“Joker War” is coming together in issue #98 of Batman, and as the cover shows, this is a fight between current and former lovers/sidekicks to the Joker. This issue has some interesting moments that continue the story along with interesting insights, a great joke, and a cringe-worthy moment as well. James Tynion IV brings the story as Jorge Jimenez provides art, and Tomeu Morey lights it all up. This is a great team, but it kind of feels like the mid-section of the adventure is slowing. It makes sense, as in parts one and two, Batman was backed into a wall and taken down, so now we have to see his recovery before the big finale.
The art is very dynamic in this issue, and Jorge Jimenez gets some sincere moments as Batman is still “tripping balls” from last issue. I love the fact that Harley’s tea is helping to fight the toxins that leads Bruce to a moment with Alfred. This moment is so bittersweet, because it reminds us of how powerful Alfred is. Who else lifts up Batman and inspires him? Who else takes care of him and reminds him to soldier on? I feel after this issue we sadly are going to be without Alfred for good; I hope I am wrong.
It was a beautiful moment, but I wish I didn’t have to see it in continuity…at least for now. It is funny though, as the moment continues then Alfred finally slaps the bats out of Bruce and tells him to accept it. Bruce recognizes that he can’t do it alone, so maybe the Bat-family will get a chance to heal. I’m looking forward to that.
Honestly, the fight between Harley Quinn and Punchline does not excite me one bit. At first, I felt like it was the modern update of a character versus the previous one, but Tynion’s words really hit me about these characters. Harley Quinn loved Joker. She totally fell head-over-heels for him, and is a bit of a “from the heart” type of character in general. Punchline, on the other hand, is cold and calculating, very cerebral. So this really was a heart versus brain battle and that made me appreciate it a bit more.
Tynion lightens the mood when he has Harley call Punchline “Punching Bag” which put a smile on my face. The way the two ladies called each other out on their hype was hilarious too. Honestly, the words outshined the art in this scene, but then it gets broken up by the return of Batman from his strange trip. This was the cringe-worthy moment for me.
I don’t know if you watch How It Should Have Ended, but when Batman takes down Punchline I can honestly hear their “Because I’m Batman” line get played out here. It’s funny and a great callout, but honestly, it reminds me of one of the more annoying traits of Batman: he is Batman, therefore he wins. Jorge Jimenez also jumps on that bandwagon and has his name come out of his cape — great visual, but this went too far into comic book trope territory. Here’s hoping that the next two issues go back to that high-rise spectacle for an awesome conclusion.
Batman #98 features some great moments, but lacks that adrenaline punch that the first two parts had. Hopefully, this mid-arc lull will lead to an epic conclusion to “Joker War”. Alfred saves the day at a bittersweet cost to us, and Harley vs. Punchline was surprisingly enjoyable.