Batman #96 hits hard. We’re only two issues into “Joker War”, but already I am really impressed with James Tynion IV’s style and level of action in this arc. What I read in this issue and even in part one felt like the drama that would be unfolding in part five of a six part arc. If this is what is being shown to us so early on in an arc, we are going to be in for some insanity when we get closer to the end of this storyline.
Right off the bat, that cover by Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey shows that Joker is taking Batman for the ride of his life and he is using all the Bat-resources he can get. I love the riff off that Jack Nicholson line — well played.
I don’t want to take this moment away from you, but I have to say that the first six pages of this issue were just the most deceiving comic pages I’ve ever read. Do yourself a favor and play “Laughing” by The Guess Who, as this was used in the Joker movie teasers, and it will really put you in the mood for what James Tynion IV does here. James is sparing no expense this early, which almost worries me — this is really going to have to stick the landing to make this Batman/Joker story stand out from the others. I will say that James has created a situation that puts the Dark Knight against the wall and also entices me as a returning reader to go back and read the start of James’ run on Batman.
So how is Batman pitted against the wall? Well, he is still dealing with being drugged by Punchline and it is to a point where Batman knows things are amiss and not all the voices he’s hearing are actually there, but he will have to push through this. Imagine if the R.I.P. and No Man’s Land arcs were happening at the same time — that is the scenario Batman is in. Sadly, when he wakes from the initial dosing, he is welcomed by Harley Quinn which doesn’t bode well as she is looking to him to save the day. I did appreciate the humor when Quinn refers to Punchline as “Knifeline” and “Miss Punch-able” which shows that deep inside, this got under Quinn’s skin.
Quinn manages to catch Batman up to the horrors that Gotham is facing since he’s has been gone. This is a total nightmare as everything Bruce wanted to do with Wayne Enterprises and his fortune have been recast into a Joker arsenal to help the thugs bring out the worst in Gotham. I did enjoy the introduction to Clownhunter as he is labeled a vigilante and his first actions are indeed “helpful”, but I wonder how Batman will take to yet another clown-named person, especially since he doesn’t seem to have much in the way of help right now.
This issue is a fantastic second installment of the arc, with huge drama and action that creates a tough scenario. Jorge Jimenez absolutely kills the artwork on these pages, making the chaos beautiful and really showing a ragged Dark Knight at his wits end, still standing. Jorge really cuts loose on the “commercial” that tells us we must make it to the movies — the fear and pain in the victim’s presence are spectacular. There are two more parts that were excellently done by James and Jorge where Batman has to show he is still a force to be reckoned with, and just wait till you get to the Gotham Cut of The Mark of Zorro. No line is too far for the Joker to cross.