DC Comics is on a roll with extra-sized one-shot anthology comics this year, and Batman: The Joker War Zone is their latest. Containing five stories, all of which somehow tie into “The Joker War” story, this work helps flesh out key details, explores unseen corners of Gotham, and is generally a great read. Contained here is a Joker/Bane story, a Poison Ivy story, a Lucius Fox story, a Clown Hunter story, and a Hench Master tale. All told, this collection gives you enough entertainment and key story details you won’t want to miss.
Possibly the most important story of the bunch is the Lucius Fox story titled “Family Ties.” Written by John Ridley with art by Olivier Coipel, this is a prelude of sorts to Ridley’s upcoming Batman book set to release in January. This story spins from “The Joker War” and features Lucius still affected by the Joker serum he was forced to take in Detective Comics #1025. This story helps shed some light on the familial situation with the Fox family as well as a major development in regards to Bruce Wayne’s money. It’s a quick story, but an effective one — we get a taste of how the family operates, including a major conflict between Lucius and Batwing. Coipel’s art is incredibly well done and cinematic. It’s a standout story in the book for sure.
Opening the book is a great Joker story involving Bane. Or maybe it’s the other way around. James Tynion IV writes this story with art by Guillem March and it’s going to be a must-read for folks who enjoyed “City of Bane.” It carries that story forward while giving us new insight into Joker’s role in that and his thoughts on how Bane took out Alfred. It’s a simple scene with mostly dialogue, which is interesting as Joker hurts Bane with his words. March’s art is great, featuring a wildly expressive and maniacal Joker. When you finish this tale you’ll ponder where this might take Bane who surely must want revenge after what Joker has done to him here.
This book ends with a standout story drawn by James Stokoe with a story by James Tynion IV. Stokoe is one of the most impressive artists in the business today, creating masterfully detailed pages and infusing his stories with a wild sense of color. Gotham is practically on fire in these images and it’s an impressive tale focusing on a few Joker thugs attempting to kill the Clown Hunter. Story-wise, we get a bit more detail on this mysterious character, but really this is all about Clown Hunter’s superior ability to kill Joker goons. It’s a gorgeous tale.
The other two tales in this book are good but didn’t resonate as much as the three above. Hench Master is a ridiculous character and artist David Lafuente properly makes the story feel over-the-top and stylized. The use of Spoiler and Cassandra Cain helps inform us what they’ve been up to, and Williamson effectively makes a point about the purpose of the Bat-signal.
The other story focuses on Poison Ivy, who shows off her villainous side with some ruthless murdering. Aside from reaffirming she has an affinity for Harley Quinn, this story serves more as a teaser for something coming in 2021. Written by Sam Johns with art by Laura Braga, it’s an interesting look at how Poison Ivy may go full villain next year, but doesn’t add all that much nor does it tie into “The Joker War” very well.
Three of these five stories tease things to come in 2021, which makes this a must-read for longtime DC Readers, but each tale is also worth a look for different reasons. Read Batman: The Joker War Zone to get a head start on exciting DC Comics stories coming next year, but also for its variety of enjoyable tales set in Gotham.