Review: Batman: The Joker War

 The war of Jokes. Not Riddles. That's was the other one. 

Written by James Tynion IV, Pencils by Jorge Jimenez, Inks by Jorge Jimenez and Coloured by Tomeu Morey

Last year, not long before Future State commenced there was an event running throughout the Batman books. The Joker War. You might have heard of it. With Tom King ending his Batman run prematurely, James Tynion V used his time on the book to build up to this event. While I read most of the issues leading up to the event, I did not check out the event itself. I usually wait with reading big comic book events until after they’ve concluded (thank you event fatigue). Aside from that, I just couldn’t find the time for it. With the trade paperback of the Joker War hitting shelves earlier this week, the time for me to read and review it has finally come.

So, what do I think of Batman’s latest fight against the Joker? Is the core of this event a good read? Let’s dive in Batman: The Joker War and find out!

After a flashback sequence showing one of Batman’s earliest encounters with The Joker, the story jumps back to the present. After an elaborate plan featuring multiple assassins like Deathstroke, a criminal money broker and new hench girl Punchline amongst other The Joker has successfully robbed Bruce Wayne of all of his wealth. To the outside world, it looks like Bruce Wayne has embezzled money for years and that Wayne corporation is now subject to a hostile takeover. The GCPD, led by interim-commissioner Harvey Bullock, now that The Joker is behind this takeover but can do nothing against thanks to having large parts of Gotham, including the Mayor, in his pocket. Batman is now on his way to Wayne Corp to try and stop it all. However, when he enters one of his hidden chambers for a costume change, he’s greeted by an unwelcome guest: Punchline. Once Batman wakes up from her toxic gas, he learns that three days have passed and, thanks to the Joker’s gang, Gotham is in utter-chaos and disarray.

Let’s start by talking about something that I noticed about this event that I quite liked: its focus on characters over spectacle. When I think a typical comic book event, be they line-wide or just a specific corner of titles, I think big. Big action, big ideas, big cast, big… everything. A comic book event is like an action blockbuster but, you know, on the page. Nothing inherently wrong with that approach but admittedly, I am rather tired of it. I was thus pleasantly surprised to find out that The Joker War keeps it smaller and more personal. The first half of the event focuses more on Bruce and his inner-struggle. With Alfred’s death, the loss of his fortune and the idea that he has failed. There aren’t many characters across the event. You have Batman and Joker of course, with Harley Quinn and Punchline filling out what events main cast. Other characters pop up of course, but these four are clearly the events main cast. Rather small for an event but just like with Batman, this small cast means that each of them gets quite a nice amount of development. I don’t like the direction all of the characters took, I still don’t really see the purpose of Punchline, but all in all, it is all very good stuff.

On the flip-side, I do think it could have gone with a little more spectacle and maybe a character or two more. In case of spectacle, after Batman’s resolved his struggles and got his confidence back at just over the halfway point I was ready to see the action ramp up. It did, but I could have gone for a bit more. I feel that the resolution would have made the reader's blood pump more if it did. Would have been that much more satisfying. What we ended up getting in terms of action and spectacle wasn’t bad, but just a little bit more would have been nice. That said: the moment in which the Batfamily showed up did get my blood pumping quite well. It was a good moment.

The Batfamily. Can you name them all?

In terms of the characters, I have one complaint: Catwoman. She was a rather large part of the build-up to the event, but her role in it is rather small. The problem I have with her late arrival and the small role is that she does get the play an important role. Without spoiling exactly what she’s responsible for, it is important for the conclusion. However, the event doesn’t show Catwoman actually doing this action. It just shows you her preparing for it. A tie-in no doubt shows Catwoman’s journey in more detail, but I feel this journey is something that should have been in the core series. Its absence is felt, especially since it’s really the only moment in which a tie-in hinders the flow of the story.

At this point, there are really only two more points for me to discuss. The art and writing. Let’s start with the former. In short: the art is very good. Jemenez pencils are very nice on the eyes. A good combination of shaper lines that remind me of the Batman animated series with a more realistic touch. What I especially like are the overall visuals, the mood that the art conveys for both the characters and the world. From the weather to the lighting to the buildings of Gotham City, it’s all very good. The top it all off, the book has some very cool visuals in it. Moments that either jump out of the page or don’t need a single word balloon to perfectly convey what’s going on. I dropped on those panels down below for your viewing pleasure because I like it so much.

The writing is very good. I already alluded to it earlier with the character journeys, but its good stuff. The characters go on interesting and satisfying journeys while the main plot of the book moves at a good pace and has plenty of good moments. I had some problems with the overall story, like the Catwoman thing, but that’s really not a big deal. By the end of it, the story left me very much satisfied. It's going to be interesting to see how some of the developments of the story is going to impact Batman going forward. My guess? We'll see a Batman that'll focus more on helping people in smaller ways then before if the epilogue is any indication.

Without a doubt, this is my favourite panel of the entire event.

Conclusion

Batman: The Joker War is a very good event. It focuses more on character over spectacle. It has a more personal story and feels then the usual comic book event. That, in my book, is a welcoming change of pace. It all results in a very satisfying story. The writing is thus very good and the art is amazing as well. The event thus has some problems, it could have ironically speaking gone with just a little more spectacle, but those problems really aren’t a big deal. The Joker War, it’s core series that ran throughout Batman #95-100 that is, is a good event that I can wholeheartedly recommend to any comic book reader. Go pick it up!

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