister (after having purchased the building and all of its contents outright using his newly-acquired fortune), and the unnamed projectionist questions what he wants with it all. “Folks don’t want to see something they’ve seen a hundred times before,” he says.
“They always say that,” The Joker replies, “But they never mean it. They want all the pieces in the right places. All the characters saying the parts they want them to say. Which isn’t to say they don’t want something new. They want to see it peeled back, to find out there was a layer underneath all this time they didn’t know about.”
That’s a pretty apt description of what you sign up for when you read corporately-owned superhero comics, isn’t it? When you sit down to read a newly-published Batman vs. The Joker story, you know a few things going in. You know Batman will be determined and, more often than not, pushed to his limits. You know The Joker will be cruel, and gleefully so. You know there will come a point where it looks like The Joker has won, or like Batman can’t possibly win, but that ultimately he will, because he’s Batman. The trappings of the story may be different, but the basics are well-established. It’s just a question of how the story takes you from Point A to Point B.
“Joker War” is the latest Batman vs. The Joker storyline. With tie-ins across the full line of Bat-titles, it finds Batman isolated, without his fortune, without his gadgets (those were both taken by The Joker), and without his trusty butler, Alfred, by his side (Bane’s doing, RIP). Batman #95, the first proper installment of the storyline from writer James Tynion IV and artists Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey, does a solid job of setting up just how much of an upper hand The Joker has, as well as what Batman’s mindset is as he sets out to rectify things. The issue also gives new readers an introduction to all of the players, both old and new, in a way that’s fairly entertaining. I don’t know any more about Punchline or The Underbroker after reading this issue than I did before, but that’s okay. There are still five issues of story left.
But it’s that statement from The Joker that’s stuck with me most of all after reading the issue. There’ve been hundreds of Batman vs. The Joker stories, after all, and I’m always curious when reading pretty much any superhero comic to find out what’s going to make the next one different from all the others. The Joker’s line acted for me as Tynion’s tacit acknowledgement of that fact, and actually felt very reassuring. He’s aware that we’ve seen Batman fight The Joker before — of course he is, and the ongoing nature of the struggle between Batman and The Joker has basically come a plot point (and actually will become a plot point when Clownhunter is introduced later on in this storyline) — and that scene felt like Tynion putting a hand on the reader’s shoulder and saying, ‘I know, but don’t worry: there’ll still be something new here.’
Batman #95 is sure to crowd-please. It features The Joker at his most sadistic and murderous, and a Batman who is, as always, down but never out. The pieces are all being put into position. Here’s hoping Tynion, Jimenez, Morey, and co. can fulfill that promise of adding something new and interesting to an already well-known equation.
- Unable to be confined to one comic this week, “Joker War” weaseled its way into Batgirl #47 as well. For better or worse, Babs is a character whose history has been shaped by The Joker, and this issue puts that history on full display. It’s an entertaining comic, with Cecil Castellucci and Robbi Rodriguez delivering a taut thriller across the course of one long scene, though one wonders how it fits into the overall tapestry of “Joker War.” When did he have time to go hang out in Barbara’s apartment?
- Action Comics #1023 delivers the second part of “The House of Kent,” aka the best Action storyline in months. Metropolis’s Invisible Mafia has been my favorite thing that Brian Michael Bendis has brought into the Superman titles since he took them over, so I’m glad to see him getting back to them. I just wish I didn’t find John Romita Jr. to be such a bad fit for the character.
- The Legion of Zoom (look I don’t name these things) is fully assembled in The Flash #758, and Barry Allen finds himself in the worst position yet. I appreciate Josh Williamson has built his upcoming final storyline as a culmination of everything he’s done on the series, and the last few pages of this issue also indicate he’s going to be adding even more elements to the series for the next creative team to play with. I’m also generally a fan of comics that the Tornado Twins appear in, so win-win for me.
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